Vodafone Idea reported a $7 billion quarterly loss in its fiscal Q2 after booking a huge provision for an adverse regulatory ruling, with the operator posting its fourth consecutive quarterly net loss.

After setting aside INR257 billion ($3.59 billion) to cover an expected increase in fees following a high court ruling regarding the definition of adjusted gross revenue (AGR), its net loss soared to INR509 billion.

Ravinder Takkar, MD and CEO at India’s third-largest operator, said: “We are in active discussions with the government seeking financial relief. At the same time, we remain highly focused on rapid network integration and 4G coverage and capacity expansion in our key markets.”

Over the previous three quarters, the Indian operator had slightly narrowed its losses – in the three months to end-June 2019, it posted a loss of INR48.7 billion, down from an INR50 billion loss in its fiscal Q3 and INR48.8 billion in fiscal Q4.

Rival Bharti Airtel also provisioned funds to pay the disputed fees and recorded a net loss of INR230 billion in the July to September period.

Vodafone Idea’s consolidated revenue in the July to September quarter fell 3.8 per cent sequentially to INR108 billion. Year-on-year comparisons for the quarter are not available, as the merger of Vodafone India with Idea cellular was completed on August 31 2018.

Integration progress
In a statement, the operator said its merger integration is progressing well and is expected to be completed by fiscal Q1 2021, with opex synergies of INR84 billion targeted to be achieved two years earlier than the initial plan set at the time of the merger announcement in March 2017.

The company’s fiscal 2020 capex guidance was cut to INR130 billion from INR170 billion, which was due to lower than expected capacity requirement during the year resulting in capex deferral to the next fiscal year.

Capex in the July to September quarter was INR21.4 billion.

Its subscriber base continued to decline, with the operator losing 9 million subs sequentially and 111 million year-on-year to end September with 311 million. It added 24.5 million LTE customers, taking its overall 4G subscriber base to 90.3 million.

Blended ARPU increased slightly quarter-on-quarter and was up 21.6 per cent from a year ago at INR107 at end-September. Monthly data usage rose to 10.4GB from 8.1GB in the same period in 2018.