July 30, 2018 / 10:40 AM / a year ago

Idea Cellular turns in first-quarter profit on tower sale gain

(Reuters) - India’s Idea Cellular Ltd reported a surprise quarterly profit on Monday on a one-time gain from the sale of telecom towers, but an aggressive pricing war set in motion by deep-pocketed rival Reliance Jio continued to dent its topline.

A woman speaks on her mobile phone as she stands in front of a shop displaying the Idea Cellular Ltd's logo on its shutter in Kolkata, November 13, 2017. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri/Files

Net profit came in at 2.57 billion rupees ($37.43 million) for the quarter ended June 30, compared with a net loss of 8.15 billion rupees last year, Idea said in a statement here

Analysts, on average, were expecting a net loss of 13.71 billion rupees, according to estimates by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

However, a gain of about 33.65 billion rupees from the sale of Idea Cellular Infrastructure Services, helped the company turn in a profit.

Revenue from operations fell about 28 percent to 58.89 billion rupees.

The highly competitive market has forced smaller rivals to exit and prompted Idea to merge operations with Vodafone’s Indian unit. India’s telecom department has given the deal its nod, Idea said last week.

The merger, which will potentially create India’s biggest telecom operator, is expected to close shortly, it added.

Idea’s larger rival Bharti Airtel Ltd posted a surprise profit last week, helped by tax gains, but its bottomline remained under pressure as it tries to keep up with Mukesh Ambani-backed Jio’s cut-price strategy.

Shares of Idea closed 3.6 percent higher on Monday.

($1 = 68.6700 Indian rupees)

Reporting by Chris Thomas in Bengaluru; Editing by Sunil Nair and Vyas Mohan

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