New Delhi: Idea Cellular, India’s sixth-largest mobile carrier, reported a higher-than-expected 43% rise in quarterly profit as its customer base grew and falling call prices stabilised in the world’s fastest-growing market.
Outlook for Indian mobile carriers has improved with no major price cuts last year after a price war in the fiercely competitive market of 15 players sent call prices tumbling in late 2009.
Idea, part of the Aditya Birla conglomerate, said it would launch in the next few months third-generation (3G) wireless services in its 11 telecom zones and it was in talks with other operators for alliances to offer 3G beyond its licensed zones.
Idea and its rivals including Bharti Airtel, Reliance Communications and Vodafone Essar last year bought costly 3G radio airwaves in an auction and some companies have launched these premium services in select areas.
The market is eyeing take-off of 3G services that will facilitate high-speed Internet on mobile phones and will let customers use services such as video calls, boosting companies’ revenue from data services, which also offer higher margin compared with their mainstay voice services.
Idea, a fifth owned by Malaysia’s Axiata, said net profit rose to Rs243 crore for its fiscal third quarter ended December, from Rs170 crore a year ago.
Revenue for the quarter was Rs3956 crore, about 26% up from year earlier. Idea had nearly 82 million 2G customers at end-December, 56% higher from a year earlier.
A Reuters poll of 12 brokerages had on average expected net profit of Rs198 crore on revenue of Rs3847 crore.
Indian mobile market leader Bharti Airtel will report December quarter earnings next week and is expected to post a fall in quarterly profit, dragged by weaker margins at its African operations acquired last year.
A probe into allegations that telecoms licences and radio airwaves were given out too cheaply is a big overhang on the Indian telecoms industry, although it involves mostly the smaller and newer firms including Telenor and Etisalat’s India units.
Ahead of the results, shares in Idea Cellular, valued at about $5 billion, closed 1% higher at Rs69.30 in a Mumbai market that gained 0.76%.