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PT&T eyes comeback, seeks foreign partner

business / Headlines
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PT&T eyes comeback, seeks foreign partner

/ 05:36 AM October 12, 2017

Philippine Telegraph and Telephone Corp. (PT&T) wants to regain its status as a major telecommunications force in the Philippines—revealing plans to provide high-speed internet across the country in three years and possibly tap a foreign telco partner as President Duterte calls for more competition in this sector.

PT&T chair Salvador B. Zamora II told the Inquirer in an interview that the company was looking at possible partners like state-owned China Telecom, that country’s third biggest telco, and India’s Jio, owned by Indian magnate Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries.

Zamora said PT&T wanted to hold exploratory talks with foreign partners— including operators in Mexico—once it gets approval from the Philippine Stock Exchange to lift a 13-year-old voluntary trading suspension “in the next three months.”

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“We need a strategic partner,” Zamora said of PT&T’s long-term plans, adding the company intended to focus on the fixed-internet space.

Should it succeed, Zamora said PT&T could become a “real third player” in the Philippines. The industry here is dominated by PLDT Inc. and Globe Telecom, backed by Japan’s NTT Group and Singapore Telecommunications, respectively.

“But that’s further down the road. We have so much to take care of first,” Zamora noted.

A group led by Zamora and businessman Benjamin Bitanga acquired 70 percent of PT&T from the Santiago family last August.

Zamora said they were currently able to finance the growth of PT&T, an industry pioneer and a former rival of PLDT before it fell into difficult times after the Asian financial crisis in 1997. It later filed for corporate rehabilitation.

Zamora said he wanted to take the company out of rehabilitation by next year. His group is negotiating with creditors holding about P12 billion of its debts.

Zamora owns a renewable energy company and was the main shareholder of the Metro Rail Transit Line 7 project before selling to San Miguel Corp.

His entry into telecom was both a personal and business decision. “Why should we have the slowest internet at a [more] expensive rate?,” he said, echoing a claim that has been backed by third-party global studies.

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“This is a very promising business. Can you tell me what is [in high demand] next to electricity and water: Wifi internet,” he added.

Zamora said PT&T would be better than its rivals and would offer guaranteed internet speeds.

“We will be competitive and we intend to deliver what we promise. Consumers want more reliable internet,” Zamora said. “We have to be different because we are the new player in town.”

PT&T, established in 1962, is present in Metro Manila and has a 700-kilometer fiber optic footprint, Zamora said.

“Our long-term plan is to cover the entire Philippines in three years,” Zamora said, adding they were in talks with the government to use its nationwide fiber optic assets. The state-run National Transmission Corp., the owner of the assets, is reportedly planning to enter the telco business and will seek an amendment to its charter.

He said PT&T was open to partnerships with cable companies for “last-mile” connections around the Philippines.

PT&T has about 700 corporate clients, including the National Bureau of Investigation, Asia United Bank and Novotel. PT&T disclosed earlier that it could hit around 3,000 clients “without the need for further capital infusion.”

PT&T said it offers a service called Greendot, a shared line broadband platform with speeds of up to 300 megabits per second.

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TAGS: high-speed internet, Philippine Telegraph and Telephone Corp. (PT&T), PT&T chair Salvador B. Zamora II, Telecommunications
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