Airtel posts colossal Q1 loss of Rs 2,866 cr on one-time hit

Telecom major Airtel on Thursday posted a mammoth consolidated net loss of Rs 2,866 crore for the first quarter ending June caused mainly by a one-time hit of Rs 1,445 crore.

Such a loss suffered by India’s third largest mobile operator by subscriber base reduces the prospects of revival of a sector battered and bruised by heightened competition from Reliance Jio for subscriber and revenue market share.

The company said in a statement that with the adoption of IndAS 116, effective April 1, 2019, the results and ratios for the quarter ending June are not comparable with previous periods.

Revenue from the India wireless business grew 4.1 per cent year-on-year (Y-o-Y) to Rs 10,724 crore.

All telecom companies are currently in loss resulting out of their tariff wars with Reliance Jio, which entered the mobile market with ultra-cheap data tariffs and free voice calls.

The exceptional hit of Rs 1,445 crore during the first quarter was mainly due to the charge of Rs 142 crore towards accelerated depreciation of 3G network equipment and operating costs on network re-farming and up-gradation program, incremental provision aggregating Rs 1,586 crore of derivative liabilities pertaining to customary indemnities provided to a clutch of investors of Airtel Africa, and expenses relating to its listing, among others, Airtel said.

There were some gains on re-assessment of levies based on ex-parte judgment and net tax benefits.

The Sunil Mittal-led company, which was the number one mobile operator till the Vodafone Idea merger last year, and subsequently lost its second slot to Reliance Jio on customer numbers, saw its first quarter India revenues at Rs 15,345 crore increase 5.5 per cent Y-o-Y on an underlying basis.

Mobile revenues during the quarter in consideration witnessed a Y-o-Y growth of 3.7 per cent. Mobile average revenue per user (ARPU) increased to Rs 129, while mobile data traffic nearly doubled to 3,904 petabytes (PBs) as compared to 2,003 PBs in the corresponding quarter last year.

Mobile 4G data customers during the June quarter increased by 63.3 per cent to 95.2 million, from 58.3 million in the corresponding quarter last year.

Non-mobile businesses continue to perform well. Digital TV revenue witnessed a growth of 15.7 per cent Y-o-Y on an underlying basis. The company reported a decline of 25.5 per cent on reported basis due to reporting changes in DTH pursuant to the new tariff order, leading to content cost becoming a pass-through expense.

Airtel’s business has witnessed a growth of 7.2 per cent Y-o-Y, but these growth numbers failed to boost the bottomline, the company said.

Consolidated EBITDA at Rs 8,493 crore increased 24.2 per cent Y-o-Y. Consolidated EBITDA margin increased by 6.4 per cent to 41 percent in the first quarter as compared to 34.5 per cent in the corresponding quarter last year. Consolidated EBIT dropped by 4.5 per cent Y-o-Y to Rs 1,605 crore.

Airtel undertook capex of Rs 5,047 crore during the quarter in question, down from Rs 6,273 crore in the previous one.

The telco has net debt of Rs 1.16 lakh crore as on June 2019.

“The consolidated net loss after exceptional items for the quarter stands at Rs 2,866 crore”, Airtel said.

The consolidated net debt for the Company has increased by Rs 3,655 crore to Rs 1.16 lakh crore as compared to Rs 1.12 lakh crore for the previous quarter, primarily on account of increase in lease liabilities in line with Ind As 116. On a comparable basis, consolidated net debt was Rs 93,095 crore,” it added.

The sole profitable mobile operator in the June quarter was Reliance Jio which posted a profit of Rs 891 crore while Vodafone Idea posted net loss of Rs 4,873.9 crore.

The ARPU for Bharti Airtel has been improving as it sheds low-paying users from its network with minimum recharge plans of Rs 35.

Airtel had posted a surprise profit of Rs 107.2 crore in the three months ended March 31 because of a one-time gain of Rs 2,022.1 crore and a tight control on sales and marketing expenses. It had also posted a small profit in the same period a year ago.

One major announcement of the first quarter was of Airtel re-farming spectrum from 3G networks to 4G across both the 900 as well as 2,100 bands and starting the process of shutting down 3G networks in India.

“We have re-farmed spectrum from 3G networks to 4G across both the 900 as well as 2,100 bands and begun the process of shutting down 3G networks in India. This has enabled us to deliver improved indoor coverage as well as enhance our capacities. Our underlying operational efficiency and customer-first mindset keeps us on track to grow our market share”, Airtel MD and CEO (India and South Asia) Gopal Vittal said.

He also said the fiscal’s first quarter has begun with a healthy and equitable growth across all 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.


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