Companies

‘Deferment of AGR, spectrum payment will further boost investments in telecom sector’

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on September 16, 2021

Airtel chief says he has held talks with industry leaders to explore collaborations

An amount of ₹35,000 crore to ₹40,000 crore, saved from moratorium in the next four years, can be used to clear debt and invest more on technology and capex to grow the company further, said Sunil Bharti Mittal, Chairman, Bharti Airtel, on Thursday.

With the deferment of spectrum and average gross revenue (AGR) payments, Bharti Airtel will have enough money to do any counter action and utilise them in a good manner, said Mittal. Airtel invests around ₹20,000 crore every year on network expansions, new technologies and partnerships.

No room for cartelisation

Speaking to select mediapersons, Mittal said that he has reached out to Nick Read, Chief Executive, Vodafone, and Kumar Mangalam Birla, Chairman Aditya Birla Group, to collaborate in areas such as infrastructure sharing to reduce costs. Mittal added that he will also speak to Mukesh Ambani, Chairman Reliance Industries, on the same, but ruled out the possibility of cartelisation among players. Mittal also clarified that he will not discuss tariff issues with them.

“We will benefit around ₹35,000 to ₹40,000 crore from the moratorium in the form of cash flow, which means whatever requirement we have in the market, can be fulfilled, like public market debt for us. We have to use that benefit of cashflow that the government has provided, which can be further invested in the country and move the company forward,” he said.

Mittal said he has informed the Vodafone chief that Vodafone Idea has a “lifetime opportunity” to retake what has been a “lost cause”, and that it was time for Vodafone Group and Birla to step up their own contribution to their company.

Telecom packages

He said after the telecom packages announced by the government on Wednesday, it was time to join forces to take the telecom sector to newer heights, and he would like to take a lead in ensuring that the industry works closely together.

“I reached out to Nick Read yesterday, I will reach out to Mukesh Ambani and speak to him and ensure that industry truly becomes a role model for many other infrastructure industries in the country,” said Mittal.

“I feel that if I was in their place, this is an opportunity to retrieve a lot of value back into hands of people who have invested large amounts of money. Vodafone has put in $20 billion, I’m sure Birla would have put in billions of dollars. It is time for them to really take advantage to contribute their own money and resources, to revive the beleaguered company,” he added.

Asked about reports on the Bharti Airtel’s potential tie-ups with Indian hardware makers for launching co-branded or bundled phones, Mittal said that the company is in a state of readiness for putting out an affordable smartphone, if needed.

However, “as a philosophy, we like people to buy their own phones...we supply the fuel, you buy your car, choose your colour or features...and rather not start supplying you phone but readiness is there”, he added.

Published on September 16, 2021

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