Bharti Airtel CEO Gopal Vittal said he has seen “some bottoming out” of the company’s revenue trends during the Jan-Mar quarter of 2018, but that it was too early to call the bottom as far as average revenue per user is concerned.
Bottoming out refers to the process of hitting the lowest point in a cycle, after which the trend reverses and growth comes back. Airtel has been seeing revenues go down for almost two years now due to competition from Reliance Jio.
India’s largest telecom services provider by revenue reported a 10% decline in its overall revenue for the Jan-Mar quarter, owing to a 13% dip in its India revenue owning to heightened competitive pressures in the market.
Total revenue for the three months ended March fell to Rs 19,634 cr from Rs 20,319 cr in the preceding three months and Rs 21,935 cr in the year-ago period.
Average revenue per user, or the average amount spent by a single customer in a month, fell by 27% on year to Rs 116. In the preceding three months, it was at Rs 123 per month per customer. The CEOs comments indicate that this number could slip further.
Much of the pain comes from customers moving from expensive plans and recharges to cheaper, unlimited plans unveiled in the last two to three quarters.
“Every quarter, the downgrades has reduced in their intensity. As we go into this quarter, we have seen a lower intensity of downgrades and that will continue. Has it bottomed out? I think time will tell,” he said.
“Right now, you can already see (that) from the revenue perspective, there has been some bottoming out that we’ve seen during the quarter. From an ARPU perspective, I wouldn’t comment,” he added.
CAPEX TO REMAIN
Vittal also said the company will continue to maintain its strong capital expenditure levels to improve its network and beat back the challenge from newcomer Reliance Jio.
In the year ended March, said the CEO, the company spent about Rs 23,500 cr building out its network and undertaking other capital expenditure in India, up about 50% from around Rs 16,000 cr in the year before.
This year too, he said, capital expenditure will remain elevated at around Rs 24,000 cr for India and around $600 mln for Africa, taking the total to about Rs 27,000-28,000 cr.
Thanks to the aggressive plans, it was able to add a whopping 14 mln high-speed data subscribers on its mobile network in the three months from January to March, perhaps the highest such addition of all operators during the period.
As a result, the 28.3% of its subscribers are now also data users, up from 24.4% three months earlier.
The average consumption of data jumped to 6.59 GB per customer from 5.35 GB in the previous three months. Total data on the network also jumped to 39% to about 1,540 petabytes for the quarter.