Manny Pangilinan on pandemic: Full tragedy yet to unfold

Ralf Rivas
Manny Pangilinan on pandemic: Full tragedy yet to unfold
Tycoon Manny Pangilinan says it will be difficult to project Meralco's profitability in 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic cripples industries

MANILA, Philippines – Tycoon Manny Pangilinan worries that “the full tragedy of COVID-19 has yet to unfold,” as earnings of Manila Electric Company (Meralco) fell in the 1st quarter of 2020.

Meralco reported a steep 54% drop in its net income to P2.6 billion in the first 3 months of the year, from the P5.7 billion in the same period last year, due to the impairment of its gas-fired power facility investment in Singapore.

However, core profit or earnings from its main electricity business rose by 2% to P5.7 billion.

Overall revenues dipped by 7% to P70 billion by the end of the 1st quarter due to lower electricity revenues.

Industrial sales volume declined by 3% to 3,135 gigawatt hours (GWh), as sectors registered negative growth due to Luzon’s enhanced community quarantine which began mid-March.

Commercial sales volume grew by 5% to 4,343 GWh.

Electricity demand for the 1st quarter peaked last March 10, around a week before the start of the lockdown. After this, electricity demand fell sharply by as much as 40% per day. (READ: FALSE: Bills for March and April 2020 now free – Meralco)

With the economy falling into a recession or negative economic growth, Pangilinan admitted that it would be difficult to project earnings for 2020. (WATCH: Rappler Talk: Saving the economy from a pandemic)

“So far, what we are experiencing in the April month is a decline in our build volume. That’s likely to hold true for the entire 2nd quarter, so with the lower volumes and lower revenues, it is likely that the 2nd quarter results will come in below the 1st quarter results. Below the P5.8 billion we’ve seen for the 1st quarter,” Pangilinan said.

Meralco first vice president and head of customer retail services and corporate communications Victor Genuino said electricity sales for April are expected to be lower than in March.

Total capital expenditures for the 1st quarter amounted to P4.2 billion, 4% lower than the same period last year due to the pandemic and the Taal Volcano eruption in January diverting workers to other tasks. –

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Ralf Rivas

A sociologist by heart, a journalist by profession. Ralf is Rappler's business reporter, covering macroeconomy, government finance, companies, and agriculture.