Fear of rejection by antimonopoly body pushes PLDT to drop SkyCable bid
MANILA, Philippines—Telecommunications giant PLDT Inc. is no longer bidding for ABS-CBN Corp.’s SkyCable Corp., one of the country’s largest cable television companies, on fears that the deal will be rejected by the antimonopoly regulator.
PLDT chair and CEO Manuel V. Pangilinan said on Thursday (Nov. 5) that the group has “withdrawn” from the bidding process for SkyCable, which became an unexpected acquisition target following the Duterte administration’s attacks on ABS-CBN Corp., leading to the loss of its broadcast franchise last July.
PLDT already controls satellite TV company CignalTV and major broadcaster TV5.
It is stepping back from what appeared to be strong interest in acquiring SkyCable under exemptions for corporate buyouts provided by the recently-passed Bayanihan to Recover as One Act.
Pangilinan said their own legal review revealed that under the law, the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) could still scrutinize transactions and even reverse agreements.
“That risk might arise, the risk is there and the prospect of divestment might be real so we decided not to attract the risk,” Pangilinan said.
ABS-CBN head of communications Kane Errol Choa told the Inquirer PLDT’s offer to acquire SkyCable was unsolicited.
“Withdrawing their bid is their prerogative. This has no impact on the operations of SkyCable,” he said.
PLDT told the Philippine Stock Exchange last September it was evaluating options on a potential SkyCable deal. The talks were first reported by the Bilyonaryo website.
The buyout of SkyCable, which has a sizeable home broadband internet business, boosts PLDT’s own expansion in media and fixed broadband, where demand is surging higher during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Based on ABS-CBN’s latest financial filing, SkyCable turned profitable in the first semester of 2020 after recording years of losses.
From January to June, its net income hit P115 million—reversing a loss of P71 million last year—while revenues increased 10.4 percent to P5.1 billion.
Business prospects, however, suffered another blow at the end of that period.
The National Telecommunications Commission on June 30 ordered SkyCable to shut down satellite TV services to its 1.5 million customers after its franchise was not renewed by lawmakers allied with President Rodrigo Duterte.
SkyCable also would have been PLDT’s latest high profile transaction after it joined forces with rival Globe Telecom in 2016 to gain control of the telco assets and frequencies of conglomerate San Miguel Corp. The PCC is also seeking to review that deal and the case is pending at the Supreme Court.
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