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India drives growth at Hutch Tel

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CIOL Bureau
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HONG KONG: Hutchison Telecommunications International Ltd. said on Tuesday that its mobile user base rose 9.6 percent in the third quarter, driven by growth in India, although per-user revenues continued to slide in its largest market.

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HTIL, which plans to spin-off its India unit in an initial public offering possibly in 2006, said its global users totalled nearly 15.1 million at the end of September, a gain of 1.3 million.

In India, its customer base rose by 15 percent in the three months, to nearly 9.71 million.

But average revenues per user in its core India market fell to 518 rupees (US$11.30) per month during the third quarter, a drop of 6.5 percent from the previous quarter and 11 percent from the year-earlier quarter.

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The emerging markets mobile phone arm of conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa Ltd. also has networks in Hong Kong, Thailand, Israel and elsewhere.

HTIL, which recently agreed to spend $1.16 billion to buy networks in India that will give it a nationwide footprint, said growth will be driven by that market as well as Indonesia and Vietnam, where it is starting up operations.

"The competitive operating market has, as expected, resulted in a slight decline in ARPU levels in most markets," Chief Financial Officer Tim Pennington said in a statement.

The company managed to improve subscriber retention in India, with the average monthly customer churn falling to 5.5 percent a during the quarter, an improvement on its 6.1 percent churn rate in the second quarter and 8 percent churn in the year-earlier quarter.

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