Bharti Airtel shares rise 10%; data demand, tariff hikes help

Shares of Bharti Airtel Ltd surged 10 per cent to a record high on Tuesday, as customers upgraded their data and calling plans and the Indian telecom operator raised mobile tariffs, helping boost average revenue per user.

The company’s average revenue per user, a key metric for the telecom sector, rose 25 per cent to 154 rupees at its India mobile services business during the quarter ended March 31.

“Bharti Airtel’s strong data subscriber additions despite sharp tariff hikes reflects consumer acceptance of higher tariffs,” Jefferies said in a note. “Moreover, its ability to add data subscribers should also support market share gains.”

Airtel said it added 12.5 million 4G subscribers in the March quarter.

Telecom companies in the country raised calling and data plan prices in the last few months after the country’s Supreme Court upheld a demand by the telecoms department that wireless carriers pay 920 billion Indian rupees ($12.11 billion) in overdue levies and interest.

New-Delhi based Airtel said on Monday it set aside 56.42 billion rupees for one-time spectrum charges, resulting in a quarterly net loss of 52.37 billion rupees for the three months ended March 31, compared with a profit of 1.07 billion rupees a year earlier.

Total revenue, however, rose 15 per cent to 237.23 billion rupees. Indians found themselves confined to their homes during the last week of March due to a nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus outbreak.

“We continue to witness strong data traffic growth of about 74.1 per cent year-on-year,” Chief Executive Officer Gopal Vittal said in a statement late on Monday.

Rival Reliance Jio Infocomm, controlled by billionaire Mukesh Ambani, reported a nearly three-fold rise in March quarter profit.

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