Philippines operator PLDT credited brisk profit and revenue growth, along with steady mobile subscriber gains in 2019 to its sustained level of investment over the past five years.

Manuel Pangilinan, chairman and CEO (pictured), said 2019 was a productive year despite continuing challenges, with revenue reaching record levels on the back of growth in its mobile consumer business.

“This was achieved in large part by making the needed investments in our data and IT networks. We must continue investing in our networks and transforming our processes and our people. Through this, we should be able to sustain the strong growth of our consumer wireless business.”

The operator raised its capex budget for 2020 by 14 per cent year-on-year to PHP83 billion ($1.63 billion).

Pangilinan said PHP64.6 billion of the total is earmarked for network and IT projects, mainly to support explosive growth in data traffic.

Data surge
Consolidated service revenue in Q4 2019 increased 9 per cent to PHP42.3 billion, with the mobile figure up 16 per cent to PHP24.3 billion and fixed-line 6 per cent higher at PHP22.5 billion.

Mobile data revenue jumped 35 per cent to PHP14.98 billion, while SMS turnover was down 8 per cent to PHP2.4 billion. Voice inched up 1 per cent to PHP5.6 billon.

PLDT’s mobile unit Smart Communications’ subscriber base rose 21 per cent to 73.1 million, with prepaid up 5.34 million to 25.87 million. Prepaid ARPU fell 7.3 per cent to PHP114 and post-paid by 4.4 per cent to PHP843.

Net income for the full year soared to PHP22.5 billion from PHP3.6 billion in 2018, attributed to higher core telecoms income and a PHP1.2 billion lower loss from its fintech arm Voyager Innovation.

The company increased 4G base station numbers 51 per cent to about 24,600 and 3G by 19 per cent to 13,800, expanding mobile coverage to 94 per cent of the population.

Pangilinan said current uncertainties due to the Covid-19 (coronavirus) outbreak made it difficult to provide specific earnings guidance for 2020, with firm numbers to be provided when it has a better view of developments in the coming months.

As for its 5G plans, he said it will begin to make a more meaningful investment this year, noting several pilot deployments with Huawei, Nokia, Ericsson and Samsung.