Telecom spectrum auctions done, all eyes now on imminent tariff hikes: Analysts

IIFL Securities, JP Morgan, and Kotak Institutional Equities, in their reports on Thursday, spoke of how the focus will likely shift to tariff hikes, now that the spectrum auction have concluded
Telecom spectrum auctions done, all eyes now on imminent tariff hikes: Analysts
Telecom spectrum auctions done, all eyes now on imminent tariff hikes: Analysts

New Delhi: Telcos' payout in the muted spectrum auction is expected to be manageable, and with bidding process wrapped-up, all eyes are now on tariff hikes which seem to be imminent, a cross-section of analysts said on Thursday.

Multiple analyst reports expressed surprise at Vodafone Idea (VIL's) purchase of Rs 3,510.4 crore worth of spectrum, and highlighted in equal measure that Jio's "muted" spends (Rs 973.62 crore) was in contrast to its earnest money deposit (EMD) that was highest among operators.

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IIFL Securities, JP Morgan, and Kotak Institutional Equities, in their reports on Thursday, spoke of how the focus will likely shift to tariff hikes, now that the spectrum auction have concluded.

"With spectrum auctions behind, all eyes are now on tariff hikes which appear to be imminent," IIFL said.

Kotak too believes that focus will now likely shift to tariff hikes.

"With the spectrum auction behind us, we believe the focus will now shift toward tariff hikes in the coming days," Kotak said.

JP Morgan said the runway to tariff actions is cleared.

"With the conclusion of the auctions (delayed from June 6) without any surprises, ability to take tariff actions should resume. We believe this is likely to have contributed to the sharp stock reactions yesterday. We have baked in tariff hikes of 25 percent spread over 2Q/3QFY25," according to JP Morgan.

IIFL Securities went on to say that VIL's spend was "surprisingly high" as it went after small chunks in the 900 MHz band.

Based on the most-relaxed payment option, the government will see annual receipts of Rs 1,100 crore for 20 years, starting from FY'25.

Crunching the numbers on the estimated payout by companies, it said that if all telcos opt for the most relaxed payment option (20 equal annual instalments), the annual payout works to 10 percent of total bid value for NPV preservation at 8.65 percent interest rate.

"This translates into Rs 1bn/Rs 7bn/Rs3.5 billion (Rs100/Rs700/Rs350 crore) for Jio/Bharti/Vi, quite manageable," it said.

CLSA said there is unlikely be any significant change in competitive dynamics between the three operators, with the latest wins.

"Reliance Jio and Bharti already control a combined 78 percent of the sector revenue, which we forecast will reach 83 percent by FY26. We keep our FY24/27 share forecasts unchanged and will factor in auction spend/payments following the spectrum allocations," it said.

CLSA termed as "key surprise" Vodafone Idea buying spectrum in 11 markets for Rs 3,500 crore, while Reliance Jio, which had put a maximum EMD, spent a mere Rs 970 crore.

Kotak said, as expected, Bharti was the most active telco, securing 97 MHz spectrum at an overall outlay of about Rs 6,900 crore, followed by Vodafone Idea with 30 MHz spectrum at an overall outlay of about Rs 3,500 crore.

"R-Jio didn't have any spectrum up for renewal in the 2024 auction, and despite the highest EMD, restricted its bidding to select circles in 1,800 MHz for an overall outlay of about Rs 1,000 crore," according to Kotak.

In the spectrum auction that concluded on Wednesday -- a brief two-day and low key event this time around -- Bharti Airtel emerged as the biggest bidder for radio waves used to transmit mobile phone voice and data signals, as it cornered about 60 percent (in value terms) of the Rs 11,341 crore worth of spectrum placed on the block by the government.

While Bharti Airtel bid and won airwaves worth Rs 6,856.76 crore, rival Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Jio - the market leader - got Rs 973.62 crore worth of spectrum - the least in the three-way contest.

Vodafone Idea, the struggling telecom operator that recently got a fresh lease of life through India's biggest follow on share sale, bagged spectrum valued Rs 3,510.4 crore.

An official statement said, in all 141.4 MHz of radio waves were sold for Rs 11,340.78 crore.

The government had offered a total of 10 GHz of spectrum ranging between 800 MHz to 26 GHz, which was worth Rs 96,238 crore at the base or auction start price.

However, only a small amount of the spectrum on offer got sold in seven rounds of auction; at Rs 11,340 crore it worked out to less than 12 percent of the total value of spectrum on offer.

Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea have successfully renewed their expired spectrum in 900 MHz and 1,800 MHz bands, and further an additional quantum of 87.2 MHz worth Rs 6,164.88 crore has been acquired by telcos to augment their services.

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