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Jio challenge causing damage for Bharti Airtel

Location India. Red pin on the map.

Bharti Airtel has reported its annual figures, and while there is nominal growth across the twelve months, a notable decline in Q4 indicates the Jio pressure might be starting to weight heavy.

While some telcos around the world would be satisfied with 1% year-on-year growth for annual revenues, a minor increase in one of the worlds’ growing smartphone markets indicates something might be wrong. That said, if there was a minor pat on the back for the year, a 7.1% decline in revenues during the final quarter is a massive red flag.

“The sustained predatory pricing by the new operator has led to a decline in revenue growth for the second quarter in a row,” said Gopal Vittal, CEO for India & South Asia.

“The telecom industry as a whole also witnessed a revenue decline for the first time ever on a full year basis. The deteriorating health of the industry was compounded by the tsunami of incoming voice traffic from the new operator as a result of which significant investments had to be made just to carry the incoming traffic on our network.”

Total revenues for the year stood at roughly $14.8 billion, a 1.1% increase, though it was just under $3.4 billion for the final quarter, a decline of 8.8% year-on-year in total, with India accounting for a 7.1% drop. Net income saw a significant drop of 72% for the quarter, though this was only down 37.5% across the twelve months.

In truth, Bharti Airtel has been resolute in the face of adversity, though it would appear the steady flow of customers out the door and into the waiting arms of Reliance Jio has hit. And it has hit hard. Last quarter, also demonstrated a decline, but this one seems a lot more pessimistic for the market incumbent.

Perhaps the most worry thought is what the future damage. Jio might not be able to continue the freebie offer which is killing the competition, but it has still demonstrating some gains in customer numbers this quarter. It would be a fair assumption a good proportion of these customers will have come from Bharti Airtel.

It also wouldn’t be a bad bet to assume another blow to Bharti Airtel revenues in the next quarter, though it continues to attempt to compete with Jio for customers, that valuable profit margin will begin to look slimmer and slimmer. This is only the beginning, there is potential for things to get a whole lot worse.

The fact that Bharti Airtel is seriously struggling in one of the few smartphone markets which is actually demonstrating a bit of buoyancy, shows the threat of Jio. We all knew Jio was going to cause a problem, but this is turning into a fresh, new hell to the market stalwart.


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