PLDT confirms that it is in discussions with international advisors about selling cell towers

To raise revenue and improve its balance sheet, PLDT Inc. revealed it was exploring selling “nonstrategic” cell sites to independent tower businesses.

PLDT chairman Manny V. Pangilinan told reporters during the company’s quarterly briefing on August 5 that “we are at the beginning of a process of considering what to do with the towers and we’re talking to several international banks, and they have enlightened us on the advantages of selling part of our towers.”

Pangilinan was asked to corroborate a Bloomberg report from July 30 that it had hired an advisor to help it sell the towers for $800 million to $1 billion (P50 billion).

PLDT president and CEO Alfredo Panlilio stated during the same briefing that the business was still in the early stages of the process and that the timing and the amount of any prospective purchase were still being negotiated.

The move comes after the Philippines’ Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) issued rules last year that would allow independent cell tower businesses to operate in the country.

Tower operators were supposed to create or even buy existing cell sites and lease them to numerous telcos, decreasing their investment budgets and, in turn, lowering subscriber bills.

The DICT thought that doing so would speed up the deployment of telecom towers and minimize congestion on the country’s mobile networks.

Pangilinan admitted that they were initially hesitant to sell their towers because they were concerned that it would jeopardize their status as a significant telecommunications provider.

On Thursday, Pangilinan remarked, “You wouldn’t want to let that go because [you] expose yourself up to the competition.”

He claimed bankers pushed them to sell a number of towers that were “not strategic to our sustaining our position as the leading network in this country.” He added that PLDT could profit from the sale while also unloading aging tower assets off its financial sheet.

“I believe that, under certain assumptions, the NPV [net present value] of a purchase may be positive for PLDT, and that, solely as a financial transaction, it could result in considerable financial advantages because a lot of these towers are totally or substantially depreciated,” Pangilinan added.

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