Airtel DTH: Q4 2013 revenues & subs up, losses down

MUMBAI: That the DTH market in India is doing well, is something that the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) latest quarter report turned up. This is reflected in Bharti Airtel’s digital TV services financials for Q4 and financial year ended 31 March 2013 which were announced earlier this week.

The division’s revenues are up even as average revenue per user (ARPU) has moved northwards (albeit marginally) and losses southwards. But the business is obviously burning cash – though lower than earlier - as competition is forcing DTH players to expand their reach nationally and offer newer services. All this - without being able to pass on costs to subscribers.

Q4 2013 revenues are up 24 per cent to Rs 441.90 crore as against Rs 356.5 crore in the previous corresponding quarter of 2012. The company continues to be EBITDA positive with the number rising to Rs 29.6 crore (Rs 20.9 crore in Q4 2012). Its operating losses are down to Rs 178.4 crore (Rs 194.4 crore). It incurred a capex of Rs 132.6 crore (Rs 98 crore) during the quarter. Its cumulative investments in the DTH business up to end March 2013 stand at Rs 4036.6 crore (Rs 3298 crore).

The good news is that ARPU is also up to Rs 184 in Q4 2013 (Rs 166 in Q4 2012). The company says this was “achieved through product innovations, pricing corrections and up-selling.” Its subscriber base grew 12 per cent from 7.2 million in Q4 2012 to 8.1 million (Q4 2013). The company attributes this increase to the digitisation drive across the four metro cities of the country and it expects this to accelerate further with phase II digitization.

The DTH business’ revenues for the whole year rose 26 per cent to Rs 1629.4 crore (Rs 1296 crore up to March 2012). Its EBITDA numbers were down three per cent to Rs 45.2 crore (Rs 46.5 crore). Its operating loss rose from Rs 719.8 crore to Rs 815 crore. And its operating free cash flow requirement improved seven per cent from a negative Rs 763.4 crore to Rs 709.6 crore.

The company says it is doing pretty well on its HD set top box rollout (HD), digital TV recorders with 3D capabilities, and in providing a superior customer experience. It currently offers 373 channels and services including 15 HD channels and six interactive services. It says it is the first Indian DTH player to “provide real-time integration of all the three screens viz. television, mobile and computer enabling our customers to record their favourite TV programs through mobile and web.”

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