Established as Manila Electric Railroad and Light Company to provide electric light and power and an electric street railway system to Manila and its suburbs. The facilities that Meralco built to provide these two services represented for many years the largest single investment of American private capital and know-how in the whole of East Asia.
For a little more than four decades, Meralco provided Manileños their first modern mass public transportation system with electric streetcars. These were supplemented by buses in the 20s.
World War II destroyed the railway system beyond rehabilitation. Meralco gave up its transportation business, instead focusing on providing electricity. The electric service powered much of the postwar rehabilitation and early industrialization of the young republic, which gained independence in 1946.
In a move considered daring at the time, a group of Filipino investors, led by the entrepreneur Eugenio Lopez Sr., bought Meralco from its American owners, the first major American enterprise to be 'Filipinized.' During the decade that followed, the new Filipino management built electric-generating and distributing facilities at an unprecedented pace to meet the burgeoning needs of its franchise area. This was made possible by earning the confidence of international credit institutions like the Ex-Im Bank of the United States, the Ex-Im Bank of Japan, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), Kreditanstalt fur Wiederaufbau (KFW), and other banks, insurance companies, and major American, German and Japanese suppliers.
Meralco was the first Philippine company to issue mortgage trust indenture bonds successfully in the US financial market on Wall Street. Meanwhile, an enlightened human resource management regime ensured industrial peace and employee loyalty at home.
Meralco became the very first billion-peso company in the Philippines. This was all the more remarkable because much of it had been achieved without recourse to government guarantees.
The Philippine Government made it a state policy for the government to own all major generating facilities. Meralco sold its generating plants to the National Power Corporation, and electric distribution became its core business. Indeed, in the first half of the 1980s, Meralco's franchise area tripled in area from 2,678 square kilometers to 9,337 square kilometers, mainly because provincial consumers preferred the rates and service of Meralco to every other alternative.
Meralco, upon the request of the government, organized, started up and operated the country's first elevated light rail transit (LRT) system in Manila between Baclaran and Caloocan. It was reminiscent of the prewar role of Meralco in the city's streetcar system.
At the end of the decade, Meralco turned over the efficiently functioning system to the government.
More than ever, much of Meralco's management has been directed towards enabling the organization to react nimbly to the changing structures and environments in which it operates, despite its continuing status as one of the oldest and biggest Philippine companies. Drives have gone under different names and slogans, e.g, TQM, re-engineering, Meralco Transformation Program, etc., but they share certain common emphases: customer satisfaction, world-class efficiency and productivity, performance-driven rewards, good corporate citizenship, transparent good governance, and process, organizational and human resource development towards these values.
Major stock transactions took place and Meralco partnered with two other giant Philippine conglomerates, the PLDT and San Miguel groups. These synergistic partnerships not only led to increased business opportunities and cost reductions, but also to new, expanded and more affordable services.