India’s Bharti Airtel Q2 profit drops on one-time charge

BENGALURU (Reuters) -India’s Bharti Airtel on Tuesday reported a steep drop in second-quarter profit, hurt by a one-time charge, but its revenue rose as it added more 4G and 5G subscribers.

Consolidated net profit fell to 13.41 billion rupees ($161.1 million) for the quarter ended Sept. 30, from 21.45 billion rupees a year ago.

The latest quarter’s results included a one-time charge of 13.50 billion rupees as interest payable on an additional tax provision amount related to a Supreme Court ruling on variable license fees.

It also included a 2.20 billion rupee charge related to re-assessment of regulatory levies.

Airtel and rival Reliance Jio Infocomm, India’s top two telecom operators, have been racing to capture a bigger market share with investments worth billions of dollars on network infrastructure to expand 5G services in urban areas and 4G coverage in the rural.

Airtel said it added 7.7 million 4G and 5G data customers in the quarter. Its total 5G subscriber count stood above 50 million, compared to Jio’s over 70 million.

Its revenue from operations rose 7.3% to 370.44 billion rupees, while expenses climbed 3.5%, led by higher network operating and marketing expenses.

Last week, Jio reported its slowest profit growth in seven quarters, while Vodafone Idea posted a wider loss as its subscriber base continued to shrink.

The company’s average revenue per user (ARPU), a key performance metric for telecom firms, rose 6.8% year-on-year to 203 rupees, but was up only marginally from last quarter.

Airtel’s ARPU is the highest among India’s top telecom players, beating Jio’s 181.7 rupees, and well above Vodafone Idea’s 142 rupees.

Airtel’s shares closed down 1.3% ahead of the results. They had gained 5.4% in the July-September quarter.

($1 = 83.2246 Indian rupees)

(Reporting by Rama Venkat in Bengaluru; Editing by Varun H K)