New Delhi: Reliance Communications, India’s No. 2 mobile phone operator, reported a bigger-than-expected fall in June-quarter profit as sharply lower call charges after a vicious price war hit margins.
The firm, controlled by billionaire Anil Ambani, said on Friday net profit fell 85% to Rs251 crore ($53.7 million) for its fiscal first-quarter, compared with Rs1,637 crore reported a year earlier.
A Reuters poll of 10 brokerages had on average expected the company, which had about 111 million users as of end-June, to report net profit of Rs658 crore.
India is the world’s fastest-growing mobile market adding subscribers at a monthly average of 16 million, but stiff competition in a crowded market led to firms cutting call charges to grab subscribers faster than rivals.
After call prices in India tumbled to as low as 0.4 US cents a minute -- with most of the price declines taking place in the second half of 2009 -- there were no big price cuts in April-June.
RCom’s bigger rival Bharti Airtel earlier this week reported quarterly profit fell by almost a third but signalled a bottom for the struggling cellular market as cut-rate price shows signs of stabilising after the price war.
RCom is hiving off its telecom towers business to help reduce its high debt, and is also looking for a strategic investor to sell up to 26% stake in itself.
But the sector faces pressure from recently-completed auctions for 3G and broadband airwaves which cost far more than expected and most of it was funded by debt. RCom spent about $1.8 billion to acquire 3G licences.
Ahead of the results, shares in RCom, valued at about $7.7 billion, fell 2.9% in a Mumbai market that closed 0.5% higher.