Bharti Airtel and Other Telcos to Approach SC for Last Shot at AGR Relief

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Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and some of the other telecom companies are currently under heavy distress with the burden of AGR dues which they have to pay in a few days. However, the telecom operators have not given up and are still seeking some relief from whatever source possible. The companies, namely, Vodafone Idea, Tata Teleservices and Bharti Airtel will reach out to the Supreme Court to ask for permission to talk with the government about possible relief measures for them, reported ET Telecom. The relief that the telecom operators want from the government and the Supreme Court is not about the quantum of dues, but it is about the timeline. This is one of the last desperate attempts by the telecom companies to save themselves from the massive burden of the AGR dues by trying to get relief in terms of timeline and a much easier timeframe to make the payments.


Dues Almost Worth Rs 1.5 Lakh Crore

Even though the petition will be filed today and the matter will be heard in the Supreme Court urgently on Tuesday. To recall, the telecom companies have to pay Rs 1.47 lakh crore the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) over the AGR dues verdict which the Supreme Court passed on October 24, thus changing the definition of the Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR). As per the new ruling, the calculation of the AGR now includes non-core items as well and not only just core telecom services. This increased the dues massively for the telecom companies and put an end to a 15-year legal debacle which has been going on for more than a decade between the telecom companies and the government. It is worth noting that the Rs 1.47 lakh crore dues are on the telecom companies solely. Other non-telecom companies which are license holders like RailTel have also been caught in the storm and have been slapped with massive dues.

Interests and Penalties Trouble Telcos

The deadline for the payment of these AGR dues has been set at January 23. The worst-hit of all the telecom companies in this matter is the second largest telecom company in India by subscriber base, Vodafone Idea. The company is already losing subscribers and is under massive losses, and one of the prime reasons for this is the new burden of AGR dues. These dues comprise of license fees, Spectrum Usage Charges (SUC), interests, penalties and then interests on these penalties. More than 75% of the dues are made up by the interests and penalties only which the telecom operators had requested to waive off, only to have that request blown off in vain.

Airtel Likely to Step Ahead with Another Petition

The worst position in this matter is occupied by Vodafone Idea, which might have to shut shop in case the relief does not come to the telecom operator. Bharti Airtel has to pay Rs 35,00 crore in dues, whereas, Vodafone Idea has to pay Rs 53,000 crore in dues. VIL is likely to divert some of its rights issue funds to pay for a tiny part of the large AGR dues. Also, the only relief that the telecom companies have received till now includes a payment moratorium of Rs 42,000 crore for two years. But, even this is only likely to ease the cash flow and not really help the telcos in paying off dues. With the review petition of the telecom companies now rejected by the Supreme Court, Airtel is also likely to file a curative petition in the Supreme Court.

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Arpit spends his day closely following the telecom and tech industry. A music connoisseur and a night owl, he also takes a deep interest in the Indian technology start-up scene and spends rest of his time spilling poetry and stories on paper.

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