Bharti Airtel Q3 Results: Third Straight Quarterly Loss Even As ARPU Improves
An employee displays a Bharti Airtel Ltd. SIM card packet for a photograph at a store (Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)  

Bharti Airtel Q3 Results: Third Straight Quarterly Loss Even As ARPU Improves

Bharti Airtel Ltd. reported a bigger-than-expected loss in the quarter ended December even as revenue bounced back with a rise in tariffs and customer additions.

Net loss narrowed to Rs 1,035 crore—it’s third-straight quarter of being in the red—from Rs 23,045 crore in the previous quarter, according to its exchange filing. Analysts’ estimates compiled by BloombergQuint had pegged the metric at Rs 791 crore.

The carrier had suffered a loss in the second quarter as it set aside Rs 28,450 crore for adjusted gross revenue dues pending to the government. This quarter too, the company recorded a one-time loss of Rs 1,050 crore for interest on the provision of license fee and spectrum usage charges.

  • Revenue rose 3.86 percent to Rs 21,947 crore.
  • Operating profit rose 4.6 percent to Rs 9,267 crore.
  • Margin widened 30 basis points to 42.2 percent.
  • Average revenue per user—what the company earns per customer—rose to Rs 135 from Rs 128 in the previous quarter.

While uncertainty prevails over the Sunil Mittal-led mobile operator’s ability to repay government dues as the deadline ended last month, the carrier’s operations improved.

Its average revenue per user rose after a one-quarter blip, helped by tariff hikes announced in December, resumption of mobile services in some parts of the country and broadband customer additions. The full impact of the tariff hike, however, is yet to be seen. The company’s Africa unit also reported double-digit growth in revenue for the eighth straight quarter with operating profit at an all-time high.

Still, the overhang of the AGR payment remains. Bharti Airtel and its peer Vodafone Idea Ltd.—with combined dues worth more than Rs 88,000 crore—have deferred payment and approached the Supreme Court seeking relief to discuss a timeline. Also, telecom lobby Cellular Operators’ Association of India had said the timely resolution of the AGR issue was critical for Indian telecom sector’s health.

Other Highlights

  • Total capital expenditure during the quarter stood at Rs 5,183 crore.
  • Its customer base grew 1.8 percent sequentially to 41.8 lakh subscribers.
  • Customer base in India rose 1.3 percent to 30.8 lakh subscribers.
  • Monthly churn ratio stood at 2.6 percent from 2.1 percent in the previous quarter.

Shares of Bharti Airtel closed 2.06 percent higher before the results were announced, compared with the benchmark Sensex’s 2.3 percent gain. The telecom stock has risen 29.9 percent during the October-December period.

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