Bharti Airtel, the Indian operator with significant interests in Africa, delivered a 40 per cent growth in first quarter net profit to INR15.54 billion ($243 million), although the hefty increase was driven by an exceptional gain from selling towers in four African countries.
The operator group booked exceptional items of INR14.31 billion that included the sale of tower assets in Uganda, Ghana, Congo Brazzaville and Nigeria, offset by a number of one-off costs.
Group revenue saw less heady growth, up 3 per cent to INR237 billion over the same period last year. The growth was driven by a 57 per cent increase in mobile data revenue. Underlying data traffic grew by 86.5 per cent.
Revenue from the group’s home market saw an 8 per cent growth to INR138 billion, with particularly fast growth from Airtel Business (22 per cent) and its Digital TV business (16 per cent). Profit before tax, finance charges and exceptional items in India grew 14 per cent to INR33 billion.
Less encouraging was the result from Africa where revenue fell by more than 11 per cent to INR62 billion. In constant currency terms, Africa did register a growth but of only one per cent.
Profit before tax, finance charges and exceptional items fell to INR761 million from INR2.78 billion a year earlier.
Groupwide net finance charges shot up to INR19.3 billion from INR9.6 billion a year earlier.
Last month, the parent denied it was planning to exit Africa. The speculation followed its announcement of negotiations to sell its operations in four countries – Burkina Faso, Chad, Congo Brazzaville and Sierra Leone – to Orange. A deal is due to be completed by the end of 2015, hence no figures are concluded in the current financials.