Bharti Airtel on Tuesday posted a net loss of Rs 1,035 crore for the quarter ended December 31 (Q3), as it provisioned for the interest accrued on account of AGR (adjusted gross revenue) payment. Analysts had pegged a loss figure in the quarter at Rs 640 crore. This is the company’s third consecutive quarterly loss; it had recorded a profit of Rs 86 crore in the year-ago quarter.
On the operational front, the company posted an improvement in average revenue per user (ARPU) from Rs 128 to Rs 135, sequentially. Mobile revenues have witnessed year-on-year (YoY) growth of 9.6 per cent on the back of focus on quality customers, up-trading and the recent tariff actions in some parts, the company stated. The full impact of the tariff actions is yet to be seen, it said.
“While the tariff revisions undertaken in December 2019 were a welcome step towards repairing the financial health of the industry, we believe tariffs must go up further for enabling the industry to invest in emerging technologies,” said Gopal Vittal, MD and CEO, India & South Asia, Bharti Airtel.
The company’s revenue increased by 8.5 per cent to Rs 21,947 crore in the December quarter, compared to Rs 20,231 crore in the year-ago period. Its loss before tax stood at Rs 452.6 crore for the October-December period.
Airtel, along with its competitors Vodafone Idea and Reliance Jio, raised tariffs by 40 per cent in December, after it provided for an additional amount aggregating Rs 28,450 crore as a charge in the previous quarter.
Liabilities and provisions as of September 30 aggregated to Rs 34,260 crore (comprising principal of Rs 8,747 crore, interest of Rs 15,446 crore, penalty of Rs 3,760 crore, and interest on penalty of Rs 6,307 crore).
On October 24, the Supreme Court delivered a judgment upholding the view of the Department of Telecom (DoT) in respect of the definition of AGR. The apex court has allowed three months to the affected parties to pay the amount due to the DoT.
A review petition in this regard, too, was rejected in January. Thereafter, the telecom operators have filed an application for modification of the supplementary order before the Supreme Court, which is pending disposal.
As on December 31, 2019, Airtel had 419 million customers, an increase of 3.7 per cent from 403.7 million in the corresponding quarter in the last financial year.
Total minutes of usage on the network during the quarter were 836 billion, representing growth of 8.9 per cent YoY; it was 768 billion in the year-ago quarter.
In January, the company raised Rs 21,502 crore through a combination of fresh equity issuance via qualified institutional placement and issuance of convertible bonds. The company intends to use this money to augment its long-term resources and strengthen its balance sheet.
Meanwhile, Airtel’s Africa arm posted a profit after tax of $103 million in the December quarter, down 21 per cent YoY, from of $133 million in the corresponding quarter of the previous year, because of higher tax outgo. Revenue for the quarter at $883 million was 12.8 per cent higher (and 14.2 per cent higher on a constant currency basis).