PLDT closes first Unity tower deal for P1.9B

PLDT Inc. has completed the sale of 135 telecommunication towers and associated passive telco infrastructure to Unity Digital Infrastructure, Inc. for P1.9 billion.

“The Master Services Agreement covering the leaseback arrangement for those towers also became effective as of today,” PLDT said.

The transaction marks the first tranche of the 650 sale-and-leaseback deal with Unity, with the remaining transfers expected to be completed within the year. The total purchase price for the 650 towers and related assets is P9.2 billion at P14.2 million per tower.

Unity is a joint venture telecommunications infrastructure platform between Aboitiz InfraCapital, Inc. and global private markets firm Partners Group. It builds and operates telecommunications towers and supporting infrastructure across the Philippines to help boost connectivity and service reliability.

Aside from its tower sale-and-leaseback agreements with Unity, PLDT also has deals with Edgepoint’s Philippine unit Comworks Infratech Corp., edotco Group’s ISOC edotco Towers, Inc., and Frontier Tower Associates.

PLDT President and Chief Executive Officer Alfredo S. Panlilio said during the company’s first-quarter briefing that it had yet to discuss what to do with its remaining towers.

“I think the focus is to complete stratosphere one and two. Our team is also tired in terms of closing these deals — a lot of paperwork, a lot of validation, and a lot of visits to the tower. We’d like to complete them first. Maybe it would take until the third quarter of this year to complete everything,” he said.

Credit analyst CreditSights has said that it expects the company to receive a total of P32.6-billion proceeds from tower sales in 2023, “which would provide greater financial flexibility for capital expenditure and possible deleveraging.”

The amount is part of PLDT’s expected tower sales proceeds of P98.3 billion, of which P60.5 billion were closed last year.

The company’s capital expenditure (capex) in the first quarter was P19.3 billion, 22% higher than its spending of P15.8 billion in the same period last year.

For 2023, PLDT has earmarked a capex of P80 billion to P85 billion, which is lower than the P96.8 billion it used in 2022.

Hastings Holdings, Inc., a unit of PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund subsidiary MediaQuest Holdings, Inc., has a majority stake in BusinessWorld through the Philippine Star Group, which it controls. — Justine Irish D. Tabile

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