Airtel saw its Average Revenue Per User increase to Rs 157 from Rs 154 last quarter with a significant population working from home.

A man passes by on a bicycle in front of a sign on the wall that says Airtel 4GImage Credit: Picxy.com/idrees
Money Telecom Wednesday, July 29, 2020 - 20:59

Telecom operator Bharti Airtel posted a net loss of Rs 15,933 crore in the April-June (Q1) of FY21 after accounting for exceptional items, where it provisioned Rs Rs 10,744.4 crore towards its Adjusted Gross Revenue dues, that it has to pay as per the directions of the Supreme Court. This quarter’s loss has ballooned, as opposed to Rs 2,866 crore in the corresponding period last year. Airtel’s net loss without exceptional items for the quarter stood at Rs 436 crore.

Its consolidated revenues went up 15.4% year-on-year to Rs 23,939 crore from Rs 20,737.9 crore in the previous corresponding quarter. Airtel’s consolidated EBITDA stood at Rs 10,639 crore, with a 44.4% operating margin. It reported a consolidated profit before tax and exceptional tax at Rs 372 crore, which it said was up 124% year-on-year. 

The telco’s India revenues increased by 14.6% year-on-year to Rs 17,589 crore.

However, Airtel saw its Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) increase, with a significant population working from home for the entirety of the quarter. Airtel’s ARPU increased from Rs 154 in Q4 of FY20 to Rs 157 in Q1 of FY21. In the Q1 of FY20, Airtel’s ARPU stood at Rs 129. Airtel said that this was due to the “full impact of our tariff hikes in the previous quarter alongside our continuing focus on quality customers”.

In the same vein, as more customers worked from home, Airtel said it saw an increase of 18.5% in mobile revenue year on year. It also saw an increase of 45.3% in 4G data customers between this quarter and the corresponding quarter last year — from 95.2 million to 138.3 million.

It said that its average data usage per data subscription was at 16.3 GB/month; while voice usage was at 994 minutes per subscriber per month.

Earlier, in a message to shareholders, Bharti Airtel Chairman Sunil Mittal had told shareholders that the telecom industry “was not of the woods” and needs urgent interventions.

“The government must also look at rationalising the levies on the sector and close long standing legal disputes that are a big drag on performance of operators,” he said.

AGR provision

With regards to Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR), Airtel said that the company provided for Rs 36,832.2 crore for the periods upto March 31, 2020 on the basis of demands received. Noting that in the most recent hearing, the Supreme Court on July 20, observed that the amounts of AGR dues to be paid will be what the Department of Telecom had first calculated, the group company has further made an incremental provision of Rs 10,744.4 crore towards AGR, which has been presented as an exceptional item.

In the last hearing, the Solicitor-General had told the court that Airtel owes Rs 25,976 crore after paying Rs 18,004 crore. It has currently reserved its order on a timeline for payments.

Digital business

Throwing light on its digital business, Bharti Airtel said that digital TV revenue witnessed a growth of 9.3% YoY as it saw a growth of 5.1% in new customers to 16.8 million from 16 million in the corresponding quarter last year. The rollout of the new tariff order also helped Airtel in improving its market share and revenue growth, it said. 

Homes business segment saw a revenue growth of 1.4% year-on-year. Airtel said that although the customer base increased by 4.5% YoY, growth was impacted during the quarter on account of closure of several commercial establishments.

“The company continues to invest in this segment with all new roll-outs fully being on fibre. In order to augment its footprint across the length and breadth of the country; the company continues to capture demand in unwired cities through a LCO (local cable operators) partnership model which now is live in 14 cities,” it added.

Airtel also said that its journey as a digital business continues to grow strongly in Q1 of FY21. There are over 1.1 million retailers transacting and making payments every day on Mitra, which is Airtel’s retail app. In order to further increase penetration of the digital services, the Thanks app is now available in 11 vernacular languages, developed through in-house capabilities of native language processing.

COVID-19

Bharti Airtel said that even as it monitors the COVID situation closely district by district, one key customer grievance was the inability to access their regular retailers to recharge during lock-downs. “Towards this we have enabled many new channels like ATMs, Pharmacies, Groceries, Post Offices etc. while also driving and educating customers towards online recharges and payments,” the company said. 

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