‘Telecom Revenue Growing for 1st Time After Jio Entry’
There is some stability returning to the sector, says Singtel’s Arthur Lang
Kolkata: Singapore Telecommunications, a major shareholder in Bharti Airtel, sees initial green shoots and some stability returning to the Indian telecom industry. “Total telecom industry revenue in India as a whole, for the first time since the entry of Reliance Jio, has been growing by a bit, so there is some stability,” Arthur Lang, CEO (International), Singtel, said at an earnings call on Thursday.
The leading Southeast Asian telecom carrier, which owns a shade over 39% in Bharti Airtel, had reported a 77% year-on-year fall in net profit during the July-September period to $667 million.
India’s telecom industry’s adjusted gross revenue (AGR) had grown by 2.4% sequentially during the April-June quarter of 2018-19. Airtel’s consolidated revenue in the September quarter, which fell 6.2% on-year to ₹ 20,422 crore, was actually higher than the ₹ 20,080 crore reported in the first quar-
ter. Revenue from India operations, which makes up nearly 68% of the total, also fell only1% sequentially in the second quarter to ₹ 14,920 crore.
Jio’s entry more than two years ago had unleashed a brutal price war that consistently led to revenue erosion of India’s older carriers, in turn, dragging down the sector’s AGR. Marginal players and the sector consolidated down to three large private players making it an ideal market situation for pricing power to return over time.
Singtel’s Lang said the limited de- cline of Bharti Airtel’s average revenue per user (ARPU) — a key performance metric — in the September quarter is also a positive sign which signals the Sunil Mittal-led telco’s strategic focus on the high-value customer segment. “Airtel’s ARPU has dropped on a quarter-to-quarter basis, but at a much lower rate, which is reflective of its focus on the high-quality, high-value (customer) segment, that also explains the 7.5 million net (customer) adds on the 4G side,” Lang said.