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Bharti Airtel slips into red after 14 years, posts Rs 2,866 cr loss in Q1

twitter-logo PTI        Last Updated: August 1, 2019  | 20:53 IST

New Delhi, Aug 1 (PTI) Bharti Airtel on Thursday posted a staggering Rs 2,866 crore loss for the June quarter, its first consolidated loss in 14 years, as the telco lost ground to rival Reliance Jio and took a hit from exceptional items such as charges towards accelerated depreciation of 3G network gear. Airtel had logged a net profit of Rs 97 crore in the June quarter of the previous fiscal, according to a company statement. The revenue of the Sunil Mittal-led company rose 4.7 per cent to Rs 20,738 crore during the first quarter ended June 2019. India revenues were up 2.8 per cent year on year (5.5 per cent on an underlying basis) at Rs 15,345 crore, while Africa revenues increased 10.2 per cent in the same period. "After accounting for hit of Rs 14,454 million (Rs 1,445.4 crore) towards exceptional items (net of tax), the resultant net loss for the quarter ended June 30, 2019 came in at Rs 28,660 million (Rs 2,866 crore), compared to profit of Rs 973 million (Rs 97.3 crore) in the corresponding quarter last year and Rs 1,072 million (Rs 107.2 crore) in the previous quarter," the company said in its quarterly report. The "exceptional hit" for the quarter included amongst other heads a charge towards accelerated depreciation of 3G network equipment and operating costs on network re-farming and up-gradation programme as well as incremental provision for derivative liabilities pertaining to customary indemnities provided to a clutch of investors of Airtel Africa and expenses relating to its recent listing, the company explained. Airtel's revenue from India mobile services increased 4.1 per cent year-on-year to Rs 10,724 crore. In revenue terms, Reliance Jio is now comfortably placed on top of the telco stack given that its topline stood at Rs 11,679 crore in June quarter (just three years into its commercial operations) against Rs 11,269.9 crore of Vodafone Idea. Airtel, though, registered an improvement in many of the operational parameters. For instance, for the June quarter, Airtel's India Average Revenue Per User - a key performance metric of mobile phone operators - stood at Rs 129 against Rs 123 in the March quarter. Also, mobile data traffic on its network grew 94 per cent year on year. Companies like Airtel and Vodafone Idea have scrapped low-value monthly plans and have been nudging users to go in for higher recharges as they attempt to shore up margins even at the cost of sacrificing market share and subscriber base in an intensely-competitive telecom sector. Airtel's consolidated EBITDA stood at Rs 8,493 crore, while the operating margin at 41 per cent was up 6.4 per cent in the June quarter. Commenting on the earnings, Gopal Vittal, MD and CEO (India and South Asia), Bharti Airtel, said the first quarter of the year has begun with a "healthy and equitable growth across all our lines of businesses". "Headline pricing remained stable, albeit at low levels. We continue to remain focused on providing value to customers through our rewards platform, Airtel Thanks. This has led to the second consecutive quarter of ARPU increase," he said. The loss (before exceptional items) for India business widened to Rs 1,355.8 crore, against Rs 1,283.1 crore in the March quarter and Rs 940 crore in the year-ago period. Airtel's consolidated net debt stood at Rs 1,16,645.8 crore. Shares of Bharti Airtel ended at Rs 323.95 apiece, four per cent lower than the previous close. The results were declared after market hours. Older operators -- Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea -- have been locked in a bruising tariff war following the entry of Reliance Jio, backed by India's richest man Mukesh Ambani. Jio's free voice and dirt-cheap data offering have dented the financial metrics of these operators, deepening the impact of regulatory decisions like cut in termination charges, even though the voice and data usage, per se, have been growing at a scorching pace. For June quarter of 2019-20, Jio had logged 45.6 per cent increase in its net profit at Rs 891 crore. Jio's operating revenue for the three months ended June 2019 stood at Rs 11,679 crore, up 44 per cent over the year-ago period. Vodafone Idea, on the other hand, posted consolidated loss to Rs 4,873.9 crore for the June 2019 quarter, compared to loss of Rs 4,881.9 crore in the fourth quarter of 2018-19. The revenue of Vodafone Idea for the June 2019 quarter fell to Rs 11,269.9 crore against Rs 11,775 crore logged in the January-March 2019 quarter. PTI MBI MKJ

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