Bharti Airtel Will Raise Funds to Prepare War Chest for Paying Off AGR Dues

The two of the worst-hit telecom operators in the industry right now are the Sunil Bharti Mittal led telecom operator Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea. These two companies have taken the beating from the AGR decision, which was announced by the Supreme Court on October 24. Due to this, both of these companies have posted massive losses in the quarter ending September, and the total dues on both of these companies surpass Rs 90,000 crore. Bharti Airtel alone is looking towards paying somewhere close to Rs 40,000 crore in the dues which are composed of spectrum fees, license fees, interests, penalties and interest on those penalties. Now, as per an ET Telecom report, the telecom operator is looking towards different avenues to provision for the payment of these dues and to go about this, Airtel might raise funds. In a new stock exchange filing by the telecom operator, it has noted that it will discuss various fundraising options in a board meeting which is to be held on December 4. If the telco raises funds, then it would be to build a war chest to tackle the dues which have come up as the result of the new AGR decision.

Bharti Airtel’s Board Meeting to Decide on Fund Raising

In its approach to raising funds, raising Bharti Airtel will look at all the options to raise funds which will include issuing equity shares, bonds or even rights issue and qualified institutional placements or even a combination of instruments. All of these would, of course, be subject to regulatory and shareholder approvals. The company told the Bombay Stock Exchange, “We wish to inform you that a meeting of the Board of Directors of the Company is scheduled to be held on Wednesday, December 04, 2019 to, inter-alia, consider and evaluate any and all proposals for raising of funds either by issuance of equity shares, and or bonds including foreign currency convertible bonds/ debentures/ non-convertible debt instruments.”

Bharti Airtel Provisions Rs 28,000 Crore

Now although Bharti Airtel has remarked about raising funds to account for the dues, it has not yet disclosed how much it plans to raise in the coming months. But as per the data reported by Bharti Airtel, it has already accounted for Rs 28,000 crore for the dues which it has to pay for the Spectrum Usage Charges (SUC) and the license fees combined with other dues.

Back in October, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the government in the matter of the Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) which meant that the calculation of the AGR would also include the non-core activities of the telecom operators. This meant that the dues of the telecom operators skyrocketed and the industry came under the immense pressure of Rs 1.3 lakh crore. Out of all the telecom operators, the Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea duo were the worst hit. Even now, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) is on the task of calculating the dues, which might be climbing higher as we speak.

No Futher Relief from the Government

However, the government also has provided some relief to the telecom operators by giving a two-year payment moratorium. The telcos had also expected that there would be some further relief in the form of reduction of license fees, or the SUC or some benefit in taxes, but that agenda has been crossed off the list and the committee of secretaries which was setup to decide the relief has also been disbanded.

Arpit Sharma

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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Arpit Sharma