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MANILA – President Aquino is refusing to be drawn into emerging debates surrounding an ongoing attempt by the PLDT group, owner of the TV5 broadcasting network, to acquire GMA Network, the dominant broadcaster in Metro Manila.
On Thursday, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said Malacañang will wait for TV5's plans to crystalize before President Aquino would comment about it, particularly about suggestion from some quarters that a TV5-GMA7 merger would give rise to a "monopoly" in the Philippine broadcasting industry.
Prompted by questions from the press, Lacierda said he was not aware of any intent on the part of President Aquino to order an inquiry into the matter, ostensibly similar to what the government undertook when PLDT engineered a merger between Smart Communications, already the dominant mobile telephony player in the Philippines, and Digital Telecommunications Inc (Digitel), then running third in the sector behind Globe Telecom.
In that acquisition, the National Telecommunications Commission ordered the PLDT group to divest the 3G frequency of one of its units, Connectivity Unlimited Resource Enterprise Inc. Once divested, NTC will bid out the frequency to companies other than the PLDT group.
In the case of GMA7, PLDT chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan said talks with the three controlling shareholders of the broadcast company are "moving positively," adding that the transaction could be sealed within the year.
Pangilinan on Wednesday dismissed allegations that the planned acquisition of GMA7 would result in a monopoly, saying the country still has other television networks, led in particular by ABS-CBN, which claims to be the market leader in terms of audience share throughout the Philippines.
Pangilinan said it is merely necessary for the PLDT group to invest in GMA7 because the telco needs content that would come from the media space.
“These two spaces are converging. PLDT has a choice to stay as a utility, as a delivery system, as an infrastructure system focusing on modernizing and upgrading its network. But simply being that. The next frontier lies in media space. How you blend the telco utility’s operations and the creative part of social media is a big challenge. Nobody has been successful yet. A small number of international telcos are attempting to do that now. For them to offer and deliver their own services they need the telcos and for the telcos to be able to enlarge their services they need the social media,” said Pangilinan.
He said the PLDT group’s investment in GMA7 would be coursed through MediaQuest, which earlier attempted to acquire 67 percent of the broadcast company.
Talks however fell through on differences over the price, with MediaQuest cutting its offer to P12 billion from P14.58 billion earlier.
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“All cash. Well, we are talking to three major shareholders but should we exceed - as we are likely to exceed - the 35 percent trigger point, then it will require an offer of the same terms to the minority. So the answer is ye:" We have to make a cash offer to the minorities as well,” he told reporters.
“Ultimately, it depends on the three families who control GMA7 whom they would want to sell to. After all, they are the owners, so they have every right to decide on whom to sell to,” he said.
Pangilinan said the operations of GMA7 and TV5, which Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. owns through unit MediaQuest Holdings, would remain separate.
"They have to be separate. They have separate franchises, separate management, separate operations, and separate profiles," he said.
“There are positive vibes on both sides. There is a chance that an agreement will be reached within the year but to close the conditions a precedent must be satisfied. There are conditions required on their side and there are conditions required on our side and if all of those are fulfilled then we will give them the money and they have to give us their shares,” said Pangilinan.
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