HONG KONG — PLDT Global Corp. is ramping up efforts to widen its overseas reach through more partnerships with foreign telcos, a top company official told Manila-based reporters here yesterday.
“We expect to broaden our presence in North America such as in Canada. We are in discussions with prospective partners there,” PLDT Global President and Chief Executive Officer Alex O. Caeg said in a luncheon roundtable discussion as part the eighth anniversary celebration of the firm’s Hong Kong operations.
“North America and Europe are primary destinations for Filipinos. I guess once commercial agreements are concluded, we can expand there” he added, referring to talks for mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) ventures. “We expect something will happen in the next 12 to 18 months.”
Under such ventures, PLDT partners with telecommunications firms abroad to offer services in their home markets.
PLDT rides on the infrastructure of its partners, which in turn are able to reap the benefits of sale to sizable Filipino migrant communities, Ernesto R. Alberto, PLDT’s executive vice-president and head of enterprise and international carrier business, had explained in September.
Mr. Caeg, however, declined to identify prospective partners, saying ongoing talks are confidential.
“One thing is for sure, we have been conducting on-the-ground market researches. We have to understand Filipino needs and behavior for every country as well as the adoption of data services,” he said.
While there are also discussions for possible MVNO ventures in the Middle East and Japan, Mr. Caeg said there are clearer prospects in Europe.
“We have been exploring Europe in particular, we know that the European market is undergoing a lot of challenges right now because of the economic difficulties facing the region,” he said.
“But the Filipino ethnic community, despite the fact that the economies there are facing challenges, they are very resilient. Our kababayans have second jobs and third jobs. They work on weekends.”
Mr. Caeg said the company is specifically looking at Spain, Greece and Portugal, as well as reviving operations in Italy.
PLDT, Hutchison Global Communication Ltd. and H3G S.p.A. formed an MVNO venture in Italy in 2008. Operations, however, had to stop “two to three years ago” amid low use of third-generation (3G) services in Italy back then.
In 2004, PLDT first set up an MVNO in Hong Kong with CSL Ltd. It then expanded to Malaysia with Celcom Axiata Bhd; in Taiwan with Far EasTone Telecommunications, Co. Ltd.; in Guam with NTT Docomo, Inc.; in Singapore with M1 Ltd.; and last June in Macau with Citic Telecom International. PLDT’s MVNO presently has an estimated 250,000 subscribers.
Mr. Alberto had said in September that MVNOs are part of “new revenue streams” in the face of the popularity of free voice transactions via the Internet.
PLDT Global is also looking at expanding its online payment offerings to overseas Filipino workers beyond mere remittances to other transactions like bill payments for utilities and medical needs in the Philippines.
“We have barely scratched the market for overseas Filipinos; we have been in the conventional cellular business for sometime now,” Mr. Caeg said.
“Very soon, aside from the voice and text, and data, we will be expanding mobile e-commerce services. It will go to, say, biller payments to include top utility companies in Manila, or say, for medical needs” Mr. Caeg said.
“Many of our kababayans here in Hong Kong for example, they send money to their relatives, they want to make sure that the purpose of the remittances are actually fulfilled.”
He added that the expanded services would be launched in the next 12-18 months as well.
MVNOs make up 10-15% of the PLDT’s international business, Mr. Caeg said. Without specifying figures, he added PLDT Global has been seeing “double-digit growth both in revenues and income for the last four years.”
PLDT Global, a wholly owned subsidiary of PLDT, was incorporated on Dec. 15, 2000 to position the telco as a full-service global telecommunications player by establishing presence in key markets with substantial overseas Filipino migrant communities, PLDT’s 2011 annual report had said.
PLDT is targeting a P39-billion core net income this year, 4.89% less than P41 billion last year on higher subsidies to “unlimited service” promos amid tight competition in the industry. Its core net income dropped 8.43% to P28.02 billion as of September from P30.60 billion in the same nine months last year.
Shares of PLDT added P4 to P2,506 apiece on Friday. Hastings Holdings, Inc., a unit of PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund subsidiary MediaQuest Holdings, has a minority stake in BusinessWorld. — Cliff Harvey C. Venzon
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