Espinosa, Lorenzana assume new roles in First Pacific, TV5

MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) - Long-rumored rigodon and leadership changes in the Philippine units of Hong Kong-based First Pacific Investment Ltd. have been confirmed.

In a statement on Tuesday, April 23, First Pacific's telecommunications arm Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) announced the new appointments of 3 top executives — Ray C. Espinosa, Noel Lorenzana and Charles Lim -- in its media and telco units.  

Espinosa was appointed Associate Director of parent firm First Pacific, and the Philippine units' group head for two functions: government and regulatory affairs, and the communications bureau.

Espinosa keeps his seats on the boards of PLDT and other First Pacific units in the Philippines -- infrastructure conglomerate Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC) and power retailer Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) -- as well as on the board of MediaQuest Holdings Inc, the group's investment vehicle for media assets. 

He retires as president and CEO of MediaQuest and is replaced by Lorenzana, the head of the Individual Business at PLDT. MediaQuest's media assets include TV5, the country's 3rd largest media group.

Lim takes over Lorenzana's role as PLDT Individual Business head. Lim is currently the COO of Digitel Mobile Philippines, which owns the Sun Cellular brand under the PLDT umbrella.

Succession planning

The changes are part of the succession planning at First Pacific, led by one of the country's most prominent businessmen, Manuel Pangilinan. First Pacific also has controlling stakes in Indonesian food giant Indofood and miner Philex Mining Corp.

“The movements in MediaQuest and in PLDT ensure that our operations proceed smoothly and seamlessly. A good management bench affords you that opportunity and, with this development, we look forward to even more dynamic days ahead for First Pacific, PLDT, and MediaQuest," Pangilinan said in a statement.

"Changes of this magnitude require our complete support in order to be effective. I expect no less from all of us. I wish Ray, Noel and Charles the best in their new roles," Pangilinan added.

The changes will take effect on June 1, giving time for smooth transition.

Regional expansion

Espinosa will help First Pacific in its plans of expanding into other Southeast Asian markets. 

His new appointment brings his “experience and expertise in telecommunications, information technology, media, and broadcasting – including his wealth of knowledge in national and regional regulatory frameworks – to the highest level of our group," Pangilinan said.

"This will serve the group well in navigating the legal and regulatory environment where we will need and develop greater synergies and dynamism in all those areas where Ray is strong," he added.

The markets First Pacific is eyeing include Myanmar (for telco services via PLDT and power ventures via Meralco), Thailand (power), Vietnam (infrastructure, water, energy, hospital, consumer products, and oil and gas), and Indonesia (infrastructure). Last March, First Pacific completed its US$488-million purchase of a 70% stake in a new Singapore natural gas power plant project.

Espinosa has been considered Pangilinan's "trusted lieutenant" who led PLDT's and MPIC's several strategic acquisitions.

He was head of PLDT’s regulatory and policy affairs, as well as president or director in several subsidiaries of PLDT and MPIC. He helped PLDT navigate regulatory and legal issues with regulator National Telecommunications Commission and the courts. 

Espinosa, the 1982 bar topnotcher, initially joined the Pangilinan-led group as PLDT director in 1998, before leaving his post at the law firm Sycip Salazar Hernandez & Gatmaitan, where he was partner up to 2000. 

He assumed the top post at TV5, when the Pangilinan group acquired controlling stake in ABC Development Corp., the operator of TV5, from the group of businessman Tonyboy Cojuangco, former PLDT chairman.

He retains his seat in PLDT's board, which now includes retired chief justice Artemio Panganiban (independent director).

New TV5 president

Pangilinan said Espinosa's successor, Lorenzana, has experience in marketing fast-moving consumer products and telecommunications services -- key to the group's convergence strategy.   

"Our multimedia strategy is crucial to the future of TV5 and of the (PLDT) group. We extend to, and I assure, Noel our full confidence and unstinting support," Pangilinan said.

"Noel faces a tough job as he takes on the challenge of turning around TV5, while maintaining the growth momentum at Cignal TV towards leadership in the Pay-TV industry. Noel's background in the telco space and in fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) will be of immense advantage in his ability to bring the worlds of media and telecommunications closer," Pangilinan said.

TV5’s market share now stands at 15% from 3% way back in 2010.

As the new president of TV5, Lorenzana must help stem the network's financial hemorrhage. TV5 already incurred P2.8 billion losses in the first half of 2012, following P4 billion losses for the full year 2011.  

TV5 plans to spend P6 billion for capital expenditures in 2013 on new programs and state-of-the-art Media Center in Mandaluyong City.

Lorenzana started out as a marketing director for Unilever Shanghai. Before joining PLDT, Lorenzana served as president and COO of NutriAsia Group, the condiments and sauces producer behind brands such as Datu Puti, UFC Ketchup, Mang Tomas and Jufran. 

Aside from heading the Individual Business segment of PLDT, he was also in charge of the wireless consumer division for Smart Communications. 

Telco growth

Lorenzana is replaced by Lim, whom Pangilinan described as a "veteran" who has been "instrumental in the ongoing efforts to integrate our telco operations."

Lim, who previously worked for PLDT rival, Globe Telecom Inc., takes on the post at a time when the mobile industry is maturing and looking for growth opportunities.

"We expect him to continue the work that Noel has started, while bringing with him some of his successful 'disruptor' mentality," Pangilinan said.

Prior to joining Digitel, Lim was strategic business unit head for mobile communications of Globe. He also served as director of Brand Marketing-Greater China of Coca-Cola China Ltd., Hongkong, and the Business Unit Head-Van den Bergh Foods of Unilever Philippines Inc. - with reports from Ramon Calzado and Christian Bautista/Rappler.com