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Vodafone Idea posts loss for a second straight quarter since merger

FILE PHOTO: A rickshaw puller speaks on his mobile phone as he waits for customers in front of advertisement billboards belonging to telecom companies in Kolkata, February 3, 2014. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri/File Photo

(Reuters) - Vodafone Idea Ltd reported on Wednesday its second quarterly loss since Vodafone Plc merged its Indian operations with Idea Cellular in August last year, though the figure was smaller than expected.

The loss after tax was 50.05 billion rupees ($699.49 million) in the quarter ended Dec. 31, the company said in a statement, narrower than analysts' forecast for a loss of 52.56 billion rupees indicated by Refinitiv Eikon data.

Competition in India's telecoms industry has ramped up since Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd, owned by Asia's richest man Mukesh Ambani, entered the market in 2016, leading to huge price cuts across the industry.

That resulted in lower average revenue per user (ARPU) and rising debt. While Jio reported a 65 percent jump in quarterly profit, rival Bharti Airtel Ltd posted a 72 percent profit decline.

The shake-up led to consolidation, with London-based Vodafone Plc merging its Indian operations with Idea Cellular last year in a deal worth $23 billion.

For an interactive graphic on Indian telecom companies, click on:

Earlier this year, Vodafone Idea announced its intention to raise 250 billion rupees through a share issue.

Revenue from operations in the third quarter was 117.65 billion rupees, while its average revenue per user (ARPU) came in at 89 rupees.

The Mumbai-based company said its total expenses for the quarter were 182.26 billion rupees, offset in part by a 20.01 billion rupee tax gain.

The telecoms company said the quarterly numbers were not comparable with the previous year on account of last year's merger.

Vodafone Idea closed 1.48 percent lower while the broader Mumbai market ended up 1.17 percent.

($1 = 71.5525 Indian rupees)

(Reporting By Arnab Paul in Bengaluru; Editing by Jan Harvey)