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Mixed Fortunes for Indian Operators

The Indian telecom market might be growing by more than 10 million new subscribers each month, but that's not being reflected in the financial performance of all the country's carriers.

  • State-owned Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd. (MTNL) , for example, has just reported a net loss of 468.47 million Indian Rupees ($9.9 million) for its fiscal first quarter ended June 30, compared with a net profit of INR1.13 billion ($23.7 million) a year earlier. (See MTNL Reports Q1.)

    And MTNL, which operates in the Delhi and Mumbai metro service circles, reported a decrease in revenues, from INR12.1 billion ($254 million) a year ago to INR9.55 billion ($201 million) for the first fiscal quarter of 2009/2010. (See A Guide to India's Telecom Market.)

    Despite adding more than 120,000 new mobile customers during the quarter, to take its total mobile user base to around 4.3 million, MTNL reported a dip in revenues from mobile services, from INR2.26 billion ($47.5 million) to INR1.76 billion ($36.9 million) in this year's quarter, reflecting the impact of intense competition on pricing.

    The operator is currently trying to capitalize on its early entry into the 3G mobile services market by seeking an international partner to help it run its network. (See MTNL Seeks 3G International Rescue and MTNL Launches Low-Cost Pre-Paid 3G .)

    MTNL isn't alone in suffering from the impact of fierce competition from its privately owned rivals: Fellow state-owned carrier Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. (BSNL) is also feeling the squeeze. (See IndiaWatch: Probes, Profits & Payments.)

  • Tata Communications Ltd. , which provides national and international voice and data services to other carriers and enterprise users, is also suffering from shrinking sales and profits. (See Tata Comms Reports Q1, Tata Launches Hotelepresence, and Tata Adds $430M to Asia-Pac.)

    In the three months to the end of June it reported a year-on-year 3.2 percent dip in revenues to INR8.43 billion ($177.6 million), and a 67 percent decrease in net income to INR320 million ($6.7 million).

  • Reliance Communications Ltd. , by contrast, has just reported a 15.5 percent rise in fiscal first-quarter revenues to INR61.45 billion ($1.29 billion), and an 8.3 percent rise in net profit to INR16.37 billion ($345 million), which was higher than anticipated, according to this Bloomberg report. (See Reliance Reports Q1.)

    Unlike MTNL, it benefits from national coverage, and has about 80 million customers for its GSM and CDMA services. It's also set to benefit financially from a new infrastructure-sharing deal with Etisalat . (See Etisalat, Reliance Strike Mega Network Share Deal.)

    Reliance's main mobile rival, Bharti Airtel Ltd. (Mumbai: BHARTIARTL), also announced impressive quarterly financial results recently. (See IndiaWatch: Equity & Earnings.)

    — Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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