ABS-CBN cuts debt, ponders if franchise, plans align

ABS-CBN Corp. on Thursday said it managed to cut its debt by 14% to P18.4 billion as of July from P21.5 billion in 2021.

“We… continue to find ways to reduce debt. We started 2020 with P26 billion in interest-bearing loans, and we have reduced that to P21.5 billion in 2021,” ABS-CBN President and Chief Executive Officer Carlo L. Katigbak said during the company’s annual stockholders’ meeting.

“For this year, we are currently already (down to) P18.4 billion, and we hope to reduce debt further to P14 billion or less,” he added.

The media company, formerly a broadcast giant, assured its shareholders that it is committed to achieving its “full potential” and “substantially improving the price of our shares.”

ABS-CBN shares closed 0.77% higher at P9.17 apiece on Thursday.

“Our costs continue to come down. From a highest P33.6 billion in 2020, our total expenses in 2021 came down to P23.3 billion, a 31% reduction,” Mr. Katigbak said.

The company ended 2021 with positive earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) of P610 million versus a negative EBITDA of P6.24 billion in 2020.

Net losses have decreased from P13.5 billion in 2020 to P5.7 billion in 2021.

“These improvements and the continuing upward trajectory in our financial performance are indicators that a return to profitability is possible,” Mr. Katigbak said.

He added that ABS-CBN hopes to continue to collaborate on content or movie production with GMA Network, Inc., a major broadcast company, as well as other partners locally and internationally.

On ABS-CBN’s partnership with TV5 of the Pangilinan group, Mr. Katigbak said: “As of today, our partnership with them is in the form of content licensing or content sharing agreements.”

At the same time, he said the company has yet to decide whether a new franchise aligns with its objectives and plans.

The media company, which survived the martial law regime of the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos, was forced to stop its broadcast operations in May 2020 after former President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s friends in Congress denied its franchise renewal application.

ABS-CBN launched in 2020 its Kapamilya Channel on cable TV, and subsequently its digital streaming channel Kapamilya Online Live.

“On Oct. 6, 2020, a new milestone was again reached by ABS-CBN where it was able to secure a partnership with Zoe Broadcasting to blocktime ABS-CBN’s programs under the Channel 11 A2Z. These initiatives allowed ABS-CBN to be welcomed back to Filipino households,” the company said in a statement.

“Launching these platforms allowed the company to generate P1.5 billion in advertising revenues in the first quarter of 2022,” it added. — Arjay L. Balinbin