Bharti Airtel’s Africa operations post a net profit of $83 million for the March-end quarter, compared with a net loss of $49 million a year ago, and helped mainly by increased consumption of data services and a rise in the transaction value on the Airtel Money platform.
Airtel Africa’s net income for the January-March quarter, which fell from $123 million in the October-December period, was dragged by an exceptional loss of $ 7 million, “mainly on account network modernisation across various OPCOs (operating companies),” the company said in its quarterly earnings report issued Tuesday.
Total revenue for Airtel Africa – which is preparing for a public listing on the London Stock Exchange around June this year to raise $1.5-1.6 billion – rose 6% on-year to $781 million, though it fell from $783 million sequentially.
“Data usage per customer during the quarter was at 1,375 MBs as compared to 963 MBs in the corresponding quarter last year, an increase of 42.7%,” the company said, adding that data customers increased by 5.1 million on years to 30.0 million, representing 30.4% of the total customer base, as compared to 27.9% in the year-ago quarter.
Total minutes on network during the just-ended quarter grew 18.3% to 52.9 billion.
The company said its Airtel Money customer base increased 24% on year to 14.2 million, boosting the total transaction value on the Airtel Money platform by 22% to $6.9 billion.
“Airtel Money revenue is at $70 million in the current quarter as compared to $68 million in the previous quarter, reflecting a growth of 3.4%,” the company said.
Airtel Africa, which has nearly 99 million customers and operations in 14 countries in the continent, reported a nearly 16% on-year increase in Ebitda (earnings before interest tax, depreciation & amortisation) at $354 million. On-year Ebitda margin also expanded 2.2% to 43.8% in the fiscal fourth quarter, and expanded from 42% in the fiscal third quarter.
But average revenue per user – a key performance metric – dropped 3.1% on-year and 3.4% sequentially – to $2.7. Voice ARPU fell 3.5% on quarter and 7.2% on year, while data ARPU rose 2.8% sequentially and 6.8% on year.
Total expenses rose 4% on year and 13.2% on quarter, to $593 million, due largely to higher selling and marketing costs, and depreciation and amortisation. Net finance costs however, fell to $71 million from $121 million a year ago, but rose from $53 million in the previous three-month period.
Airtel’s Africa unit has already raise $1.45 billion through pre-IPO placements to the likes of Qatar Investment Authority, Warburg Pincus, Temasek, Singtel and SoftBank Group International, to reduce net debt which stood at $4 billion at March end, down from $7.76 billion a year back, and from $4.19 billion in the October-December quarter.
The fundraise through fresh shares issuances is estimated to have diluted Airtel’s stake in its Africa arm to 67.24% from roughly 71.6%, analysts said.