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The country’s largest telecom operator, Bharti Airtel, on Wednesday posted a sound set of numbers during the July-September quarter. Barring the net profit numbers, where Bharti performed below expectations, most of the other numbers were either in-line with estimates or surpassed them in a quarter, which is generally seen weak for mobile operators.
The company’s net profit at Rs 512 crore was down 25.6% on a sequential basis from Rs 688 crore for the first quarter ended June 2013. The company’s net profit was down 29% from Rs 721.2 crore on a year-on-year basis. It was largely pulled down by a forex loss of Rs 342 crore, against a loss of Rs 534 crore in the preceding quarter. Total revenues at Rs 21,324 crore were up 5.23% on a sequential basis and 10% on a y-o-y basis.
Though operating metrics like average realisation per user (Arpu) and minutes of usage (MoU) were down sequentially, they were better than expectations since the quarter is seen as weak for the operators.
Both the Arpu and MoU were down 4% sequentially at Rs 192 and 437 minutes, respectively. The good part is that despite withdrawing freebies like free minutes in the pre-paid segment, the churn rate was static at 3.2% on a sequential basis. This means that the strategy to revise tariffs by withdrawing free minutes to increase realisations has paid off well.
The Ebitda margin was flat at 32%, compared with the preceding quarter when it was at 32.3%. However, on a yearly basis it showed an improvement over 30.6% during the same quarter last year. The company’s shares closed up 5.23% at Rs 359.05 on the BSE on a day when the Sensex closed at record high of 21,033.97, up 104.96 points.
“In short, solid operational set of numbers despite the miss at the net income level,” Kotak Institutional Equities said in its report. “Operationally, both India and Africa wireless businesses surprised positively — India on margins and Africa on revenue growth...Even as we need sustenance of good performance in Africa to change our view there, the quarter provided ample data points to support out positive view on the India wireless business,” it added.
The major positive for the company, as well as the sector, is the sustained rise in data revenue. During the period, data at 9.2% as a percentage of mobile revenue was higher than 7.4% in the preceding quarter. Even data Arpu