Manila, June 11, 2003 By Mary Ann Ll. Reyes, (Star) The Manuel V. Pangilinan-Antonio "Tonyboy" Cojuangco-led 13-man board of the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) was reelected in yesterday’s annual stockholders meeting and election of officers of the country’s premier telecommunications company.

The election of the same set of board of members for PLDT is seen by observers as a show of support by the Salim-controlled First Pacific Co. Ltd. of Hong Kong which owns 24.4 percent of PLDT.

The reelection of the Pangilinan-Cojuangco tandem comes on the heels of First Pacific pronouncements that PLDT will serve as the core asset for a regional telecommunications strategy, an assurance that First Pacific will not be selling its stake in PLDT, at least in the short-term.

Elected to the board together with Pangilinan and Cojuangco were Napoleon Nazareno; Ray Espinosa; Helen Yuchengco-Dee, Corazon dela Paz, Albert del Rosario; Taketo Suzuki (representing NTT Corp. of Japan); Fr. Bienvenido Nebres and Pedro Roxas as independent directors; Ricardo Zarate; and Mitsukiro Takese (NTT).

Amidst statements in the media by ‘resigned’ First Pacific general counsel Ronald Brown questioning Pangilinan’s management capabilities, STAR sources revealed that the Salim group, headed by Anthoni Salim, had sent a written letter of support for Pangilinan’s continued leadership not only of First Pacific where he is chief executive officer but also of PLDT where he is president and CEO.

There were reports earlier that Pangilinan might give up his post in PLDT to concentrate more on his First Pacific job. In Hong Kong, he was quoted as saying that he would relinquish PLDT post to a ‘younger candidate.’ But PLDT officials said that Pangilinan will keep his PLDT portfolio and instead stay in Hong Kong probably two to three days a week.

In his report to PLDT stockholders yesterday, Pangilinan noted that they are encouraged by the first quarter numbers, and the improving prospects for this year and beyond, which have flowed through the share price.

He pointed out that at the start of 2002, PLDT’s share price was at P270. Yesterday morning, PLDT shares closed at P460, an improvement of 60 percent. "We acknowledge this recovery with pride and thanks, for we take it to reflect the investor community’s renewed enthusiasm and confidence in our ability to satisfy promises with performance," he said.

PLDT’s net income in 2002 stood at P6.2 billion, a 77-percent increase from the 2001 figure of P3.5 billion.

Wireless subsidiary Smart Communications Inc. posted revenues of P33 billion, an increase of 51 percent. Total wireless subscribers for the group (Smart and Talk n’Text) totaled 9.4 million as of end March this year, which, according to Pangilinan, has already exceeded 10 million as of today.

Pangilinan added: "On the whole, we can probably assume we have weathered the storms of last year. However, while we can all be grateful for the recent signs of an upturn in our performance, I suggest this year and next will hold many challenges still."

He said the stabilization in PLDT’s position offers only a brief reprieve, as he admitted that the fixed line business still concerns him. "Like a number of companies these days, we have a workforce that remains fragile after our manpower reduction program. We operate in a sector that still has decidedly too much capacity. And fixed line is embroiled in a market share battle with cellular operators that shows no signs of abating," he emphasized.

The PLDT chief outlined the company’s priorities this year, which include reducing costs further and accelerating the manpower reduction program, maintaining the revised international termination rates to ensure that IDD revenues will rise this year, among others.

He also revealed that the company intends to reduce consolidated debt by $200 million this year. PLDT launched a liability management program in January last year, as a result of which $644 million in debts falling due between 2002 and 2004 were refinanced successfully. At the same time, the company reduced debts by $127 million in 2002 using internally generated funds.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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