PLDT confirms talks with international advisors on sale of cell towers
MANILA, Philippines — Industry giant PLDT Inc. has confirmed it was considering selling “nonstrategic” cell sites to independent tower companies to raise funds and boost its balance sheet.
“We are at the start of a process of considering what to do with the towers and we’re talking to a number of international banks and they have enlightened us on the advantages of selling part of our towers,” PLDT chair Manny V. Pangilinan told reporters during the company quarterly briefing on August 5.
Pangilinan was asked to confirm a report by Bloomberg last July 30 that it had tapped an advisor on the sale of its towers to raise anywhere from $800 million to $1 billion (P50 billion).
However, the company was still in the early stages of the process and a timeline and the size of any potential deal were still being discussed, PLDT president and CEO Alfredo Panlilio said during the same briefing.
The plan comes as the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) issued guidelines the previous year that would pave the way for independent cell tower companies to operate in the Philippines.
The plan was meant to have tower operators build and even acquire existing cell sites and lease these to multiple telcos, reducing their investment budgets and eventually lowering costs for subscribers.
The DICT also hoped this would hasten the rollout of telco towers and reduce congestion in the country’s mobile networks.
Pangilinan said they were initially reluctant to sell their towers on worries it might hurt their position as a major telecommunications provider.
“You wouldn’t want to let that go because [you] open yourselves up to competition,” Pangilinan said on Thursday.
He noted that bankers finally persuaded them to consider selling a certain number of towers that were “not strategic to our maintaining our position as the dominant network in this country.”
He said PLDT could generate gains from the sale and also benefit by offloading aging tower assets from its balance sheet.
“I think under certain assumptions, the NPV [net present value] of a transaction could be positive for PLDT and, purely from a financial transaction, it could also translate to significant financial gains because a number of these towers are fully or substantially depreciated,” Pangilinan said.
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