Globe Telecom hints at further asset sales

Philippines telco weighs possible sale of in-building solutions after successful tower sell-off.

Robert Clark, Contributing Editor, Special to Light Reading

December 16, 2022

5 Min Read
Globe Telecom hints at further asset sales

After selling off two-thirds of its mobile towers earlier this year, Globe Telecom says further asset sales could be on the table.

Carlo Puno, head of financial planning and analysis, identified in-building solutions and cable landing stations as passive assets that the company could sell off.

"You won't see any big sales like in 2022," he said in a briefing with Light Reading. He said Globe's leaders were focused on offloading passive infrastructure and returning capital to the business.

The infrastructure of delivering connectivity into malls and other buildings was something the company could look into, Puno said.

The Philippines telco, 47%-owned by Singtel, sold 7,100 mobile towers in multiple deals with three tower firms this year for a total price of 91 billion Philippine pesos (US$1.64 billion).

Figure 1: (Source: Pixabay) (Source: Pixabay)

The towers are passive assets "we always felt we could monetize," said Puno.

He said the use of shared towers improved the infrastructure for the whole industry and "in turn makes us a bit more efficient in terms of our capital spending."

"We're a telco, not a towerco. Our view is that by enabling common towers and doing the sale and leaseback we will be able to squeeze out some more efficiencies on the passive infra side because we will be putting the expertise of these towercos to work."

Painful process of site approvals

Tower sales are certainly the fashion for Asia-Pacific telcos. Just this week New Zealand's 2degrees agreed to sell its mobile masts to the same Canadian consortium that had acquired rival Spark's assets earlier this year – the latest of half a dozen deals around the region this year, including Globe's rival PLDT.

Globe still owns around a thousand masts and continues to build out coverage, Puno said. But it has cut its capex guidance for next year by 30%, a move that is a story more about the local industry than the Globe business.

The company had ramped up investment in the previous two years thanks to a temporary COVID-era law that had streamlined the permitting process.

Typically, it takes around 26 permit approvals to build a single cell tower, Joel Agustin, head of network planning and engineering, pointed out. He described it as a "painful process" where, even when there is a law, local governments often act according to their own rules.

Globe and other telco operators are seeking a permanent national law, according to Agustin.

"But more than just passing a law it's about making sure everybody complies with the law. Everybody understands the law so that we can get the full benefit of that law," he said.

Dito arrival hasn't disrupted the market

Globe says its aim is to bring capex down to $1.3 billion in 2023 and $1 billion by 2024.

The Philippines market faced its biggest disruption in years with the debut of a third player, Dito Telecom, 20 months ago. Puno said he doesn't think it has impacted Globe or its fellow incumbent, PLDT subsidiary Smart Communications.

Dito, a JV between local businessman Dennis Uy and China Telecom, says it has signed up 14 million subscribers and is hoping to double that in 2023.

Puno said the raw subscriber numbers don't reflect usage. Globe counts 88 million subs but just 38 million mobile data users, according to its filing for the first three quarters.

Globe grew mobile data revenue by 8% and total mobile revenue by 3% in the period, with aggregate EBITDA margin of 51%. Puno said the 5G contribution to revenue is negligible because of the cost of devices and connectivity.

That includes the fixed-wireless market.

In 2018 and 2019 the company became convinced that it could deploy 4G FWA to go head-to-head with PLDT, the market leader in home broadband.

'FWA was no longer acceptable'

"We thought we had more runway and more time for that technology," said Puno. "And then COVID happened, and everyone went back home and the technology demand became. fiber. So we got a little left behind."

That was one of the biggest COVID-19 shocks for Globe, he said.

"It was an immediate flip of the switch. FWA was no longer an acceptable technology and all of a sudden fixed-wireless was not enough and everyone needed fiber."

Globe junked its FWA strategy and pivoted to fiber. The company says it has deployed 3.2 million fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) services since 2020.

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But the broadband business is a small part of the total, accounting for just over one-sixth of revenue.

Globe says it is attacking home broadband as a predominantly prepaid market.

"You are talking to the same customers. We are 97% prepaid in mobile. There's not much evidence that same user will become postpaid user [for broadband]," Puno said.

"We feel as long as we find the right type of economics for the devices and the rollout we will be able to get a sizeable chunk of the broadband market," he said.

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— Robert Clark, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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About the Author(s)

Robert Clark

Contributing Editor, Special to Light Reading

Robert Clark is an independent technology editor and researcher based in Hong Kong. In addition to contributing to Light Reading, he also has his own blog,  Electric Speech ( 

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