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India’s Bharti Airtel profits plunge 77 percent


India’s largest telecoms operator Bharti Airtel reported an almost 77 percent fall in net profits on Tuesday as it reels from a price war sparked by the country’s richest man.

The mobile giant said consolidated net profit for the quarter ending in September fell to 3.43 billion rupees ($52.98 million) from 14.61 billion rupees for the same period last year.

India’s multi-billion-dollar telecoms industry has been rocked by the September 2016 launch of Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio network, which promised free voice calls for life and drastically reduced tariffs.

“The mobile market continues to experience value erosion and financial stress led by competitive pressures,” Airtel said in a statement, adding that its year-on-year revenues fell by almost 12 percent.

Jio’s arrival has also sparked a rush to market consolidation as competitors try to match the deep pockets of Jio, which is backed by Ambani’s hugely wealthy energy-to-chemicals conglomerate Reliance Industries.

In October Airtel announced it would acquire Tata Teleservices’s struggling mobile business, moving to boost its customer base and add network coverage as it tries to fend off Jio.

In March, British mobile behemoth Vodafone announced the merger of its India unit with Idea Cellular in a long-expected move that will see it overtake Airtel as the nation’s largest telecoms operator.

It came a month after Airtel declared that it was buying the local operations of Telenor to enhance its spectrum coverage as the Norwegian firm decided to exit the Indian market.

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