- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 10, 2010

MUMBAI, INDIA (AP) - Bharti Airtel’s profit slid in the latest quarter as India’s largest mobile phone company lost market share and cut call rates amid hyper-competition in its fast-growing home market.

Net profit for the July-September quarter was 16.6 billion rupees ($374.3 million), down 26.6 percent from a year earlier, the company said Wednesday.

Revenue grew 47 percent from the year before to 152.2 billion rupees ($3.4 billion), including 38.9 billion rupees ($876.7 million) from its first full quarter of operations in Africa. India and South Asia revenue grew 9.2 percent.

Bharti’s market share in India slid to 20.8 percent from 23.4 percent a year earlier, and rates per minute dropped 21 percent to 0.44 rupees, or just less than one cent.

The company in June completed its $10.7 billion acquisition of the Africa assets of Kuwaiti cell phone operator Zain, in one of the largest cross-border deals in Indian history. Higher taxes related to its Africa business also hurt profits, the company said.

A poll of analysts by Thomson Reuters had forecast net profit of 16.7 billion rupees ($376.3 million) and revenue of 151.6 billion rupees ($3.4 billion).

“Things still look very bright given the low penetration in the rural parts of the country,” Sanjay Kapoor, chief executive for India and South Asia operations, told reporters. “In a hypercompetitive environment now there’s a bit of stability.”

Bharti said it plans to start rolling out high-speed 3G services in India this quarter.

The stock fell 0.4 percent to 332.8 rupees ($7.5) in early trading on the Bombay Stock Exchange.

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