AGR dues: Telecom firms approach SC for deadline extension

Rajesh Kurup Mumbai | Updated on January 20, 2020

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Vodafone Idea, Bharti Airtel, Tata Teleservices to mention before apex court today

Telecom companies have dialled the Supreme Court yet again on the Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) issue, this time seeking an extension to the January 23 deadline to pay the dues.

Vodafone Idea, Bharti Airtel and Tata Teleservices have moved a joint application before the Supreme Court seeking modifications to the earlier ruling that said the telecom companies should pay their AGR dues before January 23. The companies, which had posted huge losses in the second quarter due to AGR provisioning, are also seeking waiving of the penalties, sources close to the development told BusinessLine.

“We have an application before the Supreme Court today. We have sought permission to sit with the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) and negotiate a settlement plan,” said Shally Bhasin, partner with Delhi-based Agarwal Law Associates, which is representing Vodafone Idea.

The companies will be mentioning it before the Supreme Court on Tuesday, she added.

Under the settlement plan, the companies intend to seek an extension to the deadline to pay the dues, negotiate a payment schedule and seek waiver of penalties among others.

On January 17, in a setback to the telecom operators, the Supreme Court dismissed their plea seeking a review of its earlier order asking them to pay ₹1.47-lakh crore in past statutory AGR dues by January 23.

A Bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra, S Abdul Nazeer and MR Shah dismissed the petition as it did not find any “justifiable reason to entertain the review petitions”.

While Bharti Airtel has dues of more than ₹35,500 crore, Vodafone Idea needs to pay more than ₹53,000 crore. Tata Teleservices, which sold its consumer mobility business to Airtel, has dues of ₹13,823 crore.

Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea said they would file curative petitions before the Supreme Court.

However, analysts and industry were sceptical and said that the incumbent telecom firms should be prepared for the worst case scenario as “the probability of resolution remains bleak”.

According to a report by ICICI Securities, Bharti Airtel has already raised capital of $3 billion, which should help it meet the burden. But the same remains a Herculean task for Vodafone Idea — a challenge that cannot be resolved without government intervention.

Published on January 20, 2020

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