Surging demand for online entertainment and e-commerce has shielded telco giant PLDT Inc. from the worst effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the company’s annual meeting on Tuesday (June 9), PLDT chair and CEO Manuel V. Pangilinan said revenues took a hit in the early weeks of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Luzon. Business quickly bounced back, however, starting the middle of April due to its main wireless and broadband segments.

“We’re probably one of the few companies in the Philippines showing growth in revenues during this pandemic,” Pangilinan told stockholders during the online meeting.

Early into the lockdown, PLDT moved to preserve cash to pay salaries to its thousands of employees, maintain business operations and provide assistance to the government in its COVID-19 response.

Pangilinan said profitability took a backseat but the recovery means PLDT will likely end the first six months of this year ahead of the comparable period in 2019.

“It’s likely that service revenues for the first six months of this year will improve over last year’s despite the pandemic,” Pangilinan said. “Similarly, we expect our first half telco core income to rise above last year.”

PLDT chief revenue officer Al Panlilio said internet demand went up 25 percent since the start of the ECQ. Entertainment, e-commerce and remote eduction pushed up demand for data services.

Some of PLDT’s growth plans were deferred due to the pandemic. Capital spending, which mainly involves network upgrades, will be slashed by up to P20 billion this year. PLDT originally planned to deploy a record P83 billion in spending for 2020.

During the meeting, Pangilinan said the pandemic had also exposed “weaknesses” in the country that PLDT hoped to address using technology.

Pangilinan said he was worried about food supply chain disruptions, deficiencies in health care infrastructure, contact tracing and the disbursement of financial aid.

In line with this, PLDT will launch a so-called digital supply chain blueprint to better link food and medicine supplies to areas that need them the most.

“So we can track the source of raw materials needed for the manufacture of food and pharmaceutical products and their destination markets,” Pangilinan said.

He also supported the rollout of the National ID system. PLDT is a shareholder of the PayMaya digital wallet.

Pangilinan said a national ID, together with financial technology providers, are powerful tools to reach Filipinos that need financial aid from the government.

Edited by TSB



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