PLDT continued a run of tower sale and rental moves by closing a deal to offload 650 sites for PHP9.2 billion ($165.6 million) to a local company backed by Aboitiz InfraCapital and Partners Group.

The deal with Unity Digital Infrastructure will take the total raised from sales of more than 6,500 sites to three tower groups to PHP86 billion.

In a statement, PLDT noted mobile unit Smart Communications will lease the towers from Unity Digital Infrastructure for ten years as the anchor tenant, with the buyer committed to building 220 new towers in the coming years.

The towers are primarily located in Visayas and Mindanao in the south of the Philippines.

Andrew Kwok, MD and head of private infrastructure in Asia at Partners Group, stated the Philippines is a rising technology powerhouse and one of the region’s fast-growing digital economies, but is behind other Southeast Asian countries in terms of network connectivity.

“We see Unity playing a key role in addressing this gap through building a tower portfolio.”

PLDT stated closing of the transaction will be staggered subject to standard closing conditions, with the transfer of all sites expected to be completed in 2023.

The Asian Development Bank recently noted the Philippines had one of the lowest coverage rates in Asia Pacific at end-2021, with 164 towers per 1 million people equating to about 27,000 towers in total. The government estimates an additional 60,000 towers are required by 2031 in unserved and underserved areas.

PLDT signed deals with units of edotco and EdgePoint Infrastructure in April to sell a total of 5,907 sites, with the majority of the transfers completed in October.

Rival Globe Telecom generated PHP28 billion from the sale 1,550 towers to Frontier Tower Associates Philippines and 701 sites to Miescor Infrastructure Development.