A man walks past a Mumbai shop painted with an advertisement for Indian telecom giant Bharti Airtel on February 24, 2019. Photo: AFP/Himanshu Bhatt/NurPhoto

Indian telecom major Bharti Airtel reported a profit for the fourth quarter, against a loss in the year-ago period, but it was lower than the preceding quarter.

For the quarter ended March 31, the country’s second-largest telecom operator posted a consolidated net profit of 7.59 billion rupees (US$103 million), while it incurred a loss of 52.37 billion rupees ($714 million) last year.

However, sequentially the profit declined 11% from 8.53 billion rupees in the quarter ended December 31.

The company’s revenue from operations rose 12% to 257.47 billion rupees, from 230 billion rupees a year ago. On a sequential basis, the revenue dipped 3% from 265.17 billion rupees.

Bharti Airtel’s average revenue per user saw a dip on a quarter-on-quarter basis during the March quarter to 145 rupees, which is 7.4% more than last year (135 rupees). But is it lower than the previous quarter (166 rupees).

Analysts had expected revenue to fall as the interconnect usage charge, the amount paid by a telecom firm to another when its users make voice calls to subscribers of another network, was abolished on January 1.

Despite this fall, Bharti Airtel continued to lead the market. Rival Reliance Jio’s average revenue per user in the March quarter was 138 rupees, down from 151 rupees in the December quarter.

Bharti Airtel added 14.1 million subscribers during the quarter, taking the total to more than 350 million as of March 31. Reliance Jio, owned by India’s richest man Mukesh Ambani, added 15.4 million net subscribers in the quarter and its customer base rose to 426.2 million.

The New Delhi-based company’s revenues from India operations grew 9.1% from the same period last year, while Africa’s revenues (in constant currency) rose 21.7%. During the 4G spectrum auction in March, Bharti Airtel purchased spectrum worth 187 billion rupees.

The company also sold its spectrum in the 800 MHz band in Andhra Pradesh, Delhi and Mumbai circles to rival Reliance Jio for 14.97 billion rupees ($203 million). This sale enabled Bharti Airtel to unlock value from the spectrum that was not utilized.

Bharti Airtel MD and CEO Gopal Vittal said: “We are seeing strong momentum in our homes business with 274,000 net adds. The enterprise segment delivered double-digit growth. Our digital assets continue to scale and we are beginning to see strong traction in the monetization of these assets.”

As for the challenges posed by the Covid-19 second wave, Vittal said the company was focusing on delivering uninterrupted services and ensuring the safety of its employees and partners.