Vodafone Idea booked a massive loss for its fiscal Q4 ending 31 March as a result of a contested adjusted gross revenue (AGR) payment, rising financing costs and subscriber losses.

It recorded a net loss of INR116.3 billion ($1.5 billion) compared with a INR48.8 billion loss in the comparable 2019 quarter, with service revenue flat at INR117.3 billion despite a rebound in mobile prices.

Ravinder Takkar, MD and CEO, said the company continues to actively engage with the government about its AGR fees, seeking a comprehensive relief package for the industry which faces critical challenges.

The government previously suggested extending the timeline for outstanding fees by up to 20 years: Vodafone Idea paid INR68.5 billion towards the sum during the quarter.

Total debt at end-March stood at INR1.2 trillion.

Takkar explained while Covid-19 (coronavirus) lockdown measures limited customers’ ability to top-up prepaid SIMs and slowed customer acquisition and network rollouts, “we believe there is no material impact of the pandemic on our overall performance”.

But he noted uncertainties meant the operator continues to monitor the situation closely and will respond if necessary.

ARPU gains
The operator noted prepaid tariffs started to climb in December 2019 following several years of unsustainable pricing, resulting in ARPU rising 16.3 per cent to INR121 in fiscal Q4.

Its subscriber base dropped from 334 million to 291 million, though it added nearly 25 million LTE users for a total of 105.6 million.

Takkar said its network integration is in the final stages, with work completed in 92 per cent of its service areas. It removed surplus equipment from more than 64,000 sites out of the 73,000 co-located sites and exited about 18,000 low utilisation locations.

Capex fell sharply to INR18.2 billion as lockdowns hit rollouts and disrupted equipment supplies.

In the full fiscal year the figure stood at INR101 billion, with a total of 53,000 FDD and 58,800 TDD LTE sites deployed nationally.