PT&T eyes come­back, looks for for­eign part­ner

The Nation - - AEC -

PHILIP­PINE Tele­graph and Tele­phone Corp (PT&T) wants to re­gain its sta­tus as a ma­jor telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions force in the Philip­pines, re­veal­ing plans to pro­vide high-speed in­ter­net across the coun­try in three years and pos­si­bly tap a for­eign telco part­ner as Pres­i­dent Duterte calls for more com­pe­ti­tion in this sec­tor.

PT&T chair Sal­vador Zamora II told the In­quirer that the com­pany was look­ing at pos­si­ble part­ners like state-owned China Tele­com, that coun­try’s third big­gest telco, and In­dia’s Jio, owned by Indian mag­nate Mukesh Am­bani’s Re­liance In­dus­tries.

Zamora said PT&T wanted to hold ex­ploratory talks with for­eign part­ners— in­clud­ing op­er­a­tors in Mexico—once it gets ap­proval from the Philip­pine Stock Ex­change to lift a 13-year-old vol­un­tary trad­ing sus­pen­sion “in the next three months.”

“We need a strate­gic part­ner,” Zamora said of PT&T’s long-term plans, adding the com­pany in­tended to fo­cus on the fixed-in­ter­net space.

Should it suc­ceed, Zamora said PT&T could be­come a “real third player” in the Philip­pines. The in­dus­try here is dom­i­nated by PLDT Inc and Globe Tele­com, backed by Ja­pan’s NTT Group and Sin­ga­pore Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions, re­spec­tively.

“But that’s fur­ther down the road. We have so much to take care of first,” Zamora noted.

A group led by Zamora and busi­ness­man Ben­jamin Bi­tanga ac­quired 70 per cent of PT&T from the San­ti­ago fam­ily last Au­gust.

Zamora said they were cur­rently able to fi­nance the growth of PT&T, an in­dus­try pi­o­neer and a for­mer ri­val of PLDT be­fore it fell into dif­fi­cult times after the Asian fi­nan­cial cri­sis in 1997.

It later filed for cor­po­rate re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion.

Zamora said he wanted to take the com­pany out of re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion by next year. His group is ne­go­ti­at­ing with cred­i­tors hold­ing about 12 bil­lion peso of its debts.

Zamora owns a re­new­able en­ergy com­pany and was the main share­holder of the Metro Rail Tran­sit Line 7 project be­fore sell­ing to San Miguel Corp.

His en­try into tele­com was both a per­sonal and busi­ness de­ci­sion. “Why should we have the slow­est in­ter­net at a [more] ex­pen­sive rate?,” he said, echo­ing a claim that has been backed by third- party global stud­ies.

“This is a very promis­ing busi­ness. Can you tell me what is [in high de­mand] next to elec­tric­ity and wa­ter: Wifi in­ter­net,” he added.

Zamora said PT&T would be bet­ter than its ri­vals and would of­fer guar­an­teed in­ter­net speeds.

“We will be com­pet­i­tive and we in­tend to de­liver what we prom­ise. Con­sumers want more re­li­able in­ter­net,” Zamora said. “We have to be dif­fer­ent be­cause we are the new player in town.”

PT&T, es­tab­lished in 1962, is present in Metro Manila and has a 700-kilo­me­tre fiber op­tic foot­print, Zamora said.

“Our long-term plan is to cover the en­tire Philip­pines in three years,” Zamora said, adding they were in talks with the gov­ern­ment to use its na­tion­wide fiber op­tic as­sets. The state- run Na­tional Trans­mis­sion Corp., the owner of the as­sets, is re­port­edly plan­ning to en­ter the telco busi­ness and will seek an amend­ment to its char­ter.

He said PT&T was open to part­ner­ships with ca­ble com­pa­nies for “last-mile” con­nec­tions around the Philip­pines.

PT&T has about 700 cor­po­rate clients, in­clud­ing the Na­tional Bureau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion, Asia United Bank and Novo­tel. PT&T dis­closed ear­lier that it could hit around 3,000 clients “with­out the need for fur­ther cap­i­tal in­fu­sion.”

PT&T said it of­fers a ser­vice called Green­dot, a shared line broad­band plat­form with speeds of up to 300 megabits per sec­ond.

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