Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel In Search of Financial Strategy to Pay Up Dues Worth Rs 80,000 Crore

Last week in the telecom industry was not particularly good for the telecom companies as the Supreme Court passed a judgement that did not fall in favour of the telcos. This new Supreme Court order was about the definition of Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) which has been a pending matter in the legal domain for a long time. The Supreme Court order, finally dictated that the definition of AGR would encompass not only the core services of telecom companies but would also include the non-core services as well. While the telecom operators had been against this stance ever since the battle was being fought in the Supreme Court. The telecom companies had stated that AGR should include only the revenue from core services which they provided. The reason being that AGR is the basis on which Spectrum Usage Charges (SUC) and License Fees is calculated, which is to be paid to the government by these companies.

Telcos Get Three Months to Pay Up Dues

Since the order came last week and the telecom operators do not have long, more specifically three months, to pay up the dues which have come up following the new order, both Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea spent their Diwali weekend trying to come up with a financial and legal plan, as per an ET report. The dues which have come up after this decision can be upwards of Rs 1.3 lakh crore for the combined telecom operators. Also, the top executives of both of these telcos are to meet the government officials on the issue to come up with strategies for the payment. The government is also likely to jump in on the bandwagon to provide some kind of relief to these telecom operators. As per the officials, they are going through the fine print of the judgement to come up with a financial plan to raise money so that they can stay afloat.

Telecom Industry Under Massive Burden

The Director-General of Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), Rajan Matthews, has already said that the decision of the Supreme Court is disappointing and that the telecom industry remains under a heavy burden. Most of the burden of SUC and the license fee has come upon the shoulders of the two telcos, Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio. While MTNL and BSNL have been provided with a relief package from the government, Reliance Jio is a fairly new player in the telecom field. With all this going on in the industry, the 5G spectrum auction has taken a backseat and for quite some time. According to the officials of the company as well, the 5G spectrum sale remains the least of the worries because the balance sheets of the telcos are already enough strained. The government has also said that it will seek a waiver of penalties and interest so that the telcos could have a sigh of relief.

Bharti Airtel Asked to Pay Rs 41,000 Crore

On the other side of the matter, the Supreme Court has given three months to the telecom operators to submit the dues to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT). The court order uploaded by the Supreme Court reads, “We give (telecom companies) three months to deposit the amount, which is due and compliance be reported.” While Vodafone Idea has to pay up dues worth Rs 39,000 crore, Bharti Airtel has been notified to pay Rs 41,000 crore. Tata Teleservices, on the other hand, has dues worth Rs 13,000 crore on its head. With all this, the telecom industry is facing an increased burden over its head with a reeling debt of Rs 7 lakh crore already over the telcos. The matter over the AGR has been ongoing for more than a decade, and finally, it has come out in favour of the government.

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