Second Covid-19 wave may delay 5G auctions: Bharti Airtel CEO Gopal Vittal

Airtel’s CEO Gopal Vittal
Bharti Airtel chief executive officer (CEO) Gopal Vittal said on Tuesday that 5G auctions may get delayed by a few months beca­use of the second wave of the coronavirus.


“Earlier, the impression was that the auctions would hap­pen by December this year but with the pandemic, it may get delayed by a few months,” Vittal said in a post earnings conference call.


In the 4G spectrum auctions held in March this year, Reliance Jio emerged the highest bidder beating incumbents Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea by a wide margin. The Centre would get Rs 77,815 crore from the two-day auction—one of the shortest in a decade. 


Bharti Airtel has been impacted by the second Covid wave as it is witnessing some financial pressure in the form of consolidation by a certain section of customers.


“Within the company, too, over the last 45 days, we have seen almost 12 per cent of our people go down with Covid – that is almost 5 times more than what we saw in September 2020. Sadly, we have lost 13 of our colleagues as well. As far as the financial impact of coronavirus is concerned, it is due to the lockdown with the migrants moving back to their hometowns and consolidating their mobile connections," Vittal said.


Bharti Airtel on Monday reported a consolidated net profit of Rs 759 crore in the fourth quarter of 2020-21, after provisioning for the adjusted gross revenue (AGR) payment due to the Central government.


The company’s revenues stood at Rs 25,747 crore, up 17.6 per cent year-on-year (YoY) on a comparable basis and 11.9 per cent on a reported basis.


Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) stood at Rs 12,583 crore, up 28.9 per cent YoY, leading to an improvement of 647 basis point (bp) YoY and 300 bp sequentially in margins to 48.9 per cent.


“During the quarter, the company continued to recognise its AGR obligations based on the court judgment and guidelines/clarifications received from the department of telecommunications in respect of licence fees and spectrum usage charges,” Airtel said in the statement.


Bharti Airtel’s average revenue per user (ARPU), the matrix that measures the revenue generated per unit or subscriber, stood at Rs 145. The India business accounts for over 70 per cent of Airtel’s revenue, and within India, the mobile business is about three-fourth of the revenue.


Mobile revenues grew 19.1 per cent YoY on account of improved realisations as well as strong customer addition.


Airtel’s 4G data customers increased 31.5 per cent YoY to 179.3 million, with an addition of 43 million over the last four quarters. Average data usage per data customer was 16.4 gigabytes a month while voice usage was at 1,053 minutes per customer a month.

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