October 23, 2017 / 6:27 AM / 5 months ago

Philippine court affirms legality of $1.5 bln telco deal

MANILA, Oct 23 (Reuters) - A Philippine appeals court has upheld the legality of a $1.5 billion deal that strengthened the country’s telecommunications duopoly, but a competition watchdog which questioned the transaction vowed on Monday to take legal steps against it.

The Southeast Asian nation’s data and voice services are ranked among the region’s slowest and most intermittent, and President Rodrigo Duterte has warned telecoms firms to shape up or face new competition.

The country's two largest telecoms, PLDT Inc and Globe Telecom Inc, last year purchased from San Miguel Corp the 700 megahertz spectrum network, prized for its wider reach and compatibility with fourth-generation (4G) telecommunications services. (reut.rs/2yLOZeL)

The Court of Appeals, in a decision dated Oct. 18, ordered the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) to permanently stop its review of the deal and recognise its validity.

San Miguel’s talks about a possible joint venture with Australia’s Telstra Corp Ltd collapsed months before the telecoms deal.

The competition regulator will pursue the appropriate legal option once it has formally received a copy of the decision, PCC Chairman Arsenio Balisacan said in a text message.

“We note that a year after the sale, the public continues to complain of slow, expensive and poor quality internet and mobile services,” PCC said in a statement on Monday.

The two telecoms companies have said they welcome competition and are making every effort to boost services.

“We will proceed to expand and with the build-out of our 3G and 4G,” PLDT Chairman Manuel Pangilinan told reporters on Monday. PLDT’s broadband speed and coverage has increased since the telco deal, he added.

Globe has not received a copy of the decision and could not comment on the matter, the telco told the stock exchange. San Miguel was not immediately available for comment. (bit.ly/2yJyAYa) (Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Stephen Coates)

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