PLDT, Inc. is optimistic it can hit the P26-billion target for telco core income in 2019, after posting a six percent growth in the first quarter.

In a statement issued Thursday, PLDT said telco core income reached P7.2 billion. This takes into account adjustments for the net effect of gains/loss on foreign exchange, derivative transactions, manpower rightsizing program, accelerated depreciation, and Voyager Innovations, Inc.

Consolidated service revenues went up seven percent to P38 billion, primarily due to the continued recovery of the individual wireless business which grew 18% to P16.9 billion. This came on the back of rising data usage and the addition of 3.4 million subscribers for the quarter, for a total of 63.4 million subscribers by end-March.

PLDT Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Manuel V. Pangilinan said the individual wireless segment’s growth “surpassed even our expectations,” noting that the company will now contribute to the overall growth of the wireless industry in the country.

“For the first time, we grew by P2.6 billion for the quarter…the reason why the wireless industry has not grown for the past few years is because we have not grown, and Globe (Telecom, Inc.) has grown. Not that we’re growing, and Globe is growing, now the entire wireless industry will grow,” Mr. Pangilinan said after a press briefing for their first quarter results in Makati yesterday.

Data and broadband service revenues also firmed up 21% to P24.4 billion, accounting for 68% of total service revenues.

The Enterprise unit generated revenues of P9.8 billion, nine percent higher year on year, thanks to the improvement of its cloud and cybersecurity services.

Growth for PLDT Home was more muted at three percent to P9.1 billion, as the company cited the impact of the labor department’s ruling on outsourced services and the disruption of repair and installation services starting mid-2018.

Meanwhile, net income attributable to the parent slipped by three percent to P6.71 billion versus the P6.9 billion seen in the same period a year ago. The company attributed this to the lower gain in the valuation of its investment in Rocket Internet compared to the same period a year before.

PLDT said it only had 2.6 million Rocket Internet shares by the end of the quarter, compared to its 10-million shareholdings in 2018.

On the other hand, PLDT Chief Finance Officer Anabelle L. Chua said they will be raising capital from the sale of assets to finance the company’s P78.4-billion capital expenditures for the year.

“There are a few properties that we are looking to dispose, and that process will be started soon. It depends on the bid process, but some of these properties could fetch somewhere from P3-5 billion,” Ms. Chua said during the press briefing.

Alongside the sale of two property assets, Mr. Pangilinan said they will also redevelop PLDT’s headquarters.

“I think there has been internal meetings that focus on these things — on a debate whether we should have a vertical campus, in which case it will slightly be in this area. These two buildings will be developed into two towers…We just have to design it in a way as green as possible and plenty of open spaces,” Mr. Pangilinan explained.

Mr. Pangilinan said he will be talking with Japan’s NTT Realty group next week to work on the details of the new headquarters.

This is a revival of the company’s plans back in 2017 to move to the southern part of Metro Manila, although this did not push through due to employee complaints about its location.

Hastings Holdings, Inc., a unit of PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund subsidiary MediaQuest Holdings, Inc., has a majority stake in BusinessWorld through the Philippine Star Group, which it controls.

Shares in PLDT jumped 3.61% or P45 to close at P1,290 each at the stock exchange on Thursday. — Arra B. Francia