ARPU decline expected to continue; both Bharti and Idea likely to report a loss; cautious stance on sector
We expect a subdued quarter for telecom sector and expect both Idea and Bharti to report a quarterly loss. We expect ARPU decline to continue (6% q-o-q) led by price cuts and downgrades. ARPU fall will be partly offset by subscriber additions and we expect revenue to decline 2% q-o-q. We expect margins to moderate 200bps+ q-o-q led by increased costs. We maintain our cautious stance on the sector and would watch for commentary on pricing and margins going forward.
Another subdued quarter: We expect mobile revenues to decline 3% q-o-q led by sharp ARPU moderation post the price cuts at the start of the quarter and downgrades in post-paid packs. Cost pressures will also likely increase led by network and content costs leading to 200bps+ q-o-q margin drop.
Strong sub additions: We expect both Idea and Bharti to see strong subscriber additions (+6% q-o-q) led largely by port-ins from smaller players who are exiting. Key to watch will be Jio gains in the JioPhone segment.
ARPU to see further downtick: We expect ARPU to decline 6-7% q-o-q, led by price cuts and also addition of low ARPU subs from smaller players. We expect post-paid segment to also see downgrades. We expect further downtick in coming quarters as pack downgrades by consumers continue.
Bharti (Unpf): Sharp margin fall — We expect Bharti revenues to fall 2% q-o-q. We expect margins to moderate 300bps q-o-q led by decline across business. We would watch for commentary on market share and pricing outlook.
Idea (Unpf): Further margin fall — We expect Idea to report 3% revenue decline led by 6% ARPU fall q-o-q. We expect margins to fall 230bps. We would watch for commentary on the merger and synergy benefits.
Remain cautious: We expect competitive intensity to remain high as operators vie for market share. We expect ARPU to remain under pressure and cost pressures to also increase. Recovery will also likely be gradual from mid-FY20. Stock valuations factor in the best case and we remain cautious on both Bharti and Idea.