India’s telecom department would not take up Reliance Jio’s complaint against Bharti Airtel’s acquisition of Tikona Digital’s 4G business, according to an Economic Times report. The Mukesh Ambani-led telco had earlier alleged the Sunil Mittal-led telco was exploiting a gap in M&A rules which could cause an over Rs 217 crore loss to the national exchequer.
Jio had also written a letter to the National Company Law Tribunal seeking intervention and rejection of the proposed Airtel-Tikona transaction to ensure level playing field.
The DoT would not take up the complaint on the ground that the contours of the Airtel-Tikona deal do not fall under its purview. A senior official told the publication that structuring of corporate deals is not part of the telecom department’s mandate. However, if the deal breaches the spectrum cap clause, then the DoT would flag the issue.
“This is a prima facie case of revenue loss for the exchequer demanding your urgent attention. The DoT should not approve the proposed Airtel-Tikona transaction till Airtel has paid the differential license fee for migrating the BWA spectrum from ISP (internet service provider) license to UL (Unified License),” Reliance Jio had said in the letter.
Jio alleged that Airtel-Tikona deal is structured as an M&A one to circumvent spectrum trading guidelines which only permit trading between access service providers and not from ISP holders.
However, the Sunil Mittal-led telecom operator denied the allegations and said that Jio is trying to block competition through its acts.
Airtel on March 23 inked agreement to acquire Tikona Digital’s 4G business, along with its 4G spectrum, in Gujarat, UP (East), UP (West), Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan circles for Rs 1,600 crore.
Jio in its letter to the DoT said that Bharti Airtel needs to pay a fee to the government for migrating Tikona’s BWA spectrum from an internet service provider (ISP) license to the Unified License (UL) regime, which allows a company to offer voice services.
Jio said the government should refund Rs 1,658 crore that it had paid in 2013 for a similar migration to UL, in case Airtel doesn’t pay the fee.
Jio, citing the UL guidelines, said, “To migrate from ISP with BWA spectrum to the UL regime with authorisation for providing access services, an additional fee equal to the difference between the entry fee for UASL (unified access service licence) and entry fee paid for ISP licence shall be payable in addition to the entry fee as applicable for new UL.”
Jio also requested an urgent intervention by the telecom department and had asked the department to amend the M&A guidelines to clarify the payment for migration upfront ahead of giving approval to an M&A deal.