Vodafone Idea Posts 10th Quarterly Loss on Fierce Competition

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Vodafone Idea Ltd., India’s No. 3 wireless phone operator, posted a 10th straight quarterly loss, hurt by the absence of tariff hikes and intense competition in the sector.

The company’s losses narrowed to 45.3 billion rupees ($623 million) for the quarter through December, compared with a 64.4 billion-rupee loss in the same period a year earlier, the company said in an exchange filing Saturday. An average of analyst estimates forecast a loss of 58.8 billion rupees. Revenue fell 1.6% to 108.9 billion rupees.

Key Insights

  • The earnings underscore the urgent need for another round of mobile tariff hikes as well as fundraising to boost the indebted, unprofitable wireless carrier’s balance sheet.
    • Tariffs were last raised in December 2019. There are expectations that a cut-throat price war, triggered by the entry of Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd. in 2016, may finally be easing.
  • A joint venture between Vodafone India and billionaire Kumar Mangalam Birla, that hasn’t reported an annual profit since 2017, has announced plans to raise as much as 250 billion rupees. The funds could help the company win airwaves in a spectrum auction next month.
  • Vodafone Idea is also the worst hit carrier of a 2019 court order that asked Indian wireless operators to pay the government billions of dollars in back fees. Birla warned in December 2019 that the venture was headed for insolvency in the absence of relief on the dues. The court later allowed the payout to be staggered over 10 years.
  • Among the biggest Indian wireless operators, Vodafone Idea is the weakest financially. Reliance Jio, the country’s largest operator, got $20 billion from global investors last year and Bharti Airtel Ltd. recently posted highest profit since 2016.

Market Reaction

  • Vodafone Idea’s shares rose almost 12% in the December quarter and has further advanced about 17% this year, outperforming the benchmark S&P BSE Sensex.
  • Quarterly earnings were announced on Saturday.

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  • Vodafone Idea said its financial performance has impacted its ability to generate cash flow and is “resulting in material uncertainty that casts significant doubt on the company’s ability” to make those payments.
  • Total number of subscribers rose marginally to 109.7 million from 106.1 million in the preceding quarter.
  • The company’s board has approved a plan to raise up to 250 billion rupees through a mix of debt and equity, according to the filing. Active discussions are continuing with potential investors, the filing said.
  • It targets to annually save 40 billion rupees by December 2021.
  • Mobile average revenue per user was at 121 rupees for Q3 FY21: filing
  • Net debt stood at 1.17 trillion rupees.
  • NOTE: Vodafone Idea Petitions India Court to Cut $8B Telecom Demand

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