For Dennis Uy’s Dito, telco superstar is key to winning the war | Inquirer Business
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For Dennis Uy’s Dito, telco superstar is key to winning the war

/ 03:59 AM March 09, 2020

The country’s third major telco, Dito Telecommunity, wants to tap PLDT Inc.’s former No. 2 executive Ernesto “Eric” Alberto in a bid to strengthen a management bench deemed thin on experienced industry professionals.

Five months away from the start of an internal large-scale testing of its mobile network, Dito owner and CEO Dennis A. Uy has invited the former PLDT chief revenue officer to join the company.

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“Dennis is a friend and he has invited me for exploratory talks,” Alberto, who left PLDT in July last year due to internal disagreements, told the Inquirer in an interview over the weekend.

Alberto was a former ban­ker with American financial giant Citibank before joining PLDT in 2003.

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Moving up the corporate ladder, he was eventually named chief revenue officer in 2016—a position second only to PLDT chair and CEO Manuel V. Pangilinan, known in business and sports circles by his initials “MVP.”

In the interview, Alberto emphasized he was bound by a noncompete clause, a provision in his contract that barred him from joining a rival company, and that he intended to abide by this.

“I’m honoring it because of my long relationship with MVP,” Alberto said. “We had 17 years and we had good times as well. He gave me good opportunities.”

Alberto will be free to make a decision by July this year, just in time for Dito’s crucial “technical” launch. Before a “commercial rollout” in March next year, the National Telecommunications Commission will need to assess whether Dito was able to fulfill its promise of covering 37 percent of the Philippine population and providing an average speed of 27 megabits per second.

Alberto said his noncompete restriction was only for a year, shorter than the typical two years imposed on PLDT senior executives.

Barriers such as noncompete clauses underscore Dito’s difficulties in luring the telco sector’s superstars, industry sources told the Inquirer.

Dito, owned by Uy’s Udenna Corp. and China Telecom, also faces unique challenges given that its 25-year congressional franchise via Mindanao Islamic Telephone Co. will expire by 2023.

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Prospective Dito emplo­yees worry the company will face difficulties in obtaining a franchise renewal under an unfriendly administration, mirro­ring the current plight of media giant ABS-CBN Corp., accor­ding to the same sources. Uy is a known supporter of President Duterte, who steps down in 2022.

Winning over telco vete­rans will help Dito achieve its goal of establishing a credible service and challenge PLDT and Globe, which are fortifying their positions further with a combined P146-billion capital spending budget for 2020.

“Dito’s timeline means they cannot afford to learn and make mistakes. They have to hit the ground running,” said Renato B. Garcia, a former director and executive vice president of Philippine Telegraph and Telephone Corp., which made an unsuccessful bid for the third telco slot in 2018.

Dito’s most visible Filipino officials are chief administrative officer Adel Tamano and chief technology officer Rodolfo Santiago, a retired brigadier general with deep expertise running communications and electronics systems.

Uy himself is Dito’s CEO, however, this is the businessman’s first foray in the telco sector.

Tamano earlier said Dito was aiming to increase its workforce to 1,000 this year from the current 200, about half of which are Chinese technical experts.

Attracting top executive talent can help convince more telco professionals to join, said Paul Rivera, cofounder and CEO at Kalibrr, a pioneering digital recruitment platform.

“If Dito can poach senior talent, that has the tendency to bring in junior talent with them,” Rivera said in an interview.

Rivera also observed that PLDT and Globe, which employ a combined 25,000 people, have been shifting their manpower requirements from connectivity-related jobs to fight a “different battle” in financial technology.

“It’s not the connectivity battle—it’s kind of over,” he said. “It’s the payment/wallet wars now.”

In the interview, Alberto gave no hints whether he would be joining Dito.

So far, he has not discussed any role or compensation package with Uy, who he said was “very gentlemanly and sincere” in his invite.

“I’m not a spring chicken but it’s also too early to retire,” said Alberto, who is in his late 50s. “I’m still at the tail end of my prime.” INQ

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