* Q3 net profit 2.84 bln rupees vs est 8.45 bln
* Finance costs rise 69 pct to 13.32 bln rupees
* Shares fall as much as 3.8 pct after results
(Adds details, quotes, byline)
By Devidutta Tripathy
NEW DELHI, Feb 1 (Reuters) - Profit at India's top mobile
network operator Bharti Airtel Ltd fell for the
twelfth successive quarter, with higher costs dragging its
results well below market expectations.
Bharti Airtel, controlled by billionaire Sunil Mittal, said
consolidated net profit fell to 2.84 billion rupees ($53.39
million) in the fiscal third quarter that ended Dec. 31, from
10.11 billion rupees a year earlier.
Revenue rose 9.5 percent to 202.4 billion rupees, but the
company was hit by foreign exchange losses, higher taxes and
Analysts had expected the company to report net profit of
8.45 billion rupees on revenue of 202.79 billion rupees,
according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Shares in the company, valued at $24 billion, were down 2
percent at 0500 GMT, while the broader market was
"Market conditions have been challenging in recent quarters
due to pricing pressures and rising input costs, which have put
enormous pressure on the sector and consequently the margins,"
Chairman Sunil Mittal said in a statement.
"However, the worst seems to be getting over, with
corrections taking place in customer acquisition practices and
the tariffs", he said.
For years, stiff competition in a crowded market has limited
Indian telecoms companies' ability to raise prices. The outlook
for bigger firms including Bharti Airtel has improved since an
early 2012 court order to revoke permits of several operators,
signalling the exit of some smaller companies from the market.
Bharti Airtel and Idea Cellular, India's No. 3
mobile carrier by revenue, recently raised call prices by
withdrawing discounts. This week Idea reported a
smaller-than-expected increase in quarterly profit as higher
network operating costs ate into margins.
NEW SPECTRUM NEEDED
The government wants established operators to pay surcharges
on their airwaves, which will mean a bill of almost $1 billion
for Bharti, the country's No.1 operator by both revenue and
number of subscribers, which also needs to buy new spectrum in
an auction due in March.
In 2010, it ventured into 15 African countries, buying
mobile assets there for $9 billion. It has yet to turn around
the money-losing African businesses.
Finance costs for Bharti Airtel rose 69 percent during the
December quarter to 13.32 billion rupees from a year earlier,
and income tax expense rose 20 percent.
The company also recorded a forex loss of 2.48 billion
rupees compared with a gain of 132 million rupees a year earlier
Monthly average revenue per user, a key metric for telecoms
carriers, rose 4 percent from the previous quarter to 185 rupees
for its Indian operations.
Singapore's SingTel Ltd owns almost a third of the
($1 = 53.1900 Indian rupees)
(Reporting by Devidutta Tripathy, additional reporting by
Aradhana Aravindan in MUMBAI and Reshma Apte in BANGALORE;
Editing by Daniel Magnowski)