* Net profit at 6.10 bln rupees vs 10.44 bln rupees estimate
* Revenue grows 13 percent, ARPU up in India and Africa
* Says mobile data growing in India and Africa markets
(Adds graphic link, updates shares)
By Devidutta Tripathy
NEW DELHI, Jan 29 Bharti Airtel Ltd,
India's top phone carrier, missed expectations but still
reported its first quarterly profit rise in four years as the
embattled domestic market turns the corner after a years-long
Consolidated net profit more than doubled to 6.10 billion
rupees ($97.4 million) from a year earlier , Bharti said on
Wednesday, but was sharply lower than analysts' estimates of
10.44 billion rupees. Before tax-related one-off costs, net
profit was 8.32 billion rupees.
Shares in Bharti, valued at about $20 billion, pared gains
to trade up 0.5 percent at 0540 GMT after rising as much as 2.9
percent after the results were released.
Bharti and its main rivals in India, including the local
unit of Vodafone Group Plc, last year raised voice
prices for the first time in three years. They continue to cut
discounts previously offered to lure customers in a
Carriers have seen benefits of reduced competition after
several smaller rivals were forced by a court order to either
shut down or scale back operations. There are still about a
dozen players, but the top three telecoms now account for more
than 70 percent of mobile industry revenue.
While Bharti's results show a turnaround in the domestic
market, the company faces a serious challenge from a mobile
spectrum auction starting Feb. 3.
The auction is attracting interest from eight carriers,
including cash-rich conglomerate Reliance Industries.
Bharti must buy new airwaves in the auction in at least two key
cities it serves to continue operations there beyond 2014.
The entry by Reliance Industries may prop up bid prices and
the company could challenge Bharti and others if it launches
voice services, analysts say.
Bharti, which entered Africa in 2010 by buying $9 billion in
money-losing mobile phone assets, has yet to turn a profit
there. It could sell its telecoms towers in Africa for up to $2
billion, which would help cut some debt, sources told Reuters
Nearly a third owned by Southeast Asia's top phone carrier
SingTel, Bharti operates in 20 countries across Asia
and Africa, but India is its main market, contributing about 70
percent of its revenue.
Mobile data services were growing fast in India and Africa,
Bharti said in a statement. It said growth had returned to
Nigeria, its largest African market.
Total revenue for the three months ended December rose 13
percent to 219.39 billion rupees, marginally lower than
Average revenue per user, a key metric for telecoms, rose 1
percent sequentially for both Bharti's Indian and African
operations. Total voice minutes sold in India rose 1 percent
from the previous quarter.
($1 = 62.6550 Indian rupees)
(Editing by Matt Driskill)