India’s Vodafone Idea posts wider-than-expected Q2 loss as user base shrinks

BENGALURU (Reuters) – Indian telecom operator Vodafone Idea reported a wider-than-expected loss on Thursday, due to subscriber loss and increased expenses.

Consolidated loss after tax was 87.38 billion rupees ($1.05 billion) for the quarter ended Sept 30, compared with a loss of 75.96 billion rupees a year earlier.

Analysts on an average had expected a loss of 73.51 billion rupees, according to LSEG data.

Vodafone Idea, formed by a merger between the Indian arm of UK’s Vodafone and Aditya Birla Group’s Idea Cellular in 2018, has since posted a loss in every quarter as it lost ground to rivals Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio amid a brutal price war.

The Indian government holds a 35.8% stake in Vodafone Idea after it ordered the debt-saddled company to convert into equity all the dues owed to the government for use of airwaves including the interest related to payments for spectrum.

Total gross debt was 2.13 trillion rupees as of Sept. 30. The debt constitutes deferred spectrum payment obligations to the government of 1,35 trillion rupees and dues of 78.6 billion rupees to banks and financial institutions.

“We remain engaged with our lenders for further debt fund raising as well as with other parties for equity and equity linked fund raising, to make required investments for network expansion, including 5G rollout,” Chief Executive Officer Akshaya Moondra said in a statement, without disclosing any details.

Its subscriber base contracted to 219.8 million from 234.4 million a year ago, while expenses climbed 2% to 186.7 billion rupees.

Meanwhile, average revenue per user (ARPU), a key metric for telecom firms, rose to 142 rupees from 139 rupees last quarter and 131 rupees a year ago, as it added more 4G users. Its 4G subscriber base expanded 3.4% to 124.7 million.

Revenue from operations rose about 1% to 107.16 billion rupees in the second quarter.

Shares of Vodafone Idea settled 0.9% lower ahead of the results.

($1 = 83.2394 Indian rupees)

(Reporting by Rama Venkat in Bengaluru)