* Net profit 2.29 bln rupees vs 2.65 bln rupees consensus
* Higher network operating expenses eat into profit
* Revenue up 11 pct from year earlier, beats estimates
NEW DELHI, Jan 29 Indian mobile phone carrier
Idea Cellular Ltd reported a smaller-than-expected 14
percent increase in quarterly profit as higher network operating
costs ate into margin.
Idea, India's best-performing telecoms stock last year, said
on Tuesday consolidated net profit rose to 2.29 billion rupees
($42.5 million) for its fiscal third quarter ended Dec. 31, from
2.01 billion rupees a year earlier.
It was the third straight quarter of earnings growth for the
country's No. 3 mobile carrier by revenue.
Revenue rose an annual 11 percent to 55.79 billion rupees at
the company, part of the Aditya Birla conglomerate and also
part-owned by Malaysia's Axiata Group Bhd.
Analysts had expected Idea to report net profit of 2.65
billion rupees on revenue of 55.20 billion rupees, according to
Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Unlike rivals such as market leader Bharti Airtel Ltd
and Reliance Communications Ltd, Idea
operates only mobile phone services, not submarine cables and
fixed lines, and has exposure only to the domestic market.
Bharti has expanded into other markets including Africa,
where it faces high costs and is struggling to improve margins.
Some analysts and investors favour Idea for its more focused
Morgan Stanley said in a note last Friday it expected Idea
shares to outperform the country's main indexes in the next 15
days as the company's earnings were likely to be viewed
positively by markets.
The domestic outlook for big Indian carriers has improved in
recent months as several smaller rivals have either folded or
cut back operations after a court order last year to revoke
permits awarded in a scandal-tainted sale.
Bharti Airtel and Idea recently raised call prices by
withdrawing offers and cutting discounts as they face higher
Idea said its average realised rate per minute (ARPM), a key
metric for telecom network operators, fell to 0.411 rupees in
December quarter from 0.413 rupees in the previous quarter.
Adverse currency movement led to a foreign exchange loss of 133
million rupees during the quarter, it said.
Ahead of the earnings, shares in Idea, valued at about $7
billion, closed 0.9 percent higher at 113.90 rupees.
($1 = 53.9050 Indian rupees)
(Reporting by Devidutta Tripathy and Aradhana Aravindan;
Editing by Daniel Magnowski and Mark Potter)