PLDT nearing deal with likely buyer of Voyager
A group of foreign investors that includes Tencent Holdings, the Chinese technology giant that developed WeChat, is nearing a deal to acquire a majority stake in PLDT Inc.’s Voyager Innovations.
Industry sources with knowledge of the matter said a transaction was being finalized and that an announcement was imminent.
A PLDT official declined to comment on the deal as discussions were confidential.
The potential sale of a majority stake in Voyager, which mainly develops financial technology platforms and whose most recognizable product is mobile wallet PayMaya, was first announced by PLDT chair and CEO Manuel V. Pangilinan in early August.
Pangilinan did not name the investors, which included large private equity firms, but said the deal would be closed in about a month. The sale, which he said would result in a “significant gain for PLDT,” comes as PLDT commits to invest more on its telecom infrastructure while cutting noncore assets. The latter included the sale of most of its shares in Germany’s Rocket Internet in May and its remaining position in Manila Electric Co. in 2017.
Pangilinan said the new investors would take a majority position as well as management participation in Voyager, which PLDT had been funding since the unit was established five years ago.
PLDT will retain a minority stake, he said.
PLDT had indicated that it was open to taking on new investors in Voyager since 2017. Pangilinan, in May, had named Tencent as among those interested to invest in Voyager but he did so only to say that talks had bogged down and might not materialize within the year.
Tencent’s social media, digital payments and gaming platforms have made it one of China’s largest tech players. Its entry into Voyager echoes a similar investment in the Philippines that was made last year by Chinese billionaire Jack Ma, whose Alibaba and Ant Financial are competitors of Tencent.
In September 2017, Ant Financial took a stake in Globe Fintech Innovations Inc., which runs the GCash mobile wallet, a rival of PayMaya in the Philippines.
PLDT and Globe Telecom are the dominant telco players in the Philippines, where over 75 percent of its population of 100 million do not have a bank account. At the same time, mobile penetration is above 100 percent, opening up a big opportunity for e-wallets and other fintech platforms.
Pangilinan said in August that PLDT was concerned about fully financing the expansion plans of Voyager, whose platforms have shown exponential growth, however, profitability remained elusive. Pangilinan said PLDT had invested some P10 billion in Voyager thus far. Voyager posted losses of about P1.3 billion in the first semester of 2018.