Nowhere to go but up

HIDDEN AGENDA - Mary Ann LL. Reyes - The Philippine Star

At least two of the country’s biggest conglomerates have shown resilience in the face of adversity.

The Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) group posted record-breaking revenues in 2021 of P182.1 billion or six percent higher than that recorded in 2020 of P171.5 billion. Core net income grew from P28.1 billion in 2020 to P30.2 billion last year or a growth of eight percent.

According to PLDT officials, led by its chairman Manuel Pangilinan and its president Al Panlilio, last year’s performance was achieved through the resilience of its different businesses.

Total PLDT Home subscribers reached three million at the end of 2021, up by 27 percent compared to 2020, as it attracted 1.13 million new fiber subscribers. Its Fiber revenues grew by P14.9 billion or 82 percent to P33 billion, while total service revenues went up 24 percent from P38.5 billion to P47.8 billion.

Meanwhile, in terms of individual business, there were over one million subscribers on 5G by the end of 2021. Service revenues in 2021 reached  P86.2 billion or same as the previous year.

PLDT’s enterprise business, likewise, grew slightly, as service revenues went up by four percent or from P40.6 billion to P42.2 billion, with DC, Cloud and A2P net service revenues posting double-digit growth compared to 2020.

Consolidated service revenues for the group, including those for consumer and enterprise, as well as international and carrier, rose six percent to P182.1 billion, which is an all-time high, from P171.5 billion. The consumer and enterprise business posted a seven percent growth in service revenues, but international and carrier business recorded a four percent drop to P5.9 billion.

Data/broadband accounted for 77 percent of consolidated service revenues last year or P139.7 billion of the P182.1 billion total service revenues for the group. This is followed by voice with P32.4 billion, SMS with P6.4 billion, and international long distance at P3.6 billion.

Of the P139.7 billion service revenues from data/broadband, P70.3 billion came from mobile data, P42.6 billion from home broadband, P22 billion from corporate data, and P4.8 billion from ICT.

For the Home business, data/broadband accounted for 82 percent of service revenues and for the individual and enterprise, 80 percent and 72 percent, respectively. For the consumer and enterprise business, it accounted for 79 percent of revenues.

PLDT officials said the group’s total subscriber base was 78.79 million in 2021, lower than the 79.06 million in 2020. Mobile subscriber numbers dropped two percent to 71.2 million, with cellular mobile subscribers declining by two percent to 70.2 million and mobile broadband subscribers gaining seven percent.

Broadband subscriber numbers went up by 28 percent to 3.95 million, with fixed wireless increasing 21 percent to 985,000. Fixed subscribers rose 30 percent to 2.96 million, while that of fiber grew 87 percent to 2.42 million.

Fixed line subscribers also increased by 19 percent to 3.6 million by the end of 2021.

To reach its 2022 targets, PLDT intends to ramp up installations for its Home business to serve latent demand, fast-track migration of remaining copper customers to Fiber and automate its operations. For its Individual business, the company will offer  exclusive deals and partnerships, provide leveled up customer experience through digital platforms, and make available exclusive offers through partnerships with Maya Bank.

For the enterprise business, company officials said that imperatives to reach 2022 targets include expanding its data center capacity to serve growing demand, becoming an integral part of the digital transformation of key sectors and businesses, and growing the ICT business.

For this year, the group is looking at a mid-single digit growth in its service revenues, with home broadband to lead the growth.

Another conglomerate that was able to withstand the challenges brought about by the pandemic last year was San Miguel Corp.

Just recently, SMC announced that its consolidated net income registered a 120 percent growth from P21.9 billion in 2020 to P48.2 billion last year.

Group-wide revenues last year increased by 30 percent to P941.2 billion, albeit still short of the P1 trillion revenue base in 2019, while consolidated operating income in 2021 rose 64 percent to P117.2 billion, which was attributed to effective cost management initiatives and enhanced operational efficiencies.

The huge growth in the numbers was said to have been driven by higher sales across its major businesses,  and according to SMC president and chief operating officer Ramon Ang, they were able to execute well on their strategies to continue and strengthen their recovery despite the pandemic challenges in 2021.

San Miguel Food and Beverage Inc.’s net income rose to P31.4 billion last year, while its revenues went up by 11 percent to P309.8 billion due to higher volumes, market share gains, and better pricing across its businesses.

SMC Global Power Holdings Corp.’s bottom line stood at P16 billion, while revenues went up 16 percent to P133.7 billion. Petron Corp. posted P6.1 billion in net profits compared to an P11.4 billion net loss in 2020, with consolidated revenues rising 53 percent to P438.1 billion last year.

Meanwhile, SMC Infrastructure booked a 35 percent increase in revenues, as traffic volume in all operating toll roads recovered.

Ang expressed confidence that the company can accelerate its growth while equally responding to the needs of the environment and the communities that they serve.

*  *  *

With this year being an election year, these two giants will probably do better this year as election-related spending has always helped boost the local economy. And with the worse probably over in so far as COVID-19 is concerned, the Philippines might see a strong rebound in 2022.

In an article published in another newspaper, former NEDA director-general Cielito Habito said elections always boost the Philippine economy and that a quick scan of GDP growth data over the past 25 years would show that election years tend to be marked by higher than usual economic growth.

Habito explained that whether this money came from hidden or unhidden local or offshore bank accounts or out of government coffers or other legal or illegal sources, this election money goes around the country’s economy.

The same article also quoted Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Ben Diokno as having said that there has been a strong economic growth recorded during past presidential election years so that every election year, especially in a presidential election year, the economy gets an extra boost.

But Diokno noted that while election spending could boost the economy this year, it might be at a slower rate compared to previous election years because there is no open campaigning, hence, a less expensive election. Campaigning through social media after all is cheaper than physical campaigning, he said.

Unfortunately, any consumer-driven economic recovery this year may be dampened by the unabated increased in fuel prices.

As business activities pick up and return to normal due to lower COVID19 infection rates, let us hope that inflationary pressure brought about by the oil price increases can be eased and that our country’s economic output does go back to pre-pandemic levels by the second half of the year as projected.



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