Bharti Airtel posts net profit after six straight quarters; Arpu at 3-year high of Rs 166

New Delhi: returned to the black, posting a net profit of Rs 854 crore in the October-December period after six straight quarters of losses, on the back of a one-time gain related to the merger of Bharti Infratel and Indus Towers and strong addition of data users which led to record revenue.

Revenue was Rs26,518 crore, up 24.2% on-year in the fiscal third quarter. Airtel added 14.2 million users – the most in four quarters – and subscribers moved to higher-paying plans, helping drive up average revenue per user (ARPU) to a three-year high of Rs 166, from Rs 162 in July-September.

The telco posted a profit helped by a one-time gain of Rs1151.7 crore, as compared with losses of Rs 763 crore in the July-September period, and Rs1035 crore a year ago.

However, before exceptional items, the telco posted a net loss of Rs298 crore.

“Despite the unprecedented volatility that we have confronted through the year, we delivered another strong performance this quarter. This consistency in performance was across every part of our portfolio, as reflected in market share growth across all our business segments,” said Gopal Vittal, chief executive, Bharti Airtel, India, South Asia, on Wednesday.

“The main highlight of the quarter was the around 13 million 4G customers we added in our wireless business. As a result, we grew our revenues by around 25% over the same period last year and margins expanded,” he added.

Profit though was dragged by a 32% on year rise in net finance costs, largely on account of higher forex losses partially offset by lower interest on borrowings, the telco said.

Airtel shares rose 1.5% to Rs 608.80 at close on the BSE on Wednesday, while the benchmark Sensex gained 0.9%. Earnings were announced after market hours.

Market leader Reliance Jio Infocomm, which reported its results on January 22, post a net profit of Rs3,291 crore on revenue at Rs 18,492 crore. Its ARPU came in at Rs151 on the back of 5.2 million net user additions, while average wireless data consumption per user per month was 12.9 GB and average voice consumption came in at 796 minutes per user per month.

In comparison, Airtel ended the quarter with nearly 308 million mobile phone users in India. On a consolidated basis, the company — with operations in 18 countries, including India, Sri Lanka and 14 African nations, and joint ventures in two more — had almost 458 million users.

The telco’s data usage per customer in India was 16.8 GB, compared with 16.4 GB in the preceding quarter, while voice minutes of usage rose to 1027 minutes, from 1,005, as more people used mobile internet while working from home, experts said.

Vodafone Idea (Vi) is yet to report its quarterly earnings.