PLDT, the Philippines' leading telecommunications firm, has announced Wednesday that it would sell approximately 50% of its cellular towers to two Malaysian enterprises for a total of $1.47 billion.
PLDT will transfer 2,973 telecom towers and related inactive assets to a subsidiary of Edotco Group and 2,934 telecom towers to a subsidiary of EdgePoint, which will account for approximately half of the company's total telecom towers.
As the primary tenant, PLDT will rent the towers back for a period of 10 years. In the fourth quarter of this year, it is anticipated that the transactions would be completed.
As per the PLDT, the transaction is the largest acquisition of Philippine properties by international investors.
It will be able to use the proceeds of the transaction to enhance its cash position and lower its debt after increasing its capital expenditures to keep up with the competition from the China Telecom-backed Dito Telecommunity, which began offering services last year.
PLDT plans to increase this year's capital investment plan by up to P80 billion with the profits, according to Chairman Manuel Pangilinan.
"We expect to profit from a value increase and capital redistribution, with PLDT using the funds to refinance, further reinvest in the network, and return cash to investors through a special dividend," Pangilinan added.
The Philippines has pressed for tower-sharing agreements to boost telecom operations and lower expansion costs in the country, which falls behind its big Southeast Asian neighbors in terms of tower concentration.
EdgePoint controls roughly 10,000 towers in Indonesia and Malaysia, whereas Edotco Group, which is mainly owned by Axiata Group, maintains over 54,000 towers throughout nine Asian nations.
Once the merger is finalized, the two companies will be the Philippines' largest tower firms.
"This deal is a very important purchase for Edotco since it diversifies and enhances our pan-Asian network by providing exposure to a young, high-growth industry with significant government assistance," stated Edotco Group CEO Adlan Tajudin.
Edotco Group and EdgePoint will develop 1,500 towers as part of the sales deal, with two-thirds of them completed by 2025.
The tower deal will boost PLDT's earnings by nearly 10% yearly for the next 10 years, compared to last year's core profit of P30 billion. The acquisition was recommended by UBS, a Swiss bank.
The tower firms will hold the structural components, air conditioners, power source, and land lease agreements, while PLDT will retain ownership of active equipment, such as antennas, satellite radios, and microwave reflectors.