December 20, 2017 / 9:23 AM / a year ago

Philippines' PLDT plans record $1 bln capex as telco competition rises

MANILA, Dec 20 (Reuters) - Philippine telecoms firm PLDT Inc will put aside a record high of at least 50 billion pesos ($994 million) for capital expenses next year as it braces for the arrival of a telco competitor, the company’s chairman said on Wednesday.

The country’s president, Rodrigo Duterte, wants a third telecommunications services provider to start operations by the first quarter of next year, in a bid to improve internet and mobile phone services across the archipelago.

“We will announce a historic capex next year, north of 50 billion pesos,” PLDT Chairman Manuel Pangilinan told reporters. “We want to make sure we will future-proof our network.”

The capital allotment, up by nearly a third from 38 billion pesos allocated this year, will fund PLDT’s network expansion, and improve mobile and fixed-line services.

Duterte last month offered China the “privilege” of challenging the longstanding duopoly of PLDT and Globe Telecom Inc. Beijing has chosen China Telecom Corp Ltd to invest in the Philippines.

“China Telecom is currently having a preliminary study on the investment opportunity in the Philippines and no concrete plan has been determined yet,” a company spokeswoman said.

The Philippines allows foreign firms to own up to 40 percent of domestic telecoms companies. The foreign ownership cap has kept interest from multinationals at bay in the market of more than 100 million people.

Among domestic firms, internet provider Philippine Telegraph & Telephone Corp has expressed interest in applying for a mobile telecommunications licence. ($1 = 50.2990 Philippine pesos) (Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales in MANILA and Sijia Jiang in HONG KONG; Editing by Martin Petty and Himani Sarkar)

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