Sunil Bharti Mittal, the founder of Bharti Enterprises. Photo: AFP

India’s third-largest telecom company Bharti Airtel, which was badly hurt by the ongoing price war unleashed by Reliance Jio Infocomm, sprang a surprise by posting a net profit of 1.07 billion rupees (US$15.44 million) for the fourth quarter ended March 2019, beating analysts’ expectations.

During this quarter the company benefited from a one-time gain of 20.22 billion rupees ($29.17 million) and from its growth in the domestic wireless business. On a sequential basis, Bharti Airtel’s revenue from the domestic wireless business grew 4.1% to 106.32 billion rupees ($1.53 billion).

In this quarter Airtel lost its second position to Reliance Jio, while Vodafone Idea continued to be India’s largest telco.

The company reported consolidated revenue of 206.02 billion rupees ($2.97 billion), up 6.2% from the same quarter last financial year.

However, the annual profit fell 63% to 4.09 billion rupees ($59 million) for the year ended March 31 from 10.99 billion rupees ($15.85 million) in the previous year.

The September 2016 launch of low-cost tariff plans by Reliance Jio Infocomm, owned by India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani,  forced rivals to drop their rates, hurting profit margins.

Smaller companies were forced to either close shop or get acquired, leaving just Airtel, Jio and the merged entity of Vodafone and Idea, apart from state-owned BSNL, to compete in the Indian market.

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