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Healthy growth for African ops, but Bharti’s profit falls

Indian market leader Bharti Airtel has reported a fall in profit over Q411 despite healthy growth across its African operations. Usage in the operator’s home market has dropped off after rampant competition led to a price war that ultimately resulted in tariffs increasing.

Mobile ARPU dropped to INR187 (US$3.80), down from INR199 during the same period in the previous year. The operator has cited a number of reasons for falling profits, including increased tax provisions and interest expenses, as well as repayments on its 3G licence.

Net profit for the quarter was INR10.1 billion (US$200 million), a drop of 22.4% compared to Q410. Revenue however was up year-on-year by 17.1%, reaching INR184.8 billion. Profit therefore fell short of analyst forecasts which predicted it at INR13.6 billion, but revenue just exceeded the projected INR184.5 billion.

In fact, revenue for both Airtel’s India/South Asia and Africa businesses was up. Respectively, the businesses achieved 11.1% and 16% year-on-year growth, with revenue of INR101.8 billion and US$1.1 billion. Q411 marked the first time that Airtel’s Africa business generated positive operating cash flow, passing 50 million subscribers.

Overall, the operator’s global subscriber numbers grew by 17% year-on-year, reaching just under 233 million. Subscriber growth was 16% in India/South Asia, reaching 182 million, while in Africa growth of 21% took the total to just under 51 million.

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