Aboitiz group interested in taking over PLDT's old cell sites | Inquirer Business
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Aboitiz group interested in taking over PLDT’s old cell sites

/ 05:18 AM November 06, 2021

The Aboitiz group is keen to bid for the telecom towers that PLDT Inc. will auction off in the coming week as part of the latter’s program to pare non-strategic cell sites and focus on the construction of new common towers in optimal locations.

PLDT has started the process of selling some of its old towers under a leaseback arrangement and so far attracted interest from 21 parties, PLDT president Alfredo Panlilio said in a press briefing on Thursday.

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Aside from the sale of existing towers, PLDT chair Manuel V. Pangilinan added that under a three-year common tower buildout program, about 4,500 to 5,000 new towers would be put up with new partners.

“As a matter of fact, we are assessing the opportunity now,” Cosette Canilao, president and CEO of Aboitiz InfraCapital, said of the sale in a separate press briefing Thursday night.

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“Unity is actually participating in the process,” she said, when asked about PLDT’s auction.

Canilao was referring to the joint venture firm set up by Aboitiz InfraCapital with leading global private markets firm, Partners Group, to establish a telecommunications infrastructure platform called Unity Digital Infrastructure, Inc. (Unity).

Through Unity, Aboitiz InfraCapital and Partners Group plan to build and operate telecommunication towers and support infrastructure across the country.

The Aboitiz group’s interest in PLDT’s towers is in line with its goal to support the government’s vision to improve the country’s internet connectivity in local communities by increasing the number of cell sites of mobile network operators.

In mid-2020, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) issued guidelines on shared passive telecommunications tower infrastructure. This is to encourage the growth and development of independent tower companies as a pioneering sector for the development of a robust ICT environment.

By November 8 or 9, PLDT expects to receive the first round of non-binding proposals from parties interested to take over some of its towers, according to Panlilio.

“So we are seeing great interest and we just have to go through next week and see that level of interest,” he said.

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Swiss investment bank UBS is helping PLDT with this initiative.

Pangilinan added that indicative pricing of the existing towers was “looking quite good.” He said accounting gains on sale and cash flow would be significant for PLDT.

Meanwhile, Panlilio said PLDT’s board had also approved to take in three partners to build new common towers that could also be used by other telecom operators.

These entities were mandated to build 1,600 new towers in the coming year, Panlilio said.

Over the next three years, these three entities would build 4,500 to 5,000 common towers in partnership with PLDT, Pangilinan added.

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TAGS: Aboitiz group, PLDT Inc.
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