Bharti Airtel buoyed by improvement in Africa

Bharti_AirtelIndia's Bharti Airtel Ltd has posted its eighth straight quarter of falling profits but its embyonic Africa business has improved

Bharti, the world's fifith-largest mobile carrier, ventured into Africa in 2010 by acquiring most of the African operations of Kuwait's Zain in a US$9bn debt-funded deal. Bharti said it was on track to meet its performance goals in Africa.

"In the near-term, the company will face some pressure due to high loan repayments costs and competitive pressure in the Indian market, but turnaround in Africa business will drive its performance in the medium to long-term," said R.K. Gupta, a fund manager at Taurus Mutual Fund, which owns Bharti shares.

Bharti is controlled by billionaire Sunil Mittal and posted a 22 per cent drop in consolidated net profit to US$206mn for its fiscal third quarter ended December. Its margins are weaker in Africa than in India due to high costs and Bharti has yet to turn a profit on the continent, although its operating performance is improving. Africa revenue rose 16 per cent to US$1.06bn in the quarter.

Bharti is "moving steadily" towards its fiscal 2013 goals of achieving US$5bn in revenue and US$2bn in EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) from Africa, Manoj Kohli, Bharti Airtel's chief executive for international operations, told Reuters.

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