The Dennis Uy who flourished under Duterte through his vision, not connection

Bilyonaryo Dennis Anthony Uy and wife Maria Grace rocked the Forbes’ annual ranking of 50 richest Filipinos when they rocketed close to the top in their debut appearance.

The Pampanga-based couple nosed out Jollibee’s Tony Tan Caktiong to clinch sixth place on Forbes 2021 list of the wealthiest in the Philippines with a net worth of $2.8 billion.

Dennis and Grace, age 55 and 53, respectively, are also the fifth youngest members of the elite club.

The couple’s rise to unimaginable wealth becomes more impressive if one considers that just five years ago, their baby, Converge ICT Solutions, was practically begging for capital to implement Dennis’ vision of becoming the country’s biggest broadband internet provider.

In a media briefing in 2016, Dennis declared that going all fiber was the only road for Filipinos if they wanted to reach the same cost, speed and quality of internet service in neighboring countries.

Dennis was frustrated that Filipinos were deprived of accepting the best service that fiber technology could offer with only 300,000 homes (Converge accounts for one-third of the market) using the more stable and faster fixed lines compared to 99 percent in Hong Kong and 40 percent in Indonesia five years ago.

The majority of over 100 million Filipinos relied on wireless internet by the Big Two and the copper wires of a dominant cable firm. Most were skeptical because a fiber internet package costs as much as P5,000 or three times the cost in Hong Kong.

“Ang market napakalaki, napaka-hungry. We should build a national fiber backbone not only in Luzon but in Visayas and Mindanao as well,” said Uy who was looking for venture capitalists willing to bankroll his fiber expansion modestly pegged at P1 billion.

Fast forward to 2021, Converge has fully laid down its national fiber backbone, reduced cost to as low as P1,500 per month, and cornered nearly half of the fixed broadband market of three million subscribers.

Converge has a P240 billion market cap and has earned a spot among the blue chips in the Philippine Stock Exchange Index. It is now the dominant player in the market with 1.4 million out of the three million home fiber internet subscribers.

It has spent over P100 billion to expand and enhance its network since 2016 through its earnings, borrowings and new infusions, including a $250 million investment in 2019 from Warburg (which got $300 million from divesting part of its stake in Converge’s $500 million in 2020).

There are two Dennis Uys (the other is Duterte crony Dennis Uy who ranked No. 27 with a net worth of $700 million) who joined the Forbes list under this administration, but the one from Pampanga did it through his vision and not political connection.

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