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Global Telecoms Business
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PLDT steps up search for strategic partner

01 May 1999

The Philippine Long Distance Company (PLDT) is the country's incumbent telco. In November 1998 First Pacific increased its holding in PLDT to 27.4%. Now PLDT is being merged with Smart and Piltel and the company is seeking a foreign strategic partner. Manuel Pangilinan, managing director of First Pacific and president and CEO of PLDT talks to Global Telecoms Business.

The telecoms market in the Philippines was liberalized in 1994. At one stage the incumbent, the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT), faced nine competitors. However, only a minority of the competitors managed to comply with government demands for the installation of at least 300,000 exchange lines within three years of entry.
Smart Communications, owned by Indonesia's First Pacific, was one of the most successful new entrants, becoming the largest cellular provider in the Philippines. In November 1998 First Pacific, which already had direct and indirect stakes in PLDT, acquired a further 17.2% share of the operator for $750 million. This increased First Pacific's holding to 27.4% and gave the company a controlling interest.

First Pacific subsequently announced plans to fold Smart into PLDT. It is likely that this will involve a share swap. Piltel, another cellular operator, which has under-performed and recorded significant debts, will also be merged...