Profitable Calls

NEW DELHI, January 22, 2009 (AFP) – Top Indian mobile phone firm Bharti Airtel reported a third-quarter net profit rise of 25 percent Thursday after signing a record number of users in the world’s fastest-growing cellular market. Net profit in the three months to December-end jumped to 21.59 billion rupees (434 million US dollars) from 17.22 billion rupees one year ago.

“Bharti Airtel continues to lead the telecom growth story adding customer and revenue market share despite intense competition,” company chairman and managing director Sunil Bharti Mittal said in a statement.

“Bharti’s strategy of extensive roll out ahead of competition, especially in new villages, has yielded rich dividends,” he said.

Revenues at the company, in which Southeast Asia’s leading phone firm Singapore Telecommunications holds a 31 percent stake, climbed 38 percent to 96.3 billion rupees in the fiercely competitive market where rates are the cheapest in the world — as low as one cent a minute.

Bharti, whose mobile market share stands at 24.7 percent with 88 million subscribers, has been driving down call prices as it seeks to crowd out new players.