PLDT Inc. (PLDT) hauled in P44.8 billion revenues, up 8%, in the first quarter of 2021, led by data/broadband, which grew 15%, to P33.9 billion, though net earnings dipped 2% to P5.8 billion.
Nevertheless, the telco’s core income (excluding the impact of asset sales and Voyager Innovations) climbed 9% to P7.5 billion and Consolidated EBITDA hit an all-time high, growing 7% year-on-year to P23.3 billion, excluding MRP (Manpower Reduction Program) expenses, driven by higher service revenues.
EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization) margin was at 51% in the first three months of the year.
Despite the two-week reimposition of Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) in the National Capital Region Plus (NCR+) in this period, it was business as usual for PLDT and Smart Communications Inc.
“We have kept our business running, not just to meet the minimum needed by customers or required by regulation but to raise our operating efficiencies and our customer experience to exceptional standards necessitated by the times,” remarked Manuel V. Pangilinan, PLDT Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer.
And while shifting quarantine restrictions push the demand for digital connectivity and services, he expressed continued but guarded optimism.
‘Our minds and hearts must be prepared for this long twilight struggle,” Pangilinan noted.
As for PLDT, “We are here, not to merely survive in this desolation, but to thrive as we improve the lives and welfare of our customers,” he added.
“Once again, we face exceptional times with exceptional challenges. We must get out of our foxholes, put our game faces on, get our feet pounding the street—keeping people connected everywhere.”
The telco’s consolidated Net Debt as of the first quarter 2021 amounted to US$3,895 million while net-debt-to-EBITDA stood at 2.09x.
Gross debt was at US$4.59 billion, with maturities well spread out. Only 18% of Gross Debt was denominated in US dollars and 6% unhedged, taking into account hedges and available US dollar cash allocated for debt.
PLDT’s credit ratings from Moody’s and S&P Global remained at investment grade.
Smart continued investing to expand the network resulting in capital expenditure of ₱20.7 billion in the
Network upgrades made up bulk of the capex spend, helping fortify the telco’s infrastructure and deliver consistently superior customer experience.
The rollout of fiber, 5G and 4G/LTE networks to support business demand underpinned this year’s capex commitment of between ₱88 billion and ₱92 billion.
Smart tripled the number of its 5G sites and rolled out extensive 5G roaming series of partnerships in key international markets.
PLDT’s fiber infrastructure totalled over 478,000 kilometers, covering 10.2 million homes, while the total number of fiber-powered ports increased to 4.4 million.
Smart’s wireless network covered 96% of the population.
The telco increased the number of its base stations byc7% to over 63,600 and now has over 2,600 5G sites and about 3,200 5G base stations nationwide.
In the National Capital Region, Smart ramped up its 5G outdoor coverage to more than 90%, targeting to grow its 5G base stations by over 3,800 in 2021.
At the same time, it’s expanding its 4G/LTE network by upgrading 4,000 base stations.
“In the face of unprecedented changes brought about by the pandemic, being a telco means we are well-positioned to address the needs of our customers, while at the same time enabling their passions and purpose,” noted Al Panlilio, Smart President/CEO and PLDT Chief Revenue Officer.
“We are not simply a utility that provides our customers with connectivity for work or school, we are
also helping them thrive in this pandemic by responding to their need to be entertained and to care for their overall well-being, powering their video-streaming, online stories, e-games.”
PLDT Home grew by 19% in the first quarter of 2021 hitting P10.9 billion in service revenues.
PLDT Home ramped up installations and upgrade capabilities reaching 129,000 in March 2021.
Sustained investments in the network enabled the company to address increased demand for mobile data services, which accounted for 78% of Consumer Wireless revenues.
Consumer Wireless revenues hit ₱22.1 billion in the first three months of 2021, up by 7% or ₱1.4 billion compared to the same period last year.
Smartphones on the network grew to 85%, from 78% as of end-2020.
Mobile data traffic during the first quarter of 2021 was at 777 petabytes, up 32% compared to the same period last year.
Active data users as of end-March 2021 were at 39.7 million, while average monthly mobile internet data usage stood at 7.63 GB at the end of the quarter.
Despite COVID-19’s disruptions on businesses, Enterprise grew first quarter service revenues by 4% or ₱0.4 billion to ₱10.3 billion, compared to the same period last year.
Data/broadband revenues accounted for 72% of total Enterprise service revenues, up from 69% in 2020.
Data center contracts signed with hyperscalers underpinned a healthy pipeline of new and expanded engagements, supporting PLDT Enterprise’s revenue resiliency.
PLDT Enterprise hosts the largest data center portfolio in the Philippines: 10 data centers with full capacity of over 9,000 racks, 72MW, 99.9% SLA redundant power.
Furthermore, as the world prepares to ease travel restrictions amid the worldwide vaccine rollout, Smart dominates global rollout of 5G roaming services.
Already, Smart has launched its 5G roaming services in 16 countries with 22 partners worldwide.
For its part, PayMaya’s end-to-end digital payments ecosystem now counts 35 million registered users, about a third of the Philippine population.
As for the telco’s outlook for the rest of the year, “The road ahead of us is long, with dangerous curves and steep climbs, blind corners, and hidden potholes,” Pangilinan warned.
“That said, our fear should not grip us into inertia, enfeeble our resolve, or uncertainty disable our focus,” he concluded.