Consolidated net profit jumped to Rs. 1,383 crores for the three months to September 30, New Delhi-based Bharti Airtel said on Thursday, beating Rs. 1,286 crores analysts' estimate and underscoring a turnaround in the world's second-biggest wireless market by customers after a years-long price war hit carriers.
Leading Indian mobile phone operators have been able to increase voice call prices, their mainstay, in the recent quarters after a court order on a licensing scandal forced several smaller rivals out, bringing back pricing power to the incumbents.
Rapid growth in the usage of high-margin mobile data, fuelled by a surge in cheaper smartphones, has also helped carriers.
It was the fourth straight quarter of profit growth for Bharti Airtel, headed by billionaire Sunil Mittal and also nearly a third owned by Singapore Telecommunications, which reported its first profit growth in four years in the December quarter of 2013.
Bharti Airtel, which acquired money-losing African telecoms operations in 2010 in a $9 billion debt-funded deal, has yet to turn a profit there, weighing on its consolidated financials.
In the three months to September, which is Bharti Airtel's fiscal second quarter, total revenue rose about 7 percent from a year earlier to Rs. 22,845 crores. Mobile data revenue grew 74 percent in India and 57 percent in Africafrom a year earlier, the company said.
Monthly average revenue per user (ARPU), a key metric for telecoms carriers, fell 2 percent sequentially to Rs. 198 for Bharti's Indian business and was 3 percent down for the African operations.
Mobile voice realisation and minutes of usage per customer in India also fell from the previous quarter. The July-September period is seen as a seasonally weak quarter for the telecoms industry as frequent power cuts and network outages during monsoon rains hits traffic growth.
Shares in Bharti Airtel, which operates across 20 countries in Asia and Africa, closed 0.6 percent higher ahead of the results announcement in a Mumbai market that gained almost 1 percent. India accounts for more than two-thirds of Bharti Airtel's revenue.
© Thomson Reuters 2014