The Philippines’ two major telecom operators have sued the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) on Tuesday over its plan to launch a comprehensive review of their co-purchase of the telco assets of business conglomerate San Miguel Corporation (SMC).
The acquisition of the SMC shares for $1.48 billion will grant PLDT and Globe Telecom access to radio spectrum in the coveted 700-MHz band, which they have been lobbying for years.
After issuing a statement last month that the buyout is far from being a done deal, the government antitrust body said this week that it will undertake a full investigation of the transaction and has invited the public to comment.
It explained that it is keen on determining whether the merger will substantially prevent, restrict, or lessen competition in the market, and whether it would adversely impact consumer welfare.
In its petition before the Court of Appeals, PLDT said they want the court to uphold the “deemed approved status” of the transaction on the grounds that they have complied fully with the terms of the transitory circulars issued by the PCC.
“We are now entitled to the full legal benefits and effects of the circulars, and are asking the Court of Appeals to uphold and enforce our rights and also to prevent the PCC from depriving the public of the benefits of improved telecommunications services arising from the efficient and effective use of the new frequencies which for the longest time have remained idle and unutilized,” PLDT's regulatory affairs chief Ray C. Espinosa said in a statement.
Globe, for its part, emphasized that the PCC cannot withhold and block the transaction out of a process not found in their own rules, and not disclosed to the public. It also insists that there is nothing anti-competitive with the transaction to warrant its disapproval.
The PCC confirmed that it has received a copy of the petition and will take action immediately.
“We are disappointed that they have decided to resort to a lawsuit against the PCC to prevent a comprehensive review of this deal. We are confident that our courts will recognize the significance of protecting consumers and promoting competition in the market, and the authority of the PCC to independently exercise its mandate,” it said.
Both telecom operators, however, said they will continue with the rollout of additional capacities that would provide faster mobile internet services.
“Already, tens of millions of Smart subscribers are benefiting from the improved services brought about by the effective and efficient use of the new frequencies," Espinosa pointed out.
Globe, on the other hand, said it is activating the 700 MHz frequency spectrum in about 500 based stations in various parts of the country and will be making use of its additional allocation in the 2600 MHz band to provide additional layer for its LTE network for faster data connectivity.