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Vodafone Idea Q4 loss at Rs 4,882 cr; co says strategic initiatives taking effect

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New Delhi: India’s largest telecom operator Vodafone Idea said its consolidated loss has narrowed sequentially to Rs 4,881.9 crore in March 2019 quarter, as strategic initiatives to improve revenue and average realisation from subscribers helped financials.

The loss has narrowed from Rs 5,004.6 crore during the third quarter of 2018-19, aided by 3.4 per cent drop in total expenses.

The books of Vodafone Idea recorded a comprehensive loss of Rs 962.2 crore in the corresponding quarter a year ago, but the year-on-year figure is not comparable as the merger between India unit of Vodafone Group and Idea Cellular was completed on August 31, 2018.

 

For Vodafone Idea — whose financials has been battered by intense competition posed by the richest Indian Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio — the revenue from operations for March quarter of 2018-19 came in at Rs 11,775 crore, almost flat compared to Rs 11,764.8 crore logged in the previous December quarter.

A Vodafone Idea statement highlighted that the company has seen a “sequential stabilisation of revenues in Q4” benefitting from the introduction of ‘service validity vouchers’ that require customers to make a minimum recharge of Rs 35.

“As expected, this resulted in a decline of 53.2 million subscribers as ‘Incoming-only’ or ‘Low ARPU’ customers migrated their spending from multiple SIMs to single SIM, taking the overall subscriber base to 334.1 million,” the statement said.

Vodafone Idea said that its revenues grew by 0.1 per cent quarter-on-quarter in Q4, and noted that the Average Revenue per User (ARPU) for the said period grew by 16.3 per cent to Rs 104, from Rs 89 in the October-December 2018 period.

“The initiatives we have taken since the merger are yielding positive results and we are well on track to deliver our synergy targets two years early,” Vodafone Idea CEO Balesh Sharma said.

He added that the company remains focused on fortifying its position in key profitable districts by expanding coverage and capacity of its 4G network, targeting higher share of new 4G customers, and improving cash flows through cost transformation.

For the full FY2019, the company’s loss stood at Rs 14,603.9 crore, while the revenue from operations was pegged at Rs 37,092.5 crore.

The company attributed the reduction to disconnection of ‘incoming only’ or ‘low ARPU’ customers.

During the three months ended March 2019, the company added 5.4 million 4G customers, taking its overall 4G base to 80.7 million. The broadband subscriber base for the quarter was 110.2 million. The total data volumes grew by 9 per cent sequentially to 2,947 billion MB, while total minutes on the network declined by 1.3 per cent during the quarter.

Gross debt stood at Rs 1,25,940 crore, including deferred spectrum payment obligations owed to the government of Rs 90,680 crore.

The Vodafone Idea scrip closed at Rs 14.45 a piece on the BSE, 3.21 per cent higher than the previous close. The results were announced after market hours.

Despite improvement in operational metrics, the earnings scorecard of Vodafone Idea – and of Bharti Airtel last week – underline the challenge telecom players face to grow profitability in India.

The Indian telecom sector, in spite of massive data and voice consumption, has been battered by falling tariffs, eroding profitability, and towering debt, in the face of stiff competition triggered by disruptive offerings of Reliance Jio.

Telecom operator Bharti Airtel recently reported a surprise 29 per cent surge in March quarter net profit to Rs 107.2 crore, aided only by exceptional income gains. The revenue for the Sunil Mittal company soared 6.2 per cent to Rs 20,602.2 crore during the same period.

Rival Reliance Jio, however, posted 64.7 per cent jump in net profit to Rs 840 crore in the March quarter of 2018-19 (Rs 510 crore in year ago period). Its operating revenue was up 55.8 per cent to Rs 11,106 crore during the reported quarter.


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RBI’s vision document on payment systems to spur digital economy: Fintech firms

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New Delhi: The RBI’s ‘Payment Systems Vision 2021’ document would act as a catalyst for promoting digital economy and instill confidence among the general public, fintech companies say.

Aiming at a ‘cash-lite’ society, the Reserve Bank of India last week released the vision document for ensuring a safe, secure, convenient, quick and affordable e-payment system as it expects the number of digital transactions to increase more than four times to 8,707 crore in December 2021.

The RBI has said it will implement the approach outlined in the document during the period 2019 – 2021.

 

COO of Payworld Praveen Dhabhai said the vision document has a focus on empowering payment system providers and at the same time providing ease to consumers.

“We are confident with our vision as a payment system provider aligned with the regulators, we will be able to contribute in increasing the digital transactions penetrations especially in the assisted segment in smaller cities and rural Indian,” he said.

Navin Surya, Chairman Emeritus, Payments Council of India said: “Clarity in defining outcomes in terms of scale of digital and overall payments vis a vis GDP is a very good measurement to look forward to and also assess the impact of work done by all stakeholders.”

However, KYC simplicity, digital KYC and KYC bureau, as well as simplification of existing policies to enable NBFCs to issue credit cards is missing from the document, said Surya, who is also the chairman of Fintech Convergence Council.

Mandar Agashe, founder and vice chairman, Sarvatra Technologies, was of the opinion that the 24X7 helpline that the RBI plans to set will help in instilling confidence in customers regarding the digital payments system.

Other than this, geo-tagging of payment system touchpoints will help companies understand where and what type of transactions are taking place, which will also lead to curtailing frauds, he added.

The document said payment systems like UPI/IMPS are likely to register average annualised growth of over 100 per cent and NEFT at 40 per cent over the vision period (up to December 2021).

The ‘Payment and Settlement Systems in India: Vision 2019 – 2021’, with its core theme of ‘Empowering Exceptional (E)payment Experience’, envisages to achieve “a highly digital and cash-lite society” through the goal posts of competition, cost effectiveness, convenience and confidence (4Cs).

Gaurav Chopra, founder and CEO, IndiaLends, said, “With growing competition, industry players will be able to offer services at an optimal cost to their customers. RBI aims to bring innovation in technology and processes that will eventually save time of end consumers.”

CEO and co-founder of NiYO, Vinay Bagri said some of the measures proposed by RBI, such as self-regulatory organisation, strengthening offline payments and feature phone-based payment services, will go a long way in democratising the payments ecosystem.

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PE inflow in Indian retail real estate doubles to $1.2 bn in 2017, 2018: Anarock

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New Delhi: Indian retail real estate sector attracted private equity investment worth USD 1.2 billion during 2017-18 calendar years, double from the previous two years, according to property consultant Anarock.

The consultant attributed the sharp rise in private equity (PE) inflow to further liberalisation in FDI policies such as 51 percent FDI in multi-brand retail and 100 percent FDI in single-brand retail under the automatic route.

From an investment of USD 600 million during 2015-2016 calendar years, private equity inflows in retail real estate jumped to over USD 1.2 billion between 2017 and 2018.

 

Of total USD 1.84 billion inflow in the last 4 years (2015-2018), tier II and tier III cities attracted nearly 48 percent funds (USD 880 million) against USD 960 million in tier 1 cities.

Top favoured tier II and tier III cities included Amritsar, Ahmedabad, Bhubaneshwar, Chandigarh, Indore and Mohali.

US-based funds like Blackstone and Goldman Sachs have invested more than USD 1 billion between 2015-2018, while UAE, Singapore, Canada and Netherlands based funds were also active.

Shobhit Agarwal, MD & CEO – Anarock Capital says, “our report highlights the fact that unlike the commercial office sector, retail is to some extent geography-agnostic because its success depends on the spending power of its target audience.?

“As a result, shopping malls in tier II and tier III cities have performed as well as, if not better than, their tier 1 counterparts. This also led to increase in rentals and profitability and caused PE investors to start considering investment options outside their accustomed tier I geographies,? he added.

Anuj Kejriwal, MD & CEO – Anarock Retail said, “the opportunity that the Indian retail sector holds in store for PE investors is more than evident – as are the geographies they must focus on for optimum returns.?

Anarock data reveals that around 39 million sq ft of organised retail space is expected to enter the market between 2019-2022. Of this supply, around 71 percent is expected to come up in tier I cities, and the remaining 29 percent in tier II and tier III cities, Kejriwal added.

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Cash, goods worth Rs 3,400 crore seized during Lok Sabha elections 2019:EC

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New Delhi: After the completion of the seventh and final phase of polling , the Election Commission said cash, drugs, liquor and precious metals worth Rs 3,449.12 crore were seized by enforcement agencies since the Lok Sabha polls were announced on March 10.

This is thrice of what agencies seized during the 2014 Lok Sabha poll process. In 2014, law enforcement agencies made seizures worth Rs 1,206 crore, the EC’s director general (election expenditure) Dilip Sharma said.

Law enforcement agencies between March 10 and May 19 seized Rs 839.03 crore in cash, liquor worth Rs 294.41 crore, drugs worth Rs 1,270.37 crore, precious metals, including gold, worth Rs 986.76 crore and “freebies”, including sarees, wrist watches, aimed at inducing voters worth Rs 58.56 crore were seized.

 

EC officials said they directed social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp, to remove several that were found to violate the EC’s code.They said social media platforms removed 909 posts. Facebook removed 650 posts, Twitter took down 220 posts, ShareChat removed 31, YouTube five and WhatsApp three.

Of the 650 posts taken down by Facebook, 482 were political messages posted during the “silence period”. The “silence period” starts 48 hours before the hour set for conclusion of polling in a particular phase. The seventh phase of polling came to a close at 6 pm on Sunday, so the “silence period” had begun at 6 pm on Friday for this phase.

As many as 73 social media posts were political advertisements in the “silence period”, two were in violation of the Model Code of Conduct, 43 were related to voter “misinformation”, 28 were dubbed as those crossing the limits of decency, 11 were related to exit polls and 11 were hate speeches, Ojha said.

There were also 647 confirmed cases of paid news, of which the maximum of 342 were reported in the first phase itself, he added. During the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, 1,297 confirmed cases of paid news were reported, Ojha said.

The EC on Sunday continued to receive criticism from the Opposition while Prime Minister Narendra Modi thanked it for granting him permission for his visit to Uttarakhand’s Kedarnath temple.

Modi visited Kedarnath on Saturday, spent the night in a cave and left for Badrinath on Sunday morning. “I did not ask for anything. I don’t believe in asking because God only wants us to give… all I want is ‘Baba’ Kedarnath bestows his blessings not just upon India but entire mankind,” he said at Kedarnath.

The PM thanked the EC for allowing him to undertake the visit, saying he got two days of “rest” there. The EC had given its nod to Modi’s visit while “reminding” the Prime Minister’s Office that the model code of conduct is still in force.

Congress President Rahul Gandhi said the Election Commission’s “capitulation” before the PM was obvious. “From electoral bonds and EVMs (electronic voting machines) to manipulating the election schedule, NaMo TV, ‘Modi’s Army’ & now the drama in Kedarnath; the Election Commission’s capitulation before Mr Modi & his gang is obvious to all Indians,” Gandhi tweeted. “The EC used to be feared and respected. Not anymore,” he said.

“Polling is over. Now, we can say that the ‘pilgrimage’ of the PM in the last two days is an unacceptable use of religion and religious symbols to influence the voting,” Congress leader P Chidambaram said.

Telugu Desam Party chief N Chandrababu Naidu wrote to the EC stating that “continuous” telecast of the PM’s “private activities” at Badrinath and Kedarnath shrines were in violation of the poll code and should be stopped.

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