Vodafone Idea (Vi) arrested the fall in its revenue market share (RMS) in the September quarter — the first time since Vodafone India and Idea Cellular merged more than three years ago — helped by strong recovery in urban markets such as Delhi, Kolkata, Maharashtra and Gujarat.
Analysts attributed it mainly to segmented tariff increases implemented around August in the base prepaid voice and postpaid corporate users segments.
Vi, formed in August 2018, reported a steady 18.6% RMS in the fiscal second quarter – equivalent to the number reported in the April-June period, latest telco financial data collated by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) showed.
Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio have grown revenue share, reporting 101 basis points (bps) and 63 bps sequential gains, respectively, to take their September-quarter RMS levels to 35.9% and 40.2%.
Airtel, in fact, gained maximum RMS among the three private telcos, helped by strong performances in the metros and `category A’ markets. The RMS is a measure of overall telecom market leadership.
“Vi’s Q2 RMS is stable at 18.6%…it has shown good recovery in the metro and A’ circles, except AP, and its market share will hereon be determined by its ability to translate the (latest) tariff hike taken into adjusted gross revenue (AGR),” ICICI Securities said, analysing Trai data on telco financials.
Brokerage CLSA, backed the view, saying “revenue growth in the metros was led by Bharti and Vi, which reported 33-46% QoQ growth”.
Analysts, in fact, expect Vi to see a near 70% jump in operating income and a 14% rise in revenue in FY22 itself following its decision to increase all prepaid tariffs by up to 25% from November 25.
They are also hopeful a recent Trai regulation barring telcos and channel partners from making discriminatory tariff offers to lure customers of rival operators through the mobile number portability (MNP) route from September 2021 will help Vi limit customer losses and hold on to revenue share.
Loss-making Vi has over the last three years lost millions of customers and revenue share every quarter to its two financially-stronger rivals–Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel. This was mainly due to the cash-strapped telco’s inability to invest adequately in expanding its 4G networks to match Jio and Airtel on mobile broadband coverage. Failure to raise adequate funds has only compounded matters, resulting in Vi’s customer base crashing to 253 million at the end of September from 408 million at merger. During this time, its RMS, too, almost halved to 18.6% from well over 32%.
But, backed by a recently announced reforms package by the government, some specific price hikes that it took in August and the broad based rate increases for prepaid users effective Thursday, things are beginning to look up for the beleaguered telco, said experts.
BNP Paribas said “Vi still remains a leading operator in Kerala, Gujarat, Mumbai and Haryana with more than 30% market share”.
Vi’s quarterly adjusted gross revenue (including NLD revenue) was also 1.8% higher sequentially at Rs 8,700 crore in the July-September period.
Airtel and Jio too have grown their quarterly AGR in the July-September period.
Trai data showed Airtel and Jio’s AGR (including NLD revenue) increased by 4.9% and 3.6% sequentially to Rs 16,700 crore and Rs 18,700 crore, respectively, in the fiscal second quarter.
ICICI Securities said Airtel had for “the third quarter in a row, added more incremental AGR compared to Jio, clearly benefiting from strong market share gains in metros and A’ circles, which are growing fast”.
Jio, it said, “continued to gain market share in `B’ and `C’ circles (rural markets),” although these are relatively smaller and saw lower revenue growth.
Jefferies, though, said that while Vi managed to “control market share decline in the metros”, the overall market share shift continues towards Jio and Airtel.
The global brokerage, in fact, estimates Airtel’s RMS to grow to 39% through FY22-24, which should help drive 17%/21% CAGR in its consolidated revenues and Ebitda during the period.
Overall September quarter sectoral AGR (including NLD) rose 1.9% sequentially to Rs 46,600 crore, said ICICI Securities, adding that this was driven by a combination of strong 4G user adds and selective tariff hikes taken by Airtel and Vi around July-August.
After the tariff hikes taken by Airtel and Vi this month, Jefferies estimates “telecom sector revenues to grow from $26 billion to $33 billion by FY24”.