Airtel Digital TV numbers improve as parent company’s numbers fall

BENGALURU: The Sunil Mittal-led Indian telecom major with operations in 16 countries, Bharti Airtel Ltd, (Airtel) reported a year on year (y-o-y) drop in numbers for the quarter ended 30 June 2018 (Q1 2019, period or quarter under review) as compared to the corresponding year ago quarter (Q1 2018). At the same time, its Digital TV services segment which contributes just about 4 per cent or so to the overall numbers, had a 10.6 per cent and 21.5 per cent y-o-y increase in operating revenues and operating profit (EBITDA) during the period under review.

The company reported an increase in its overall as well Airtel Digital TV subscriber base along with more than three-fold increase in mobile data traffic. The company completed the acquisition of Telnor and hence its subscriber base also grew on account of this. However, the competitive environment has ensured y-o-y subduction of India mobile services and home services segment financials. Hence, the improved numbers from Airtel’s Digital TV services, its B2B – Airtel Business services and its African operations numbers are reasons for cheer for the telecom behemoth.

Overall, Airtel’s total revenues declined 8.6 per cent y-o-y in Q1 2019 to Rs 20,080 crore from Rs 21,958 crore, while EBITDA declined 12.6 per cent y-o-y to Rs 6,837 crore from Rs 7,823 crore. Net income declined to almost a quarter (down 73.5 per cent) y-o-y to Rs 97 crore from Rs 367 crore. The company had a negative operating cash flow of Rs 1,380 crore in Q1 2019 as compared to a positive Rs 1,237 crore in Q1 2018.

Airtel Digital TV

As mentioned above, for its Digital TV segment, Airtel reported 10.6 per cent y-o-y increase in operating revenues for Q1 2019 at Rs 992.4 crore as compared to Rs 879.4 crore. Airtel Digital TV Services EBITDA jumped 21.5 per cent y-o-y in the period under review to Rs 401 crore from Rs 330 crore. The company’s subscriber base increased by 4.78 lakh (0.478 millon, 0.0478 crore) in Q1 2019 to 146.46 lakh (14.646 million, 1.4646 crore) from 141.68 lakh (14.168 million, 1.4168 crore) in the immediate trailing quarter. In Q1 2018, the company had reported 133.14 lakh (13.314 million, 1.3314 crore) Digital TV subscribers.

ARPU in the quarter under review increased by Re 1 to Rs 229 in Q1 2019 as compared to Rs 228 in the immediate trailing quarter (Q4 2018) and the corresponding year ago quarter. The US dollar has been rising with respect to the Indian rupee, hence in US $ terms, ARPU declined to US$ 3.4 in Q1 2019 from US$ 3.5 in Q1 2018 and Q4 2018. Churn declined to 0.7 per cent in Q1 2019 as compared to 0.9 per cent in Q1 2018 and 1.1 per cent in Q4 2018.

Company speak

Airtel MD and CEO of India and South Asia operations Gopal Vittal said, “The acquisition of Telenor's India unit was completed during the quarter, and I am delighted to welcome all the Telenor customers into the Airtel family. Industry pricing continues to remain untenable. However, led by our successful bundles, content partnerships and handsets upgrade basis. Non-mobile programmes, our data traffic surged 355 per cent on a y-o-y basis. Non-mobile portfolio also continues to witness healthy growth on back of investments in home passes and HD content. Aggressively expanding our 4G capacities and continuing to offer highest data speeds to customers remains a key priority for us, and towards this end, Q1 2019 has seen our highest quarterly capex spends of Rs 7,887 crore. Our investments have led to some opex headwinds in this quarter but we remain focused on structural cost containment through our War on Waste program. With consolidation largely done, the secular opportunity of the Indian telecom market continues to excite us and we remain committed to offer best-in-class services to all consumers.”

Airtel MD and CEO of Africa operations Raghunath Mandava said, “Airtel Africa's gross revenue grew by 14 per cent on a Y-o-Y basis. Data traffic grew by 75 per cent, voice minutes increased by 44 per cent and Airtel Money throughput grew by 43 per cent on a y-o-y basis. Consequently, EBITDA margin has expanded by 7.8 per cent y-o-y. Q1 EBITDA margin is 36.4 per cent. With 4G services live across nine countries and continuing up-gradation of capacities across the OPCOs, we remain best placed to capture the ever growing data market. We have rolled out ~1,000 broadband towers during the quarter. We continue our focus on profitable growth through superior customer offerings and expanding our Airtel money base - which now transacts more than US$ 24 billion on an annualised basis.”

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