The Philippines Competitive Commission (PCC) is reviewing documents from the two dominant mobile operators – PLDT and Globe Telecom – after it asked them to re-submit filings made following their acquisition of San Miguel Corp’s telecoms assets.
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 last week that said merely filing a notice of the transaction doesn’t mean it’s “deemed approved”, BusinessWorld reported.
Both operators insist the watchdog doesn’t have the power to undo their joint acquisition.
Globe said in a statement that the PCC’s rules require only a notice of the transaction. It confirmed it has given the PCC additional documents and stated it is in compliance with all relevant laws, including the provisions of the Philippine Competition Act.
Globe defended its notice, stating it does not contain any false information and any so-called “deficiency” of its notice “is not grounds to prevent the transaction from being deemed approved”, the Inquirer said.
Ramon Isberto, PLDT’s public affairs head, told BusinessWorld that it was compliant with PCC’s notification requirement. Its letter stated that the acquisition cannot be subject “to retroactive review” by the PCC.
Adding to the confusion, the operators sent their notices to the PCC before the release of the new rules and regulations of the Competition Act. The deal was signed on 30 May, before the new rules were announced on 3 June – they take effect after 15 days.
SMC, which failed to find a foreign partner to launch a third mobile operator in the country, last month sold its telecoms assets – which included the valuable 700MHz spectrum – to the two companies for $1.5 billion, with each taking a 50 per cent stake.
The country’s telecoms regulator warned the two players to improve the quality and reach of their internet service within a year or it will recall the 700MHz spectrum. Under the agreement, PLDT and Globe will split 70MHz of the 700MHz spectrum holding, while 20MHz will be returned to the regulator.
Globe general counsel Froilan Castelo said: “The transaction will result in efficiency gains for the benefit of the public because it will immediately unlock under-utilised frequencies that will help enable Globe to provide its customers better experience on mobile data services.”
The two operators, which together have a 99 per cent market share of mobile connections, have rushed to roll 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 cell sites and plans to roll out 360 sites supporting the efficient spectrum this year.