PLDT  AT  80

JUNE 10, 2008
(STAR) TAKIN’ CARE OF BUSINESS By Babe Romualdez - I was invited by Manny Pangilinan to the PLDT stockholders meeting the other day. I can’t remember the last time I attended one, but there was significance in the fact that PLDT is turning 80 in November. And as Manny pointed out, November 1998 was when First Pacific invested into PLDT. There is no doubt PLDT has become bigger than it ever was with Manny’s stewardship. It is the country’s biggest and most profitable company, posting a net income of P36 billion for 2007 – or 22 times more than the P1.6 billion it earned 10 years ago. Over the years, PLDT’s market value has risen to P460 billion today, a far cry from its P121-billion market value registered in 1998, or an increase of approximately P340 billion.

Certainly, PLDT is an example of how a company can achieve a successful turnaround. Before First Pacific came in as investor, the company was saddled with an enormous debt of $3 billion, inflated costs, low credit ratings and very tight cash flows. Today, it has become the largest Philippine corporation in terms of market capitalization, and the undisputed leader in the telecoms industry with 34 million customers for its fixed line, cellular and broadband services.

PLDT “bit the bullet,” meeting the debt problem head on, taking painful but necessary cost-cutting measures – from reducing newspaper subscriptions, foregoing Christmas parties, freezing senior management’s salaries and even downsizing its workforce. Those were hard sacrifices to make, but the results can certainly teach other companies a lesson or two on how to survive through difficult times and even come out ahead of the pack. Credit should also go to the company’s hardworking employees. As Manny said, the transformation was the product of “many minds, many hands and many hearts.”

PLDT’s success is also a product of good karma for which Manny is largely responsible because of the generosity and social consciousness the company has displayed all these years. They have truly lived up to their vision of “changing lives” not only through the communication services they offer, but more importantly, through the projects and activities that show the meaning of true corporate social responsibility.

The PLDT-Smart Foundation has been instrumental in changing the lives of millions of Filipinos in various fronts such as education, sports, arts and culture, disaster relief operation and other community building initiatives. They have changed so many lives by bringing Internet connectivity and providing training programs to schools; building homes for victims of natural disasters and Gawad Kalinga beneficiaries; providing communication support to local government units and the Red Cross during emergency disaster relief operations; building rehab centers for juvenile offenders; supporting basketball, boxing and other sports; and complying with practices that promote environmental protection by building cell sites that operate on wind or solar power.

I really believe that for any corporation, especially as they get bigger – the more they give, the more they get back. In business and in anything, the more you go up in life, the more you should give back because whatever you share will come back to you tenfold in so many ways – not only in material things but in your relationship with your loved ones and other people, good health, peace of mind and most of all, a happy life.

In the case of PLDT, the company has been reaping a lot of rewards as seen in its phenomenal growth over the years. From all indications, they are on track in meeting their target profit of P37 billion for 2008 gauging from the P9.4-billion net income posted during the first quarter. But like most companies, PLDT also faces risks posed by rising food and fuel prices that “threaten to destabilize most societies.” Non-oil producing countries like the Philippines could face enormous social and economic pressures due to spiraling costs of fossil fuel – the price of which could go as high as $200 per barrel.

Aside from driving a lot of small companies into bankruptcy, the spike in the price of food and fuel could force Filipinos to spend less on non-basic commodities, causing a slowdown on consumption spending. Another concern is the negative impact on employment, with government having to spend less on infrastructure since focus will be on giving subsidies to the poorest families in the country. Despite the prospects of a “turbulent” 2008, one positive light in the horizon is the continued strength in the flow of dollar remittances from our OFWs which could at least help ease the economic burden on many Filipinos.

While the prospect of 2008 may not be as bullish as 2007, a company like PLDT will always survive, having evolved into an innovative, market oriented and customer-centered telecoms firm.

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Terrorists have struck once again with the abduction of ABS-CBN reporter Ces Drilon and her crew. It’s quite obvious that these bandits are after high –profile people like Ces. This is one hazard of being a journalist as one tries to chase a story. Libel is also a hazard. But Pancho Villaraza of CVC Law or “The Firm” has made it clear that their libel suit against Tribune publisher Ninez Olivarez was also meant to protect other private individuals from being unjustly maligned by the media. And to prove their sincerity, they are donating the P5 million in moral damages awarded to them to the Philippine Press Institute for the establishment of a legal defense fund for journalists unjustly accused of libel – an offer which I’m told the PPI has accepted.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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