Philippines’ PLDT says its digital unit may bring in a Chinese partner

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MANILA (Reuters) – PLDT Inc, one of only two wireless carriers in the Philippines, said on Monday its digital applications unit could bring in a Chinese partner and even PLDT itself is open to tying up with a mainland firm.

The comments by PLDT Chairman Manuel Pangilinan come as a shakeup looms for the Philippine telecoms industry amid a rising Chinese presence.

Pangilinan said a Chinese company was likely to come in as a strategic partner for PLDT unit Voyager Innovations, which builds technology platforms and products for financial services and digital commerce.

“Voyager is in the process of looking for strategic partners and it’s possible that we may have a Chinese partner,” Pangilinan told reporters, declining to specify the nature of the planned partnership or a timeframe.

President Rodrigo Duterte has welcomed Chinese entities to be the Philippines’ third telecoms operator, following through on a threat he made last year to PLDT and Globe Telecom Inc, the nation’s two dominant telecoms groups, to shape up or face competition, amid complaints about their services.

The Chinese are slowly elbowing their way into Philippines’ telecoms and communications industry. Ant Financial Services Group, an affiliate of Chinese billionaire Jack Ma’s Alibaba Group, has recently invested in Globe’s Mynt, a rival of PLDT’s Voyager. [nFWN1LE0U0]

And broadband services provider Philippine Telegraph & Telephone Corp is in talks to partner with Chinese companies to challenge PLDT and Globe, a move which could be a game changer in the local market. [nL3N1NR3WI]

Asked to comment on a new competitor backed up by Chinese investors possibly emerging soon in the local telecoms industry, Pangilinan said he was also open to getting a Chinese partner for the entire PLDT group.

“We welcome any third, fourth, fifth player,” Pangilinan said, speaking on the sidelines of a gathering of business executives.

“I think (partnering with Chinese companies) is a rather novel idea. I think it’s something we should consider at the PLDT level,” he said.

Reporting by Enrico dela Cruz; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman

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