Telecom targets turnaround
The telecom industry — battered by Reliance Jio’s cheap plans — will witness a turnaround in six months, analysts forecast.
Brokerage Edelweiss Securities said there could be a price recovery after September as the operators benefit from higher mobile broadband penetration and Jio approaches 400 million subscribers.
“Finally, there’s light at the end of the tunnel as we perceive potent catalysts on the horizon — mobile broadband penetration crossing 50 per cent has rendered monetising of existing customer base more lucrative than chasing incremental market share.
“Price hikes are imminent as Jio approaches its 400 million subscriber goalpost and telecom operators’ massive non-core asset monetisation drive.
“These, we envisage, to trigger pricing recovery in telecom operators from the second half of 2019-20,” Edelweiss said.
The brokerage estimates average revenue per user for the industry to rise to a pre-Jio level of Rs 156 by the end of 2021-22. Reliance Jio had entered the market in September 2016.
Edelweiss in its report said operators would raise prices in the latter half of this fiscal as mobile broadband penetration reached around 65 per cent. In a market with relatively high penetration, the operators can afford to focus on pricing against winning market share.
Price wars, analysts say, occur when market share is low. This has happened in the country’s telecom market in 2012-17 and even in China after the launch of 4G.
Analysts, however cautioned Jio’s revenue per user was lower than estimates for the fourth quarter ended March 31, 2019.
Average revenue per user at Rs 126.2 for the period was around 3 per cent lower than Rs 130 on a sequential basis. Subscriber base, however, crossed 300 million in the quarter
The focus will now be on Bharti Airtel, whose board will meet on May 6 to consider the quarterly numbers. The company’s management had told analysts there were about 750 to 800 million unique mobile customers. A small proportion of them contribute to the bulk of the industry revenues. Airtel has been focusing on these quality customers, the management said.