Vodafone Idea recorded a slightly lower consolidated loss in its fiscal Q4, as new initiatives resulted in higher ARPU and its integration programme yielded increased cost savings.

Balesh Sharma, CEO, said: “We are pleased with the rapid progress we have made to deliver on our stated strategy. The initiatives we have taken since the merger are yielding positive results and we are well on track to deliver our synergy targets two years early.”

“We remain focused on fortifying our position in key profitable districts by expanding coverage and capacity of our 4G network, targeting higher share of new 4G customers by offering an enhanced network experience.”

He added that an oversubscription of its recent rights issue, the largest in India, is a clear testament to investors’ support for its strategy.

In the January to March period, net loss dropped to INR48.8 billion ($695 million) from INR50 billion the previous quarter. Year-on-year comparisons aren’t available as the company was formed in August 2018.

Revenue was flat at INR117.8 billion (0.1 per cent higher) and ARPU grew 16.3 per cent to INR104.

In a statement, the operator said strategic initiatives taken after the merger to improve revenue and ARPU have “started to become visible in our financial results”, with average daily revenue up 2.3 per cent sequentially in the three months to end-March after “successive declines for the 11 prior quarters, benefitting from the introduction of service validity vouchers”.

The nationwide rollout of the vouchers, which required customers to make a minimum recharge of INR35 (with 28 days validity), resulted in the loss of 53.2 million subscribers as low-ARPU users migrated their spending from multiple to single SIMs, leaving it with 334.1 million subs at end-March.

4G growth
During the quarter, it added 5.4 million 4G customers, taking the overall base to 80.7 million.

Total operating expenses declined due to the realisation of merger initiatives, it said, with underlying operating expenses (excluding licence fees and spectrum usage charges) dropping 14.6 per cent to INR74.8 billion compared with fiscal Q1 (the last quarter prior to completion of the merger) after adjusting for certain one-offs.

Network integration efforts saw it remove surplus equipment at 24,000 sites out of the total 67,000 co-located sites. In additional, it exited about 9,900 low-utilisation sites, with the initiatives yielding significant cost savings, the company said.

It added 8,915 4G sites during the quarter, taking its LTE population coverage to 65 per cent.

Capex for fiscal 2019 totalled INR102 billion.