Airtel's African losses up 50%

Losses mount as ARPU declines in Africa in quarter ended December 31
Bharti Airtel's chairman, Sunil Mittal, conceded that the operating environment had been tough in recent quarters.
Bharti Airtel's chairman, Sunil Mittal, conceded that the operating environment had been tough in recent quarters.


Bharti Airtel’s African unit continued to struggle amid declining ARPU in the three months to December 31, with the unit’s losses rising 50% to $97.8 million compared to the same period last year.

The rising losses came despite a respectable increase in revenues, which reached $1.16 billion in the last quarter of 2012, a rise of 15% compared to the same period in 2011.

While the African unit’s customer base grew by 21% to reach 61.6 million by the end of 2012, its ARPU declined by 13% to $6.2 per month.

Airtel also experienced a tough quarter in its home market of India and across the rest of South Asian operations, with the overall group’s net income down 72% year-on-year at Rs 2.8 billion ($52.6m).

Total Revenues reached 202.4 billion in the quarter, up 10% year-on-year. Bharti Airtel’s overall customer base was 262.3 million at the end of December 2012.

Sunil Bharti Mittal, chairman and managing director, Bharti Airtel, admitted that market conditions had been challenging in recent quarters due to pricing pressures and rising input costs, which put pressure on margins.

“The worst seems to be getting over with corrections taking place in customer acquisition practices and the tariffs, which are driving quality of acquisitions and improving efficiencies. Moreover, on the data front, it is heartening to see strong growth quarter on quarter and across geographies,” he said.

Bharti Airtel operates mobile services in 17 countries across Africa: Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Chad, Congo B, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Madagascar, Niger, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Rwanda.

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