The Philippines’ largest operators PLDT and Globe Telecom have called on the country’s antitrust watchdog to shed light on any issues it may have regarding the joint buyout of San Miguel Corp’s telecoms assets and asked for a meeting to resolve uncertainties.
A joint letter to the Philippines Competitive Commission (PCC) said: “We express our willingness to cooperate with the commission to settle the issues surrounding the transaction, having in mind the tremendous benefit that the public will gain from the immediate unlocking of the advantages of the underutilised frequencies underpinning the transaction.”
PCC said last week it was conducting a “comprehensive review” of the deal, after it asked the operators to re-submit filings made following the PHP69 billion ($1.5 billion) acquisition. The agency indicated that the operators may have failed to comply with the guidelines of the Competition Act, but offered no details and said it was under review.
The newly-created antitrust agency said that the operators’ filings were “deficient in form and substance” and requested them to re-submit their notices. It issued a statement that said merely filing a notice of the transaction doesn’t mean it’s “deemed approved”.
Complicating the issue, the PCC released new regulations for the Competition Act in early June (they went into effect after 15 days), just a few days after the SMC deal was signed.
Both operators have repeatedly claimed that the transaction was above-board and did not violate any provisions of the country’s anti-competitive law.
Globe general counsel Froilan Castelo expressed concern over the impasse, saying it is “creating an atmosphere of uncertainty hanging over the industry”. Castelo argued that because the majority of SMC’s telecoms subsidaries were not operating, there was no market share gains or losses from acquiring its assets. He noted that the return of certain 2G, 3G and 4G spectrum resources, including 20MHz in the 700MHz band, supports open market competition.
The two operators, which together have a 99 per cent market share of mobile connections, have already rolled out cell sites using the newly-acquired 700MHz frequency. Globe pipped the market leader by announcing it deployed the first 700MHz base station, with plans to roll out 200 sites this year. PLDT followed a few days later with three 700MHz cell sites and plans to roll out 360 sites supporting the efficient spectrum this year.