"Profits leaped a remarkable 8 percent."
Among Philippine companies, big and small, PLDT turned in the best performance in 2020, the year of the worst economic slump in this country since Magellan landed 500 years ago.
Revenues of the telco behemoth rose 7 percent to a record P181 billion last year, from the previous high of P169.18 billion in 2019. Profits leaped a remarkable 8 percent to P24.58 billion from P22.78 billion.
Net of interconnection cost, PLDT consolidated service revenues rose 9 percent to P171.5 billion, the highest ever and exceeding the previous record of P157.5 billion in 2019.
Data and broadband powered sales with P124.5 billion in revenues which swelled 18 percent and accounted for 72.6 percent of total company revenues. Mobile service revenues went up by 29 percent, home broadband revenues climbed 16 percent.
EBITDA scaled to an all-time high. EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes and depreciation), a measure of cash flow, grew 7 percent. EBITDA margin rose to 51 percent in 2020, from 45 percent in 2018 and 52 percent in 2019.
When half of Philippine businesses were failing, PLDT’s cash was yielding 51 percent return.
Business segments—individual, enterprise, and home revenues—all rose to all-time highs and gained valuable market share. PLDT’s landline. the core telco business, was up by 4 percent or P1 billion to P28.1 billion.
Despite a crippling pandemic marked by the longest and strictest lockdown in the world, PLDT poured P71.9 billion in capital expenditures last year. The company will spend another P88.92 billion (possibly P92 billion) in capex this year, to consolidate gains and carry on its tremendous momentum.
The company said PLDT and Smart put to work capital expenditures to strengthen network infrastructure and sustain superior customer experience. Network upgrades made up the bulk of the P71.9 billion capex for 2020. This brought total capex spent over the last 10 years to a record P460.7 billion.
After these investments, PLDT’s fiber infrastructure, the most extensive in the country, stood at more than 429,000 kilometers by end-2020. PLDT had extended the reach of its fixed broadband service to cover some 9 million homes. Available fiber-powered ports increased to 4 million. In 2021, PLDT aims to further expand its fiber network by 125,000 kms and add 1.7 million ports.
Increased demand for connectivity for work-from-home, online learning and streaming propelled Home to post a record 11 percent or P4.3 billion increase in revenues year-on-year to P41.4 billion. Data/broadband revenues now account for 80 percent of Home revenues. The extensive nationwide fiber rollout, along with increased installations, helped serve increasing demand.
Despite the initial restrictions in movement, PLDT Home tried to connect as many Filipino families as possible in 2020. In the first quarter 2020, before the lockdowns, monthly installations averaged around 42,000. That improved to an average of 75,500 for September to December. In 2021, the PLDT Home Team is aiming to hit over 100,000 monthly average installations.
Last year was crucial for the PLDT Home business. The lockdowns unleashed an unprecedented demand for home broadband services. PLDT rolled out three major programs to help Filipinos rediscover what home meant in the new normal.
PLDT’s sterling performance amid the worst pandemic in 100 years and the worst recession in more than 500 years demonstrates the resilience, stability, and long-term viability of the company’s business model. It also shows how is the management under the tandem of Chair, President and CEO Manuel V. Pangilinan (MVP) and Chief Revenue Officer Al Panlilio.
PLDT overcame COVID-19 challenges with its relentless network buildout and delivery of superior customer experience, said Panlilio.
Some PLDT customers may not agree with “superior customer experience” but nearly all will now agree that PLDT remains a tremendously profitable business. In fairness to PLDT, Ookla recognized PLDT and mart as the fastest fixed and mobile networks in the Philippines during 2020.
The late taipan John Gokongwei Jr. had the foresight to maneuver to acquire majority control of PLDT in 2002 from the Indonesian Salim group. But Wharton-educated Pangilinan had an equally savvy foresight to thwart Gokongwei’s takeover.
MVP then uncorked an aggressive expansion program that has made PLDT what it is today—the crown jewel and cash cow of the Salim group’s First Pacific Ltd of Hong Kong. Today, MVP is firmly entrenched, backed by the 11.3 percent investment of the Gokongwei family.
“We are the leading and most diversified telecommunications group in the Philippines. In the midst of massive technology changes, we remain focused on our commitment to serve the nation and deliver the best communications and digital solutions to Filipinos,” said First Pacific of its Philippine telco property.
Enthused Pangilinan with the 2020 PLDT results:
“Our key learnings from the pandemic can be summed up in two words: Transform and Perform. We have endeavored to keep PLDT at the forefront of digital changes, and we are enabling other companies to similarly adopt the digital mode of doing business. Part of PLDT’s success during the pandemic lies in the perseverance of our people in keeping the business going despite the lockdown. Once restrictions were eased, the network buildout recommenced with an accelerated pace. The repairs and installs of our Home business also continued apace in the second half of this year.”
MVP added: “We are indebted to our sales frontliners who ensured that we were able to keep our services available to our subscribers and their communities, and are similarly grateful to our partner retailers. Meanwhile, we have also enabled the shift towards online payments and other forms of cashless payment systems that could be deployed to lessen the contact between our people, our staff and the customers.”