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Back in the black as Bharti Airtel posts quarterly profit

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Indian operator Bharti Airtel witnessed growth in the December quarter for the first time since 2019.

Before the latest earnings were released today, Airtel had posted six consecutive loss-making quarters despite seeing its market share increase. However, for the most recent quarter it saw the subscriber base grow to 336.2 million, following the addition of 12.9 million 4G subscribers in the final months of 2020, among other users. Data was another driving force as people continued to work from home during the pandemic.

Consolidated profit for Q4 came in at 8.54 billion rupees (US$117.07 million) following a loss of 10.35 billion rupees for Q4 the previous year. Consolidated revenue from operations increased by a significant margin at 24.2% and touched 265.18 billion rupees. This was attributed to gains in the subscriber base and higher tariffs.

Average revenue per user (ARPU) for the quarter – a metric that is often muted in India by local economics– increased by 23% to reach 166 rupees.

In the earnings call, CEO Gopal Vittal, confirmed Airtel had grown its market share across all operations.

Opening the call he noted the "unprecedented volatility" the firm has operated in as it "delivered another strong performance".

He added: "The core drivers of this performance are our agility, the continued reorientation of our business model and our relentless focus on what truly matters – serving our customers."

Growth pushed consolidated revenues to hit 5.8% while the India business saw quarterly growth of 5.5%.

Operating leverage drove EDITDA margins from 44.9% to 45.9%.

Broadband was another point of note, with Bharti Airtel confirming it will shut off its copper network across the country as it narrows its focus on FTTH. Revenue growth in the home business segment reached 2.3% year on year with customer additions reaching an all-time high in excess of 215,000 over the three months, taking this total customer base to 2.79 million.

Despite its financial woes, Airtel frequently leads its competitors for quality of service across India.

Opensignal's September Mobile Network Experience report, named Airtel the "operator to beat" after it scored top marks across download speed, video experience and gaming, which was analysed for the first time.

Despite Jio making the most noise, at the end of January Airtel became the first operator in the country to test a live 5G network using DSS, meaning it doesn't require the traditional 5G frequency bands to operate.

There will be more on these developments in the next issue of Capacity magazine.

 

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