Amid concerns over the viability of telecom operations after Supreme Court's adverse judgement on AGR dues, Airtel chief Sunil Bharti Mittal said his company was safe even though the telecom sector as a whole was under stress. “We were always safe, we were never unsafe,” Mittal reportedly said as he met the government officials on Wednesday over the financial crisis faced by the telecom industry. The development comes after the Supreme court rapped both the government and telecom operators last week for failing to pay up the adjusted gross revenues dues by the January 23 deadline.
Sunil Mittal Expresses Concerns Over General Health of Telecom Industry
Mittal, however, expressed his concerns over the general health of the industry. “The industry is under stress, and we all know that. We have been talking about it for the last three-and-a-half years.”
The Airtel chief along with Vodafone Idea Chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla had met Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Wednesday evening for nearly 40 minutes. The telecom executive, however, refused to divulge details regarding the meeting.
Mittal said the issue of pending AGR dues was not discussed. He instead said the only thing the government needs to do right now is ensuring the sustainability of the telecom sector. The telecom industry he added is important for the nation and the digital agenda of the government.
Earlier in the day, the Airtel chief had also met telecom secretary Anshu Prakash before going on to meet the Finance Minister.
Airtel Clears Rs 10,000 Crore AGR Dues
Bharti Airtel has so far cleared Rs 10,000 crore as part of its AGR dues and has sought more time to calculate its liability. The company plans to pay all of the AGR dues before the next hearing on March 17.
Mittal reassured the company would pay the remaining amount before the next hearing date but when asked whether their calculations on AGR dues was lower than as demanded by telecom department, he said it was too early to speak on the matter. “Calculations are going on. I cannot say anything more,” he said.
Airtel’s total AGR dues as per Department of Telecommunications' (DoT) assessment stand at Rs 35,586 crore including licence fee and spectrum usage charges. Airtel might have to pay another Rs 2,000 crore as AGR dues of Videocon.