Despite persistent rumours to the contrary, Benpres Holdings Corp says it has no plans to offload a majority stake in its Filipino telecoms group Bayan Telecommunications Inc (BayanTel), although it concedes the 85%-owned business is still considered a ‘non-core’ asset. Benpres chief financial officer Dory Tirona told the local BusinessMirror newspaper there are currently no talks taking place concerning a possible sale, although the firm is willing to consider any offers that are put before it. ‘Bayan[Tel] … may be up for sale if the price is right. We maintain that Bayan is a non-core business for Benpres, which we had earlier identified as part of our debt restructuring. But there are no ongoing new talks which we or any other entity has initiated,’ he said.
TeleGeography’s GlobalComms database writes that BayanTel launched wireline services in 1993, when the market was opened up to competition. It provides five main telecoms offerings: leased line carrier services, international gateway facilities, domestic and international leased line services, public trunk radio, and public calling office services. BayanTel’s services are available in the Bicol region, Samar & Leyte provinces, Davao del Sur and South Cotabato and Butuan City and Agusan Towns. Its existing service areas across the archipelago cover over 25 million people — almost a third of the population. It also owns a majority stake of the National Digital Transmission Network (NTDN), which provides the country’s only alternative fibre backbone. BayanTel controls about 92% of capacity on the NTDN. Digital Telecommunications Philippines, Eastern Telecom, Express Telecom, Globe Telecom, PT&T and Smart Communications also own part of NDTN, which comprises submarine and terrestrial cables and microwave links worth USD70 million. Built in 1999, the NDTN is being managed and operated by Telecoms Infrastructure Corporation of the Philippines.
BayanTel has invested considerable sums to upgrade the NDTN to a 10Gbps network from 2.5Gbps previously. However, the company is now saddled with USD325 million-worth of debt it expects could take until 2023 to wipe out.