A boy plays soccer in front of a painted advertisement for Bharti Airtel Ltd. displayed on the sides of a building in Murthal, Haryana, India. (Photographer: Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg)

Q3 Results: Bharti Airtel Reports Surprise Profit, ARPU Rises

Bharti Airtel Ltd.’s average revenue per user rose suggesting a recovery may finally be in sight even as a one-time gain helped India’s second-largest telecom operator report a surprise profit.

Net profit declined 27.4 percent sequentially to Rs 86.2 crore in the three months ended December, according to its stock exchange filing. Analyst estimates compiled by BloombergQuint pegged a Rs 990-crore loss.

The profit was because of an exceptional gain of Rs 1,413.7 crore and a deferred tax asset of Rs 716 crore during the quarter—without which the operator would have reported a loss. The one-off gain was mainly from “de-consolidation” of the Airtel Payments Bank which has now ceased to be a subsidiary under the wireless carrier.

  • Revenue rose 0.5 percent sequentially to Rs 20,519.2 crore.
  • Operating profit fell 0.4 percent to Rs 6,218 crore.
  • Margin narrowed 30 basis points to 30.3 percent.
  • Average revenue per user rose 4 percent to Rs 104 per month.

Bharti Airtel is trying to reinvent itself after the launch of Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd. bled telecom profitability after triggering a price war. Billionaire Sunil Bharti Mittal-led firm, which was the market leader then, saw its ARPU halve in the past 10 quarters.

Now the operator is focussing on increasing the monthly revenue it draws from a user. It has already raised prices of its minimum plan in an attempt to weed out low-end subscribers. “We have taken the bottom up to minimum Rs 35. And if the market responds well we will probably take it to Rs 60 or Rs 80,” Mittal had told BloombergQuint earlier this month at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “There’s got to be a minimum ARPU coming in.”

Mittal had added that Bharti Airtel also wants to earn more from higher-end customers that are “gouging a lot of data” by bundling in content services. “We won’t develop our own content but we are partnering with Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, Zee and Eros,” Mittal said. “So we are becoming the partner of choice as a telecom carrier from where all the content providers will play out. That’s our strategy.”

Also read: Davos 2019: Sunil Mittal Says The Telecom ‘Haemorrhage’ Stops This Year