UPDATE 1-India's Idea Cellular lifts profit 57 pct on higher voice rates, data use

Mon Jul 21, 2014 7:41am EDT

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July 21 (Reuters) - Indian mobile phone company Idea Cellular reported a 57 percent jump in quarterly profit on Monday, benefiting from fewer competitors, higher call rates and more customers using data plans.

Idea Cellular, India's third-biggest mobile phone operator by users and revenue, said consolidated first-quarter profit was 7.28 billion rupees ($120.8 million), up from 4.63 billion rupees a year earlier.

Analysts had expected Idea, part of India's Aditya Birla conglomerate and nearly a fifth-owned by Malaysia's Axiata , to earn 6.29 billion rupees, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Leading mobile carriers in India started gaining market share in 2013 and were able to raise prices of voice calls after a court order on a licensing scandal forced some smaller companies out of the market (reut.rs/1puQy2p).

Revenue at the company rose to 75.55 billion indian rupees from 65.34 billion rupees last year.

Unlike rival Bharti Airtel, which has other businesses, Idea is solely a mobile phone services company and only and operates within India, making it a preferred telecoms stock for some brokerages.

Monthly average revenue per user, an important metric to evaluate the health of telecoms carriers, rose 4.6 percent on the previous quarter to 181 rupees. Average realisation per minute, another key metric, rose to 0.45 rupees from 0.44 rupees in the fourth quarter.

Idea also said that net debt had been cut by 52.09 million rupees to 139.77 million rupees in the quarter, adding that the reduction allows it to participate in a forthcoming spectrum auction. Idea, which has already bought airwaves for $1.75 billion from a state auction this year, needs to buy more in the next sale to renew its permits in nine service areas.

Idea shares closed at 139.75 rupees in Mumbai. ($1 = 60.2700 Indian Rupees) (Reporting by Nivedita Bhattacharjee in Mumbai; Editing by Prateek Chatterjee and David Goodman)

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