By Swati Pandey and Aradhana Aravindan
MUMBAI (Reuters) - India's Idea Cellular Ltd reported its fourth straight quarter of earnings growth, riding on strong customer additions and a court decision that removed some smaller competitors from the market.
Older companies such as top carrier Bharti Airtel and Vodafone's India unit as well as Idea have benefited from a court order last year that revoked permits awarded in a scandal-tainted sale, causing several smaller rivals to either fold up or cut back operations.
Idea, part of the Aditya Birla conglomerate, said consolidated net profit rose to 3.1 billion rupees ($57 million)in its fourth quarter through March from 2.4 billion a year ago.
Analysts had on average expected a net profit of 2.8 billion rupees, according to Thomson Reuters data.
Revenue rose 13 percent to 60.6 billion rupees at the company, which is part-owned by Malaysia's Axiata Group Bhd.
Idea, which said it would pay its first ever dividend of 0.30 rupees per share, ended the quarter with 121.6 million subscribers, compared with 112.7 million a year ago.
The company's expansion comes despite the mobile sector being dogged by regulatory uncertainty, including surcharges on existing airwaves owned by operators and the government's demand that they stop providing 3G data services through roaming pacts among each other.
Bharti Airtel and Idea earlier this year raised call prices by withdrawing offers and cutting discounts as they face higher costs.
According to StarMine SmartEstimates, which weighs analyst forecasts according to their accuracy, Idea Cellular is expected to achieve revenue growth of 12.8 percent over the next 12 months, higher than peers Bharti Airtel and Reliance Communication, forecast at 10.7 percent and 7.7 percent respectively. ($1 = 54.3762 Indian rupees)
(Additional reporting by Patturaja Murugaboopathy in Banaglore; Editing by Matt Driskill and David Holmes)