business

Smart hailed as country's fastest 5G Network -Ookla

April 15, 2021

Fastest 4G/LTE network in the Philippines made even faster by 5G   PLDT wireless unit Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart) has solidified its superiority in 5G after being hailed as the fastest 5G network in the Philippines by Ookla®, the global leader in internet testing and analysis.      Based on consumer-initiated tests taken using Speedtest® by Ookla, Smart has consistently posted the fastest 5G speeds for Q1 2021, with median download speeds of 190 Mbps, more than double the competition's speeds for the same period*.      "Our steady investments and unflagging resolve to expand and upgrade our integrated fixed and wireless networks, as well as to bring Smart 5G closer to our customers nationwide, have brought about these outstanding results," said Smart Communications President and CEO and PLDT Chief Revenue Officer Alfredo S. Panlilio.      "Just as we did with Smart LTE, which has been recognized by Ookla since 2018 as the country's fastest 4G/LTE network, we are working non-stop to expand the coverage of our 5G service and make it accessible to more customers, despite the challenges of the pandemic.  With 5G, we are making the Philippines' fastest mobile network even faster – elevating the average mobile speeds into fiber-like levels – to serve our customers better, especially in these critical times," he added. Undisputed leader in 5G      To date, Smart's expanded 5G network now has over 2,300 sites nationwide, supporting Filipinos who are increasingly reliant on mobile data to stay connected while on-the-go.      These Smart 5G sites have been fired up nationwide, including in all of Metro Manila's cities and municipalities, and in the provinces of Benguet, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, Pampanga, Rizal, Cebu, Iloilo, Aklan, Misamis Oriental, Zamboanga Sibugay, and Davao.      To complement this continuous expansion of Smart's 5G network, Smart has also ramped-up its efforts to widen its array of Smart 5G-certified devices to make 5G easier to access and enjoy.      Recently, Smart launched Rocket WiFi, the country’s first and fastest 5G Pocket WiFi which will enable 5G speeds on other devices for as long as they have a Wi-Fi connection. Specially designed for sharing and multitasking, Rocket WiFi can connect up to 15 WiFi-capable smartphones, tablets, or laptops, making it simpler and easier for more users to experience the lightning speeds of Smart 5G on a wide range of devices.      The next generation of wireless technology, 5G enables next-level digital experiences when streaming HD videos seamlessly, playing action-packed mobile games without lag, making crystal-clear video calls without buffering, and uploading and downloading heavy files in an instant.      Smart 5G complements Smart’s continuous expansion of its 4G/LTE network. Smart’s mobile network, which covers 96% of the population from Batanes to Tawi-Tawi, is already the fastest in the country, as reported by third-party mobile internet analytics firms Ookla® and Opensignal.      This level of performance is enabled by PLDT's fiber infrastructure, the country's most extensive at 429,000 kilometers.

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Moody’s revises PH banking sector outlook to stable

April 15, 2021

MOODY’S Investors Service has changed its outlook on the Philippines’ banking system from negative to stable, citing its forecast of a mild recovery for the domestic economy this year which supports the sector.       “However, asset risks remain high because of a prolonged curtailment of business activity, a high unemployment rate, and weak consumer sentiment,” it said in a report dated April 13, 2021.       It forecasts a 7-percent growth for the Philippine economy this year, within the government’s 6.5-7.5 percent target.       Moody’s expects the banking environment to be stable as the government eases movement restrictions.      It said fiscal support is also expected to boost the recovery bid and back consumer spending and investment.      “However, a resurgence in infection rates and a reinstatement of some social-distancing measures will slow the economic recovery in (the) first half of 2021,” it said.      The credit rater expects non-performing loans (NPLs) to rise this year, adding that social distancing measures will contribute to the debt repayment capacity of borrowers, particularly the retail borrowers and small and medium enterprises (SMEs).      However, Moody’s said the systemic risk is higher from corporate borrowers since “bank’s loans are heavily concentrated on them”.      Amidst these risks, Moody’s said Philippine banks’ “capital buffers will remain sufficient” but credit expansion is forecast to remain below pre-pandemic levels.      “As a result, rated Philippine banks will maintain sufficient capital buffers,” it said.      The banking sector’s profitability is also seen to remain stable after banks allocated significant loan loss provisions in 2020, it added. (PNA)

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GCash launches over 30 lifestyle brands on GLife

April 14, 2021

This current generation is all about doing more with less stress as much as possible, which is why getting easy access to practically everything they need – whether it’s for work or play – has now become more of a necessity than a choice. For these dynamic individuals who want a more hustle, less hassle life, GCash has launched GLife, which caters to all things food, fashion, beauty, technology, and practically everything essential in everyone’s daily life! GLife can be your personal shopper, food delivery driver, errand saver, and service provider all rolled into one. “GLife is designed to be a ‘one-stop shop’ virtual platform that meets customers’ lifestyle needs. You can get everything you need – from food to beauty essentials, to groceries and movie tickets – with just a tap on your smartphone. This means a more convenient way to live your daily life, especially if you’re always hustling from one activity to the next,” explains Martha Sazon, President and CEO of GCash. Here’s what’s on GLife and everything you need to know to enjoy great deals from the brands you love and experience secure transactions all within GCash: GLife makes GCash your new super life app! GLife is a new app feature that’s conveniently located inside your GCash dashboard.  What the app does is it integrates all other apps and curates your favorite brands, shops, restaurants, and services all in one platform, so you can easily access them and pay conveniently using your GCash. With GLife, you don’t need to install extra apps on your smartphone just to access on-demand products and services. With one tap, you can easily browse for entertainment, health, shopping, tech, essential services, and other lifestyle needs, and pay for them effortlessly through fast and secure online transactions. On top of providing all your lifestyle must-haves, GLife is your go-to hub for the latest promos from your favorite brands. This means getting first dibs on the hottest deals that only GCash subscribers will be able to enjoy.  Access your favorite brands and merchants with just a tap GLife has partnered with a multitude of top brands and partner merchants that are practically everyone’s favorite when craving for good food, shopping for the latest beauty and fashion must-haves, ordering for groceries, and much more. The best part? GCash subscribers can look forward to exclusive deals from these brands and merchants when accessing their apps via GLife.   Never go “hangry” again when you can order your favorites easily from McDonald’s, KFC, Tapa King, Gong Cha, Kraver’s, Canteen, Peri-Peri, Classic Savory, Bo’s Coffee, Goldilocks, Kitchen City, or FoodPanda with just a few clicks. Add to cart your fashion or beauty finds and other items sweat-free from Lazada and Bench, get instant shop cashback from Findshare, or get your groceries delivered with no fuss from Puregold. In the mood for gaming? Try Goama Games and win GCash credit vouchers. Need a new gadget? Access the Cherry Shop to get the latest device or DataBlitz to shop for tech finds. You can even manage your Globe at Home account or track or Globe numbers in just a snap when you access the GlobeOne and Globe at Home apps on GLife. Among the other brands and partner merchants that have tied up with GLife are Purego.ph, GOMO, Gawin, GMovies, AIDE, Mr. Speedy, Generika Drugstore and HairMNL. There are many more to come, as GLIfe is continuously expanding its list of merchants to ensure that all the lifestyle needs of today’s customers are catered to. GLife mo na ‘yan! and download the GCash app today at www.gcash.com to enjoy a good balance of work and play. With this all-in-one super life app, switching from pay time to playtime is easier, faster, and of course, much safer. Watch this video to see the all-in-one super life app in action.

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Shakey’s posts P215-M income after two quarters of losses

April 7, 2021

SHAKEY’S PIZZA Asia Ventures, Inc. (SPAVI) reported a net income of P215 million for the fourth quarter of 2020, which was also boosted by tax benefits due to the company’s negative profitability for the year following the losses it incurred.      “We are pleased by the improvements we saw towards yearend, which gave us the confidence to further invest in future growth, readying ourselves to better compete in the ‘new normal’ whilst creating jobs amidst the Philippines’ tough economic environment,” SPAVI President and Chief Executive Officer Vicente L. Gregorio said in a statement on Monday.      In the first quarter of 2020, the company reported a net income of P114 million. The company swung to losses in the middle of the year, with P167 million incurred in the second quarter and P171.95 million lost in the third quarter.      SPAVI’s EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization) amounted to P400 million in the fourth quarter, improving from the P6 million seen in the previous quarter.      The company said its system-wide sales for the period grew by 33% from the previous quarter to P1.8 billion from P1.4 billion. SPAVI attributed the increase in sales to the holiday season, increased dine-in transactions, and deliveries.      For 2020, SPAVI incurred a net loss of P247 million, down by over 70% from the consolidated net income of P865 million earned in the previous year.      About 91% of the company’s stores were temporarily closed at the end of March last year.      “Despite our net loss for the year, we’ve managed to pull through with positive cash flows, improved cost structures, and greater ability to address off premise demand thanks to the gallant efforts of our team and the numerous business innovations we’ve been put into place,” Mr. Gregorio said.      Full-year EBITDA totaled P635 million, declining by nearly 68% from P1.97 billion seen in the previous year.      “On a same-store basis, excluding the impact of closed stores, sales were down 30% year on year,” the company said without disclosing specific figures.      Total sales for the year amounted to P6.6 billion, which the company said is 64% of its 2019 sales.      “We are hopeful that dine-in continues to recover this year, but are nonetheless managing the fact that guests will likely continue to need convenient and flexible out-of-store options,” Mr. Gregorio said.      SPAVI is planning to restart a store network expansion strategy that was initially put in the backburner due to the pandemic. Stores from this project will require smaller investment requirements compared to its traditional stores so its payback periods are short, while returns are high.      It is also looking to build locations which will have Shakey’s, Peri-Peri Charcoal Chicken, and R&B Milk Tea stores in one location.      The company is also planning to launch “ghost kitchens or kitchen extensions” for its delivery businesses with a “31 Minute, If It’s Late, It’s Free” promo in selected Metro Manila areas.      “Moving into 2021, the ability to stay nimble and adapt to the ever-changing environment will be of utmost importance,” Mr. Gregorio said.

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Remittances, improved external demand to buoy recovery

April 7, 2021

GROWTH of money being sent home by overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and improvement of external demand are expected to boost the domestic economy’s recovery this year.       However, Fitch Solutions Country Risks and Industry Research reduced its growth projection for the country this year from 7.6 percent to 5.8 percent on the expected hit from the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).       The ECQ status in Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal set from March 29 until April 4 was extended for another week to April 11 amid surge of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) cases.       Fitch Solutions said another unfavorable factor in the economy’s recovery is the slow vaccination rollout.       In a report released Monday, the unit of Fitch Group cited signs of gradual economic activity such as the above 50 level of the Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI), which was unchanged at 52.5 last February against the previous month “indicating a gradual improvement in activity.”       As of last March, the PMI index stood at 52.2 based on the report of the IHS Markit.       An index of above 50 indicates expansion while a figure of below 50 shows otherwise.       “Indeed, respondents noted supportive demand dynamics and increased inventory building on a more positive outlook,” Fitch Solutions said.       The report also said external demand has been improving, partially due to the Covid-19 vaccination program in other countries.       Similarly, OFWs remittances continue to remain resilient, it added.       The report said while the January 2021 inflows declined by 1.7 percent year-on-year, it is 1.8 percent higher than the January 2019 pre-pandemic level.      “We believe that overall remittance flows will begin to gradually rebound as growth picks up globally, particularly on the back of a recovery in the US and the Middle East on the back of rising oil prices, which together accounted for 57.4 percent of remittances in 2019,” it said.       It added while lockdowns in Europe and tightening credit growth in China threaten the broader recovery in global demand as vaccination rollouts progress, “we expect growth to prove strong, boosting the outlook for exports which we forecast to grow 9.5 percent, following a 16.7 percent contraction in 2020.”      “As such, the external backdrop should continue to provide support to the economy in 2021,” it said.       However, the report said implementation of the two-week ECQ will slightly dampen growth prospects given the expected slide in domestic consumption and investment, factors that the domestic economy are highly vulnerable to.  (PNA)

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PH external debt ratios lower on prudent policy

April 7, 2021

THE Philippine government’s improved debt guidelines have resulted in the drop of the country’s external debt ratios compared to around two decades ago, the Department of Finance (DOF) said.      In an economic bulletin, the DOF said the proportion of the country’s foreign debt to gross national income (GNI) rose to 25.2 percent as of end-2020 compared to 20.2 percent in the previous year due to higher government liabilities.      However, last year’s figure was significantly lower at 30.9 percentage points than the 56.1 percent in 2000, or when the country was recovering from the impact of the Asian financial crisis.      Amidst the year-on-year uptick, the DOF said the country’s latest external debt ratio is better than the 28.95 percent average among six Asian countries in 2019 based on World Bank (WB) data.      WB data show that 2019 external debt as a percentage of GNI of China is 14.77 percent; Indonesia, 19.74 percent; Philippines, 20.19 percent; Thailand, 34.42 percent; India, 37.03 percent; and Vietnam, 47.56 percent.      The DOF said the Philippines’ prudent debt policy has enabled the country to strengthen its defenses against external shocks like the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.      “This is one of the reasons for the strong confidence of investors in the Philippine economy. Nevertheless, we must continue to prudently manage our fiscal situation and continue to observe fiscal responsibility,” it added. (PNA)

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