Bharti Airtel Q4 Results: Fourth Straight Quarterly Loss Even As ARPU Jumps To 11-Quarter High
Pedestrians walk past an advertisement for Bharti Airtel Ltd. outside a sim card store in Mumbai, India (Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)  

Bharti Airtel Q4 Results: Fourth Straight Quarterly Loss Even As ARPU Jumps To 11-Quarter High

Bharti Airtel Ltd. reported a loss for the fourth straight quarter even as the telecom operator’s average revenue per user rose to the highest in nearly three years.

The Sunil Mittal-controlled carrier’s net loss widened to Rs 5,237 crore in the quarter ended March from Rs 1,035 crore in the preceding three months, according to an exchange filing. Analysts’ estimates compiled by BloombergQuint had pegged the loss at Rs 417 crore.

The telecom firm accounted for Rs 7,004 crore as reassessed regulatory costs related to the spectrum charges which led to a higher-than-expected loss.

  • Revenue rose 8.1 percent sequentially to Rs 23,723 crore—higher than the Rs 23,154-crore estimate. This was the highest revenue growth Airtel clocked in at least 30 quarters.
  • Operating profit rose 10.1 percent to Rs 10,202 crore.
  • Margin expanded 80 basis points to 43 percent.
  • Average revenue per user—the amount Airtel earns per subscriber per month—rose to Rs 154 from Rs 135 in the previous quarter.

The operator’s revenue was mainly aided by growth in its India business, which benefited from tariff hikes in December. The nationwide lockdown, effective March 24, too, resulted in higher data consumption as people stayed at home to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Its India business’ revenue rose 16 percent over the previous quarter to Rs 12,953 crore led by tariff hikes and more than 1 crore new 4G subscriber additions. Operating profit increased 26.6 percent to Rs 5,080 crore. Airtel Africa, too, saw revenue rise 15.1 percent to $899 million aided by customer additions and higher data revenue.

While the Covid-19 pandemic has upended various industries, telecom remains relatively protected from its impact. According to ICRA Ltd., the extended lockdown is unlikely to have any major effect on the carriers. But it’s the uncertainty around the pending adjusted gross revenue dues that remains an overhang. The rating agency said there is a chance that the industry’s debt could rise again due to repayment of dues despite improvement in cash flows.

Other Highlights

  • Network operating expenses rose 5 percent to Rs 5,201.5 crore.
  • License fee costs rose 14.4 percent to Rs 2,202 crore.
  • Consolidated capital expenditure at Rs 11,339 crore versus Rs 5,183 crore last quarter.
  • Total debt at Rs 1.17 lakh crore from Rs 1.16 lakh crore.

Shares of Bharti Airtel closed 2.63 percent lower, ahead of the earnings announcement, while the benchmark BSE Sensex ended trade 3.4 percent down.

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