Pensive MVP looks back at bumpy past: I’ll choose a different path | Inquirer Business
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Pensive MVP looks back at bumpy past: I’ll choose a different path

/ 05:14 AM December 28, 2020

Tycoon Manuel V. Pangilinan has spent much of the last two decades betting on profitable and regulated businesses in the Philippines to generate huge returns for shareholders.

Looking back, Pangilinan said dealing with the government was one of the most difficult aspects of his job and he might consider a different career altogether if he could turn back the clock.

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“If I had the chance or I’m given the chance while younger: would I choose the same career? I don’t think so,” Pangilinan said in an interview with ANC over the weekend.

“It has its own difficult situations, particularly in areas where the businesses are regulated by government,” added the top official of telco giant PLDT Inc. and utilities such as Manila Electric Co. and Maynilad Water Services Inc. Each of those segments has come under attack, especially over the last four years of the Duterte administration.

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Maynilad’s decades-old contract has been revised while President Duterte threatened PLDT and rival Globe Telecom with seizure of assets last July even if government was to blame for the slow processing of requirements.

Early this month, a city mayor suspended business permits of Pangilinan’s NLEx Corp., operator of the 101-kilometer North Luzon Expressway (NLEx), for more than a week over glitches in its RFID toll collection system.

This is not the first time Pangilinan’s group pointed to regulatory challenges in the Philippines.

First Pacific Co. Ltd., the Hong Kong-based holding company he leads, said in its 2014 report to shareholders the “sanctity of contracts is under question arising from regulators, which seem unable to appreciate and adhere to the contracts and their terms.”

First Pacific, controlled by the billionaire Salim family of Indonesia, marked its aggressive expansion in the Philippines with Pangilinan’s return to the country in 1998 after a career overseas.

The company is now the principal stockholder of PLDT, Philex Mining and Metro Pacific Investments Corp., which owns Meralco, Maynilad and tollroads such as NLEx. Challenges notwithstanding, the businesses are financially rewarding.

PLDT, Metro Pacific and Philex have increased their combined market value to almost P445 billion versus P330 billion at the end of 2019, figures compiled by the Inquirer showed.

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The biggest increase came from PLDT as demand for internet services saw a boost while the telco giant won market share previously lost to rival Globe.

Pangilinan said communications and internet have become “[essential services] to people, rising to the level similar to power, water and transport.”

Competition is also poised to increase next year from new player Dito Telecommunity and existing providers such as Converge ICT Solutions for fixed broadband and Globe.

“Globe, we believe, will launch a strong campaign next year,” Pangilinan said.

While the impact of the pandemic would continue through 2021, Pangilinan said it was a problem he faced head on.

“The best way to deal with it is to be here in the office each and everyday to understand what’s happening out there and be able to show that ‘hey, we got a business to run,’” Pangilinan said.

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