Indian telecom group Bharti Airtel has recorded a loss for a third consecutive quarter, posting a net loss of INR10.35 billion (USD145.3 million) for the three months ended 31 December 2019, narrowing losses of INR230.45 billion in the preceding quarter and INR28.66 billion in the three-month period to end-June 2019. Total revenue for the period was INR219.47 billion – an increase of 3.9% quarter-on-quarter – whilst EBITDA grew to INR93.50 billion from INR89.36 billion in the period ended 30 September 2019. The company attributed the improvement in its top line figures to renewed subscriber growth in its domestic market, alongside an increase in ARPU following price hikes and rationalisation of the company’s tariff structure last year. In a statement from the company, Airtel CEO Gopal Vittal indicated that further price increases were on the horizon, noting: ‘While tariff revision undertaken in December 2019 is a welcome step towards repairing the financial health of the industry, we believe tariffs must go up further for enabling the industry to invest in emerging technologies.’ The official went on to state that the cellco was on track to shut down its 3G network, as it looks to re-farm the 900MHz and 2100MHz spectrum to boost its 4G network.
In its domestic market (the group now publishes the results of its African subsidiary separately) Airtel counted a total of 308.7 million subscribes at end-December 2019, compared to 304.7 million at end-September 2019 and 303.3 million at 31 December 2018. The tariff increases, meanwhile, boosted monthly ARPU to INR135 from INR128 in the preceding quarter and just INR104 at end-December 2018. The growth was further aided by the addition of more than 20 million net new 4G subscribers, with Airtel counting 123.79 million LTE users in December 2019 compared to 103.11 million three months earlier. Its home services arm saw little improvement q-o-q, however, with the telco recording net additions of just 2,000 for the period – bringing the fixed broadband subscriber base to 2.35 million – compared to additions of 8,000 in the preceding quarter and 72,000 in the three months to end-June 2019.