* Net profit 5.9 bln rupees vs 5.25 bln estimate
* Revenue up 16 pct, also beating estimate
* Lower competition helping Indian cellular carriers
(Adds details, management comments)
By Devidutta Tripathy and Aradhana Aravindan
NEW DELHI/MUMBAI, April 28 India's Idea Cellular
Ltd reported a 90 percent jump in quarterly profit and
said it was confident about growth, as phone carriers benefit
from reduced competition in the world's second-biggest mobile
phone market after a long price war.
Idea, the country's third-biggest mobile phone operator by
users and revenue, on Monday said consolidated fiscal
fourth-quarter profit rose to 5.9 billion rupees ($97.3
million), ahead of analysts' estimate of 5.25 billion.
Top mobile carriers in India last year started gaining
market share and were able to raise prices of voice calls, their
mainstay, after a gap of almost three years, following a court
order on a licensing scandal that forced some smaller companies
out of the market.
Mobile data is still about 10 percent of the sector's
revenue, but high-margin offerings are growing faster than voice
as more Indians log on to the Internet from their phones,
helping carriers' revenue growth.
"One of the key factors is: the intensity of competition has
come down," Idea Managing Director Himanshu Kapania told a news
conference in Mumbai after the results. "The company is
extremely confident that it will continue to grow in momentum."
Idea, part of India's Aditya Birla conglomerate and nearly a
fifth owned by Malaysia's Axiata, said revenue rose 16
percent from a year earlier to 70.44 billion rupees, ahead of
Monthly average revenue per user, a key metric for telecom
carriers, rose 2.4 percent sequentially to 173 rupees. However,
another key metric, average realisation per minute (ARPM), fell
2.8 percent to 0.436 rupees.
Kapania said the fall in ARPM was a "one-off" and that the
reduction in discounts was not hurting demand.
Unlike its bigger rivals, Idea's focus is only on mobile
phone services and it operates within India, making it a
preferred telecommunication stock for some brokerages.
However, regulatory payouts remain a risk for Indian
carriers. Idea, which bought airwaves worth $1.7 billion this
year, will need to buy more airwaves to renew its permits in
some service areas that are due to expire next year.
The entry of cash-rich conglomerate Reliance Industries
into the telecommunication sector is also a negative
for Idea and top mobile carrier Bharti Airtel.
Shares in Idea, valued at $7.7 billion, edged up 0.1 percent
ahead of the results. The stock is down nearly 16 percent this
year, underperforming a 2 percent gain in Bharti Airtel and a 7
percent rise in the main index.
($1 = 60.6550 Indian Rupees)
(Editing by Matt Driskill and Alison Williams)