PLDT allots record P78-billion capex for 2019

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PLDT, Inc. is allocating a record P78.4 billion in capital expenditures (capex) for this year, 34% higher than last year’s figure, as the telecommunications giant ramps up its network expansion amid the impending entry of a new player.

“We’re guiding capex at the number of P78.4 billion, which is an increase of P20 billion over the P58 billion realized in 2018,” PLDT Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer Manuel V. Pangilinan said in a press briefing on the company’s 2018 financial results on Thursday.

Of the total capex, P48 billion will be dedicated for network and information technology platforms “to widen PLDT’s lead in network quality.” This includes the expansion of its LTE/3G mobile coverage, widening its fiber footprint, and lifting its network capacity to cater to growing demand for data.

“We have another P16 billion which is what we call business and customer capex. For every home we connect, we spend for the last mile, the modems. Since we don’t charge the customers, that’s a PLDT asset and a PLDT capex,” PLDT Chief Financial Officer Anabelle L. Chua said.

PLDT is also spending a one-time capex of around P3 to P4 billion for its Home and Enterprise units, which will be used to hire around 3,000 to handle installation and repair services. Another P2 billion will be used for data center expansion.

Mr. Pangilinan said that in the coming years, although capex may not be as high as P78.4 billion, the company is moving to the direction of normalizing the high investments.

“It’s sort of emerging to us that there are new areas of revenue that we’re seeing that we did not anticipate. Particularly when 5G (fifth generation network) is built in this country and elsewhere. I think as we get to know the Home business more and more, we’re surprised pleasantly that there are new areas of revenue that can be developed or that can emerge that can help the revenue line of PLDT,” Mr. Pangilinan added.

Meanwhile, PLDT reported its attributable net income surged 40.47% to P18.92 billion in 2018, from P13.37 billion in 2017, as revenues rose 3% to P164.75 billion on stronger demand for data.

PLDT reported its core income dropped 5% to P26.2 billion, as it accounted for the P3-billion loss in digital arm Voyager Innovations, Inc. Excluding Voyager, the company said telco core income is 3% higher at P24.4 billion in 2018.

Service revenues grew 5% to P149.4 billion. The bulk or 60% of this came from higher data services which generated P90.2 billion, up 37% year on year.

On the other hand, revenues from domestic voice fell 7% to P42.6 billion, while short message service (SMS) revenues plunged 53% to P10.3 billion. Revenues from international voice also went down by 27% to P6.2 billion.

By business segment, PLDT’s enterprise unit contributed P38.4 billion in revenues, up 10% from the previous year. PLDT Home also added P36.4 billion or 10% more from 2017, and wireless segment P62.5 billion or 7% higher.

“I would like to think it’s been a satisfactory year for PLDT,” Mr. Pangilinan said.

“The fixed side of business, Home and Enterprise, continue to show robust growth. And that robust growth should continue onwards from 2019 through the coming years. That will underpin the growth prospects of the PLDT group moving forward,” he added.

PLDT is setting a telco core income guidance of P26 billion for 2019, up 6.6% from last year’s P24.4 billion. Dividend payout is also set at 60% of the core income. — Denise A. Valdez