Philippines Primed For Mobile Data Explosion With Growing Smartphone Use

Local telecom firms are gearing up for a mobile data explosion after the Philippines posted the highest growth in Asia's smartphone market.

To date, smartphones make up 30% of all mobile phones bought in the country during the first quarter of 2012. Smartphone volume growth expanded 203% during the previous quarter, triple the original figure during the same period in 2011.

Telcos project smartphone penetration and mobile browsing in the Philippines will continue to rise as more affordable handsets swamp the market and more Filipinos browse the internet and do social networking.

Now, Filipinos can buy smartphones made from China below USD$100 per unit.

Already, 19%, or 6 million, of Globe Telecom Inc.'s subscriber base own smartphones as of end-2011.

Filipinos now prefer smartphones. This trend will drive the use of mobile internet within the next three years, according to Globe executives, especially because users can now opt for cheaper pre-paid daily and unlimited post-paid data plans.

Social networking, the use of mobile applications (apps) and mainstream adoption of e-mail have also been boosting the growth of mobile internet in the country.

Still, "The current set-up of telco networks in the Philippines is not yet ideal for smartphones," stressed Globe President and CEO Ernest L. Cu.

"Smartphones hinge their performance on the network infrastructure it runs on. Network quality is important," he pointed out. "You may have the widest coverage, but consumers today need a network with the capacity and resiliency to handle growing demand for mobile data use."

Hence, Globe is fast-tracking the roll-out of its network modernization program which carries the 4G HSPA+ and LTE-ready network, compatible with many of the smartphones and other mobile devices set to launch in the local market.

Globe has already doubled its activated sites for HSPA+ from last year. It is poised to activate more sites in the coming months, not only in NCR but also in North Luzon, the Visayas, and Mindanao. Globe is also geared to deploy LTE this year.

San Miguel CEO hands reins over further with stake sale to president

* 11 pct stake sold to man behind diversification drive

* Exchange data shows shares sold at 34 pct discount

* Cojuangco says he wants more time for personal interests

* San Miguel eyes record $24 bln revenue by 2013

(Recasts and writes through)

By Erik dela Cruz

MANILA, June 29 (Reuters) - San Miguel Corp

Chairman Eduardo Cojuangco on Friday sold an 11 percent stake in the firm to its president Ramon Ang, in a sign that he is increasingly willing to hand over the reins to the man behind the company's diversification drive over the past three years.

Cojuangco, 77 and who will remain as chairman and CEO, is seeking more time to devote to personal interests and has sold his shares via the stock exchange to "a trusted friend on friendly terms," San Miguel said in statement.

Stock exchange data showed several blocks of San Miguel shares changed hands at 75 pesos per share on Friday, a 34 percent discount to the current market price of 114 pesos.

The shares are worth about 30 billion pesos or $708 million and the company's market value is around $6.5 billion.

"I am confident he will lead San Miguel to further greatness," Cojuangco said in the statement.

San Miguel's top shareholder Top Frontier also bought shares worth 9.4 billion pesos, adding to its holding of 37 percent as of end-March. San Miguel said total block sales on the stock exchange on Friday were worth 37 billion pesos.

It was not immediately clear how much of a stake Cojuangco currently owns but Ang is now widely believed to be the company's biggest individual shareholder.

Ang, 58, has been president and chief operating officer of San Miguel since 2002 but his leadership role has shifted up a gear in the past three years after Cojuangco became ill, transforming the food and beverage firm into one of the largest conglomerates in the Philippines.

The group has spent at least $3 billion since 2007 on acquisitions in the energy, telecoms, mining, banking, infrastructure and airlines sector.

Ang expects group revenue to climb to $24 billion by 2013 from a projected $20 billion this year and has said the firm may make more acquisitions in the near term.

San Miguel is also looking to sell up to 80 billion pesos worth of preferred shares in August, the biggest-ever share sale by a local firm.

Shares in San Miguel ended 1 percent down on Friday in a market that fell 0.2 percent. The stock has lost about 1 percent this year, underperforming a 20 percent gain for the broader market, which has been the best performer among Southeast Asian indexes.