April 28, 2018 / 9:50 AM / 3 months ago

India's Idea Cellular posts 6th straight quarterly loss

April 28 (Reuters) - Idea Cellular Ltd, India’s third-biggest telecoms carrier, posted a sixth straight quarterly net loss that was narrower than expected but showed the firm continues to battle intense competition sparked by upstart rival Reliance Jio.

The company said on Saturday its net loss widened to 9.62 billion rupees ($144 million) in the quarter ended March 31, from 3.28 billion rupees in the same period a year earlier.

That compared with the 14.96 billion rupees average loss estimate compiled from 13 analyst forecasts, Thomson Reuters data showed.

Operations were also hit by a regulatory change. Effective February, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India had cut international termination charges (ITC) - a fee paid by global long-distance operators to local carriers - to 30 paise from 53 paise.

Idea Celluar said quarterly revenue from operations dropped 25 percent to 61.37 billion rupees.

Idea’s results come shortly after India’s top mobile carrier, Bharti Airtel Ltd, posted its lowest quarterly profit in nearly 15 years last Tuesday. It was hurt by the telecoms price war as well as the cut in international termination fees.

Meanwhile Idea said its merger with Vodafone Group Plc’s Indian unit was likely in the first half of 2018.

“The merger of Idea and Vodafone India is in the final leg of regulatory approvals,” Idea said in a statement, adding that both companies have set up project management teams and had begun planning identifying “capex and opex synergies”.

The merger, announced in March last year, will potentially create India’s biggest telecom operator. It comes after the launch of Reliance Jio in late 2016 sparked a brutal price war, pushing smaller carriers to exit and forcing consolidation in the sector.

$1 = 66.6100 Indian rupees Reporting by Jessica Kuruthukulangara in Bengaluru and Sankalp Phartiyal in Mumbai Editing by Kenneth Maxwell

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