Bharti Airtel reported a profit drop of 77.8 per cent in its fiscal Q4 2017, as the company continued to feel the effects of increased competition in India which led to an intense price war.

In an earnings statement for the quarter ending 31 March 2018, Gopal Vittal, MD and CEO of India and South Asia suggested “below cost, artificially suppressed pricing” was behind the poor performance.

“Industry revenues were further adversely impacted this quarter due to the reduction in international termination rates,” he added.

The operator reported net income of INR830 million ($12.5 million), a sharp fall from INR3.73 billion in the same quarter year prior. Revenue dropped 10.5 per cent to INR196.34 billion from INR219.35 billion, which was attributed to the termination rate cuts.

Airtel’s profit drop is its largest in 15 years, The Economic Times reported, but the operator did manage to avoid reporting a loss for the quarter as tipped by market watchers in the country earlier this month.

Increased competition
The company’s performance has been severely impacted over the last 18 months or so after a change in India’s mobile landscape instigated by the entrance of Reliance Jio.

Jio launched initial services in September 2016 and amassed more than 175 million subscribers so far. Financial Times noted Airtel reported a net profit of INR26.1 billion in the same period of 2016, before Jio’s launch.

In India, Airtel reported quarterly revenue of INR147.6 billion, a 13 per cent drop year-on-year, with mobile turnover dropping 20 per cent to INR103.5 billion.

Despite the decline, the operator’s mobile subscriber base grew 4.9 per cent to more than 304 million, contributing to an overall customer base of more than 413 million.

In Africa, Airtel reported a small drop in revenue from INR50.5 billion in fiscal Q4 2016 to INR49.7 billion in the recent period, but on a constant currency basis the figure grew 11 per cent to $791 million, up from $715 million. Its African customer base also grew 11.5 million to 89 million in total. Airtel Money customers increased to 11.5 million, from 9 million in fiscal Q4 2016.