PLDT, Inc. said it may have to wait until next year or 2021 to see a turnaround in Voyager Innovations, Inc., after the digital innovations unit welcomed new foreign investors last year.
Manuel V. Pangilinan, the telecommunications giant’s chairman, president and chief executive officer, said the focus for 2019 is to keep pushing the volume of business for Voyager.
“I think you have to build up to scale first before you could see… prospects of turnaround. The view that everybody’s taken is that let’s push it as hard as we can and then determine after X months, I don’t think it’s this year, determine say in 2020 or latest 2021 (if) there (is) light at the end of the tunnel,” he told reporters on the sidelines of the company’s briefing on its 2018 financial results last Thursday.
Mr. Pangilinan noted that its digital payments unit PayMaya Philippines, Inc. has continued to grow its business.
“I think we’ve seen signs that at least the PayMaya business, which is the core of this business, is growing in subs (subscriber) count and monthly active users and value throughput that goes through their system,” he said.
“We anticipate that will continue to grow each month of this year. And the unfortunate side effect of that is the losses will be significant.”
In 2018, PLDT incurred a loss of P3 billion in Voyager, a 150% increase from P1.2 billion in 2017. It also raised $215 million after offloading shares in the unit to Tencent Holdings Ltd.; Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. (KKR); International Finance Corp. (IFC) and IFC Emerging Asia Fund, leaving it with less than 50% stake in the company.
“The volume of business is being pushed hard by all of us, by KKR, Tencent and ourselves,” Mr. Pangilinan said, noting the investors are giving them enough time and resources to help improve Voyager.
Mr. Pangilinan noted PLDT expects less financial burden from Voyager this year, considering the infusion of fresh funding from new investors.
“We don’t have any cash calls this year from Voyager… $215 million went inside the company, that’s about P12 billion. Their cash spend will be around P4-5 billion,” he said.
Aside from PayMaya, Voyager is also in charge of mobile remittance brand Smart Padala, financial technology arm FINTQnologies Corp., online loaning platform Lendr and free mobile browsing app Freenet.
PLDT posted an attributable net income of P18.92 billion in 2018, up 40.47% from in 2017 on stronger demand for data.
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. — Denise A. Valdez