Bharti Airtel net profit down 9.6% in 14th quarterly fall

Bharti Airtel Ltd reported 9.6 per cent fall in quarterly profit on higher costs and foreign exchange losses, the 14th consecutive quarter of declining profits for the country's top telecommunications carrier.

Bharti Airtel, the world's fourth-biggest cellular carrier by customers, said net profit fell to 6.89 billion rupees for its fiscal first quarter to end-June, from 7.62 billion rupees reported a year earlier.

Despite the decline, the results beat analyst expectations for a profit of 6.57 billion rupees, helped by better operating performance at home.

Bharti and its main rivals such as the Indian unit of Vodafone Group Plc and Idea Cellular have cut discounts and raised some prices in recent months after several smaller rivals either shut or scaled back operations because of a court order, easing competition in a crowded market.

The carriers however, face several regulatory challenges including a government demand they pay billions of dollars in spectrum surcharges.

Revenue for Bharti, which is nearly a third owned by Southeast Asia's top phone carrier SingTel, rose an annual 9 per cent to 202.6 billion rupees in the quarter, compared with analyst expectations for 211 billion rupees.

Average revenue per user (ARPU) in India increased 4 per cent from the previous quarter to 200 rupees, but African ARPU fell 7 per cent sequentially to $5.5.

Bharti, which ventured into Africa in 2010 with a $9 billion acquisition, has yet to make the money-losing operations profitable and the debt taken on for the acquisition has weighed on its consolidated earnings. Net debt fell to $9.8 billion at end-June, it said.

African operations continued to make losses, with Bharti's international business that includes Africa reporting a net loss of 7.03 billion rupees, before exceptional items.

Shares of the company were trading up 1.3 per cent at 0415 GMT after falling as much as 2.4 per cent.

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