CORPORATE FORTUNES

Vodafone Idea Partners Alarmed By Subs Losses

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Vodafone Idea subscriber losses raised concerns among its joint venture partners of a need to invest more to fuel a turnaround in its fortunes, The Economic Times (ET) reported.

In the year to end-March, its subscriber base dropped 43 million to 291 million, though it expanded the proportion of LTE users by 25 million to 105.6 million.

ET cited an Axis Capital prediction the Indian operator had shed another 15 million subscribers in Q2, which would potentially result in Vodafone Idea falling to third place behind Bharti Airtel in terms of total users.

Airtel ended March with 284 million subscribers, up 3.5 million on end-March 2019, and Reliance Jio had 388 million after adding 57 million, data from GSMA Intelligence showed.

A Vodafone Idea source told ET possible relief from the Supreme Court regarding spreading adjusted gross revenue payments over 20 years was a separate issue and unconnected with the “dim business prospects we face. The business is hanging by a thread”.

Analysts said Vodafone Idea had underinvested in its network, meaning it will need additional capital to compete with its rivals, the newspaper reported.

Vodafone Group CEO Nick Read and CFO Margherita Della Valle have both gone on record numerous times to assure shareholders no further funds would be spent on the joint venture, and Aditya Birla Group in April denied reports it was planning to tip an additional US$125 million to US$150 million into the operator.

In the fiscal year ending 31 March, Vodafone Idea recorded a net loss of INR116.3 billion (US$1.6 billion) compared with an INR48.8 billion loss the prior year, with service revenue flat at INR117.3 billion despite a rebound in mobile prices.

The wider loss was a result of a INR68.5 billion payment for a contested AGR fee.

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