While India mobile subscriber base growth was somewhat flat at 283 million, there has been a robust 10 per cent growth in 4G
subscriber base to 148 million. Share of 4G
customers has crossed the halfway mark for the first time. Given the price hikes, this growth comes at a higher tariff bracket. Data traffic, too, has seen a decent growth of 16 per cent sequentially as compared to 6 per cent growth for RJio.
While India wireless operating profit growth was up 27 per cent sequentially, it was below estimates given a 7.7 per cent increase network operating costs. In addition to this, sales, general and administration costs, as well as employee costs (up 7-10 per cent) dented the gains at the operating level. Despite the uptick in revenues and growth in operating profit, a slew of one-offs, especially Rs 5,600 crore towards regulatory costs (spectrum charge), led to a fourth consecutive quarter of loss for the company. The exceptional costs at Rs 7,512 crore dented the bottom line which came in at Rs 5,237 crore.
What was worrying in the quarter was a reversal of the trend related to capital expenditure. The expenditure more than doubled on a sequential basis to over Rs 11,000 crore in Q4 and accounted for 46 per cent of the total capex in FY20. Debt increased in the quarter and including the balance liability portion of adjusted gross revenues, total net debt has crossed the Rs 1 trillion mark, while net debt to operating profit stands at 3.5 times.