New Delhi: Top telecoms carrier Bharti Airtel reported its 10th straight quarter of profit decline as competition squeezed margins despite gaining subscriber market share from some of its smaller rivals.

Bharti, controlled by billionaire Sunil Mittal, said consolidated net profit fell to 7.62 billion rupees for its fiscal first quarter ended June from 12.15 billion rupees a year earlier.

Analysts had expected a net profit of 12.17 billion rupees.

Bharti dominated customer additions in the three months to June while its smaller rivals including Telenor's India unit braced for a cancellation of their operating permits.

Still, the market of more than a dozen players remains highly competitive, with most carriers in the once-booming sector languishing in the red.

The Supreme Court of India said it would revoke all permits awarded to eight of Bharti's rivals such as Sistema and Idea Cellular in a scandal-tainted 2008 sale. The government is planning to hold a mobile airwaves auction in November before the permits expire.

Carriers have complained that the minimum bid price is too high, with Telenor and Sistema threatening to pull out of India if the auction becomes too costly.

Bigger carriers such as Bharti and Vodafone's local unit are not affected by the court order, although they are looking to buy more airwaves to feed their overstretched networks in the world's second-biggest mobile phone market.

Bharti, nearly a third owned by Southeast Asia's top phone carrier SingTel, operates in 20 countries across Asia and Africa and is the world's fifth-biggest mobile phone carrier by subscribers.


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