Airtel losses narrow to Rs 763 cr in Sept quarter; company logs highest-ever quarterly revenues

Bharti Airtel, the country's second largest telecom operator, on Tuesday reported its highest-ever quarterly consolidated revenue on the back of a rise in data usage and higher realisations, helping it narrow losses in the July-September period.

Consolidated revenue rose 22 per cent to Rs 25,785 crore in the September quarter while net loss narrowed to Rs 763 crore.

The quarterly showing was bolstered by an all-round growth across the portfolio -- geographies and segments, and rise in Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) as well as strong 4G additions.

The net loss (before exceptional items) for Q2 FY21 was at Rs 744 crore while loss (after exceptional items) stood at Rs 763 crore.

Airtel's losses were significantly lower than the year-ago period when it stood at Rs 23,045 crore after the company had made provisions of Rs 28,450 crore in the immediate aftermath of the Supreme Court ruling on statutory dues.

Airtel's revenues at Rs 25,785 crore in the just-concluded quarter marked the "highest ever consolidated quarterly revenues".

India business delivered strong growth across revenue, margins and customers, the company said in a statement.

In the September quarter, India revenue rose 22 per cent year-on-year to Rs 18,747 crore led by strong 4G customer momentum. Mobile revenues grew by 26 per cent. The ARPU - a key metric for the telecom companies - came in at Rs 162 for the just-ended quarter from Rs 128 in Q2 FY20, and Rs 157 in the preceding June quarter.

"The company continues to garner a strong share of the 4G net adds in the market. 4G data customers increased by 48.1 per cent to 152.7 million compared to the previous year...," Airtel said.

Engagement parameters, it said, continue to be "best in industry" with average data usage per data subscriber at 16.0 GBs per month; while voice usage was at 1,005 mins/subscriber/month.

Gopal Vittal, MD and CEO (India and South Asia) at Airtel said, "despite being a seasonally weak quarter, we delivered a strong performance with revenue growing at 22 per cent year-on-year".

The company stays committed to improving the profitability of business, he asserted.

During the quarter ended September 2020, the company continued to recognise its AGR (Adjusted Gross Revenue) obligations based on court judgment and guidelines/ clarifications received from the Telecom Department in respect of license fees and spectrum usage charges, the company said.

"Pursuant to the judgment of the Supreme Court of India on October 24, 2019 including subsequent supplementary judgments, and in the absence of any potential reliefs, the group provided for Rs 368,322 million for the periods up to March 31, 2020 on the basis of demands received and the period for which demands have not been received having regard to assessments carried out in earlier years and the guidelines/ clarifications in respect of license fees and Spectrum Usage Charges," it said.

Consequently, during the June quarter, the group recorded an incremental provision of Rs 10,744 crore towards statutory dues.

It is pertinent to mention here that Supreme Court has directed telecom operators to pay 10 per cent of their total AGR-related dues this year, and rest in 10 instalments starting from next fiscal year.

Airtel statement said the group has represented to the government that it has already paid more than 10 per cent of the total dues as demanded by DoT (Department of Telecommunications) and "will ensure ongoing compliance" with the Supreme Court's orders.

Airtel is the first of the three private telecom operators to announce its results this earnings season. Vodafone Idea's second quarter numbers are scheduled on October 29 while Reliance Jio -- India's youngest but largest telecom firm -- will announce its September quarter results on October 30.

Sector analysts have predicted that revenues for mobile operators will improve sequentially in the September quarter as factors like increased recharges, reverse migration, and easing of lockdown curbs would help overcome what is otherwise a seasonally-weak quarter.

Airtel statement, meanwhile, said that it sees a gradual return to normalcy, with series of unlocks throughout the country.

"However, while the economy opens up, the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Delivering uninterrupted services and great end-user experience while ensuring safety of our employees and partners continues to remain our key priority," it added.

Airtel scrip closed at Rs 433 apiece on the BSE on Tuesday, about 0.24 per cent lower than the previous close.

In a separate filing, Airtel informed it will exit the Ghanaian telecom market.

"Bharti Airtel Limited in its board meeting held earlier today announced the approval of the board for concluding an arrangement with the Government of Ghana wherein Government of Ghana will acquire 100 per cent shares of Airtel Ghana Limited (AirtelTigo...) along with all customers, assets and agreed liabilities," the company said in a filing to the NSE.

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