"Airtel's 25 year growth story is synonymous withIndia's telecom revolution and we are immensely proud of having built an institutionthat has empowered hundreds of millions of Indians with affordable connectivity."
The world is in the midst of an unprecedented crisis in the form of theCOVID-19 pandemic. Economies businesses and our way of life has been disrupted and theroad to recovery is likely to be a long one. While I remain highly optimistic that we willsoon have a vaccine the world will have to adjust to the new normal.
In this backdrop telecoms and digital technologies have become thebedrock of our lives be it work from home or virtual classrooms telecom networksare ensuring that the world does not come to a standstill. Telecom is the oxygen for thedigital world.
Serving the customers
I say this with immense pride that since the time of COVID-19 lockdownyour company has gone the extra mile to keep India connected over its digital backbone.While one billion people stayed safe in their homes during the lockdown Airtel'snetwork engineers and field staff worked tirelessly on the ground to make sure that ournetworks run seamlessly.
True to our DNA of innovation and agility Airtel's team of over15000 people was able to transition to remote working and stay obsessed with delightingcustomers. From building digital channels for customer services to rolling our innovativepeer to peer mobile recharges Airtel stepped up the game when it mattered the most. AndI on behalf of all of you want to express my deep gratitude and appreciation for theirefforts.
To strengthen the nation's efforts to tackle the COVID-19pandemic your company also responded to the clarion call made by the Hon'ble PrimeMinister of India.
Bharti Enterprises including its companies Bharti Airtel BhartiInfratel committed a sum of over Rs. 100 crore for India's fight against
COVID-19. A significant portion of this corpus was contributed to thePM - CARES Fund. The balance was directed towards sourcing of masks PPE and other keyequipment for the doctors healthcare workers and essential services personnel who are atthe forefront of this massive battle.
In addition to the Rs. 100 crore committed by Bharti Enterprises theemployees of Bharti Airtel also made personal voluntary contributions towards this causeand the amount was matched by your company.
25 Glorious Years
2020 will also mark 25 years of Airtel's exciting journey. TheAirtel growth story is synonymous with India's telecom revolution and we areimmensely proud of having built an institution that has empowered hundreds of millions ofIndians with affordable connectivity.
From mobile services in just one circle to becoming a leading globaltelecom company with operations in 18 countries across Asia and Africa over these yearsAirtel now ranks amongst top 3 mobile service providers globally in terms of subscribersand has become a force to reckon with in emerging markets telecoms with its networkcovering billions.
My congratulations to all of you on this milestone and thank you forbeing a part of this wonderful journey. We have now all the building blocks in place andare uniquely positioned to support an open digital ecosystem. I feel confident that ourbest lies ahead and that Airtel will be a key stakeholder in driving the digitallyconnected world of tomorrow.
The industry requires more support
While it's clear that the worst may be behind for India'stelecom industry we are yet to emerge from the woods. India still has some of the lowestdata tariffs globally and the industry is barely able to cover the cost of capital. Itrequires much more support to repair the deep damage to its finances and make it viablefor telecom operators to invest in future technologies.
A welcome change during the
COVID-19 lockdown was telecom being declared as an essential service bythe Government of India. The industry has finally got some of the recognition it deservesand given the commendable job it has done to keep India connected I hope the Governmentwill look into the urgent needs of the operators. Though the recent tariff increase hasprovided some cushion to the industry we are still way below the levels to make theindustry viable. The government must also look at rationalizing the levies on the sectorand close long standing legal disputes that are a big drag on performance of operators.
These urgent interventions will ensure that we have a viable industrywith 3+1 structure which is essential for serving the digital aspirations of a billionplus Indians.
Strong performance by Airtel
Your company moved forward strongly this year on its strategy ofcustomer delight and solid market execution by offering new products content services andseamless experience across all touch points. The company's large investments towardsbuilding future ready networks data centers plus its sharp focus on quality customers isbeginning to reap dividends.
Multiple globally renowned experts have consistently rated Airtel asIndia's top mobile network. This is another validation of our superior networkexecution. We remain committed to taking high speed mobile broadband to every corner ofthe nation and enable a Digital India.
Digital Transformation has been a big agenda for Airtel and todayvirtually every process of the company is leveraging the power of digital. We remain aheadof the curve when it comes to bringing in the latest technologies and thereby serve ourcustomers better through digital platforms.
As always we continued to drive deep collaborations to enable aworld-class experience for our customers. Be it Amazon Netflix Zee Star Eros HDFCBharti AXA Apollo Hospitals and a wide number of start-ups in the retail segment; and thelikes of Cisco Zoom Google Microsoft and AWS in the enterprise segment.
Alongside the operational strength there was an undivided attentiontowards strengthening the balance sheet in a timely manner. The year witnessed massivefund raise initiatives by your company totalling over USD 8 Bn including rights issue(USD 3.6 Bn) Airtel Africa IPO (USD 674 Mn) Perpetual bond (USD 1 Bn) QIP (USD 2 Bn)and FCCB (USD 1 Bn). Now with a strong balance sheet accompanied by a best-in-classnetwork and a robust spectrum portfolio Airtel is well positioned to capitalize on futureopportunities.
Moving to the African operations which crossed several milestonesduring the year including listing on London & Nigerian Stock Exchange and crossing the100 Mn subscriber mark. Airtel Africa continued its growth trajectory and strongperformance across geographies and segments- voice data and mobile money. The companycontinued investing in market leading networks as it drives the dual agenda ofconnectivity and financial inclusion.
As a responsible corporate we continue to focus our efforts on drivingsustainability and uplifting the communities we operate in. Bharti Foundation the Group'sphilanthropic arm with its school education programs continues to ensure holisticeducation for over 274000 under-privileged children in rural India. While schools acrossthe country were closed during the lockdown our teams continued to work remotely throughthe use of technology to ensure education is not disrupted for any child. Satya BhartiAbhiyan the rural sanitation initiative in the state of Punjab has benefitted over185000 people enabling the State to declare an Open Defecation Free status in thedistricts of Ludhiana and Amritsar. Our CSR initiatives in Africa are centred on enablingdigital access for youth empowerment and for healthcare. Airtel Africa also responded toCOVID-19 by contributing funds to governments across the countries we operate in additionto the supply of masks for the healthcare workers. Furthermore Bharti Enterprisesthrough its joint venture with Softbank is becoming a major force in the renewable energyspace in India thereby contributing towards the cause of the global climate agenda.
Coming back to the remarkable journey of Airtel the last 25 years haveseen their fair share of challenges and achievements all of which have been inspiring andfulfilling at the same time. I want to take this opportunity to express my sinceregratitude to our Board of Directors Management resilient employees and our esteemedcustomers partners suppliers entire distribution network and our shareholders. As aCompany we remain committed to create long-term sustainable value for all ourstakeholders.
Sunil Bharti Mittal
Consequent to the above mentioned allotments the paid-up share capitalof the Company has increased to Rs. 27277836475 divided into 5455557355equity shares of face value of Rs. 5/- each and 497 preference shares of Rs. 100/- each.
During the year under review the Company has neither issued any shareswith differential voting rights nor any sweat equity shares.
During the year the Company has transferred Rs. 141 Mn into GeneralReserve from the Share Based Payment Reserve pertaining to gain / loss on exercise / lapseof vested options.
Your Directors have recommended a final dividend of Rs. 2.00 per equityshare of Rs. 5 each fully paid-up (40.00 % of face value) for FY 2019-20. The total finaldividend payout will amount to Rs. 10911.11 Mn.
The record date for the purpose of payment of final dividend for the FY2019-20 will be Friday August 07 2020.
In view of the changes made under the Income-tax Act 1961 by theFinance Act 2020 dividends paid or distributed by the Company shall be taxable in thehands of the Shareholders. Your Company shall accordingly make the payment of the FinalDividend after deduction of tax at source.
Dividend Distribution Policy
As per Regulation 43A of the Listing Regulations top 500 listedcompanies are required to formulate a dividend distribution policy. Accordingly theCompany had adopted the dividend distribution policy which sets out the parameters andcircumstances to be considered by the Board in determining the distribution of dividend toits shareholders and / or retaining profits earned by the Company. The Policy is enclosedas Annexure A to the Board's Report and is also available on theCompany's website at https://assets.airtel.in/teams/simplycms/web/pdf/Airtel-Dividend_Distribution_Policy-Kick_ Off-14052020.pdf
Transfer of amount to Investor Education and Protection Fund
During the FY 2019-20 the Company has transferred the unpaid/unclaimed dividend pertaining to FY 2011-12 amounting to Rs. 1.29 Mn. to the InvestorsEducation and Protection Fund (IEPF') Account established by the CentralGovernment. The Company has also uploaded the details of unpaid and unclaimed dividendamounts lying with the Company as on August 14 2019 (date of last Annual General Meeting)on the Company's website www.airtel.com.