, NEW DELHI, Jan 29 – India’s top mobile phone firm Bharti Airtel reported Wednesday its quarterly profit leapt by 115 percent, the first rise in four years, boosted by surging data use and easing of cut-throat price wars.
Bharti, the fourth-largest telecom firm globally, said net profit for the third financial quarter to December climbed to 6.1 billion rupees ($98 million) from 2.84 billion rupees in the same period a year earlier.
The company’s focus on Internet operations “has increased adoption and usage” of Bharti, said Indian chief executive Gopal Vittal.
“Data is now a huge source of revenue,” Vittal added.
Data services have become the new battleground for Indian telecom companies as they seek to boost revenues in an increasingly saturated domestic mobile market.
Bharti, controlled by billionaire founder-chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal, had clocked 15 straight quarters of profit decline before Wednesday’s rise.
Despite the better performance, the figures still undershot market expectations of a 10-billion rupee profit for the three-month period.
Shares were up just 0.13 percent at 306.55 rupees in early afternoon trade.
But analysts said the quarter was positive overall.
“Competitive intensity is declining in India thanks to (the) fruits of consolidation and the data numbers give quite a bit to be excited about,” telecom analyst Harit Shah at Mumbai’s Nirmal Securities told AFP.
The Indian firm, with 287 million customers and operations in both Africa and Asia, said Internet revenues soared 105 percent year-on-year to 17.36 billion rupees.
Total revenues climbed 13.3 percent in the third quarter to 219.4 billion rupees from 193.6 billion rupees a year ago.
Average revenue per user, a key industry profitability benchmark, jumped five percent in India.
Bharti operates in 20 countries and is nearly one-third held by Singapore’s SingTel.
India’s telecom sector was a market star before fierce tariff competition pushed call rates down to among the world’s lowest.