Info-tech

Mulling review of AGR judgment: Airtel CEO

S Ronendra Singh New Delhi | Updated on August 04, 2021

Gopal Vittal, MD and CEO, India and South Asia, Airtel

Payout onerous, says Gopal Vittal; to be guided by legal advice

Bharti Airtel is taking legal advice on the next step post the recent Average Gross Revenue (AGR) judgment of the Supreme Court.

“Our request was to permit correction of computational errors in the AGR demands by the DoT. These apparent errors have a significant implication on the overall AGR demand,” Gopal Vittal, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer (India and South Asia, Airtel, said at a post-results earnings call on Wednesday.

SC: Telecos tried to recalculate AGR under guise of correcting ‘arithmetical errors’

In January, the company had moved the apex court seeking a modification, clarification or recall of ‘mistaken orders’ which, it said, have allowed the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to demand ₹43,980 crore as AGR dues. However, per Airtel’s calculations, it owes the DoT ₹13,004 crore in AGR dues.

But the Supreme Court rejected the self-estimates of the company (and others) and confirmed the government’s calculations. It said the telecos tried to recalculate AGR under guise of correcting ‘arithmetical errors’.

“While we are disappointed with the recent outcome, the company has provisioned for the onerous pay out and already paid over ₹18,000 crore covering its obligations for the first few years, as per the directions of the Supreme Court. On the next steps relating to any review petition, we will be guided by legal advice and no decision has been taken on this yet,” Vittal said.

Nation needs 3 players

Asked if Airtel was prepared for a duopoly (along with Reliance Jio) in a year or two and if it has the required investment plans in place, Vittal said a large country like India needs three private players, and hoped the “government does something to provide relief to the industry” that is facing a serious financial stress.

“We continue to see a three-player market...that would be the appropriate outcome for a country as large as India. Substantial investments have been already made by the industry, there are lots of jobs (direct/indirect) and there are many parts of the ecosystem that depends on this industry for employment and livelihoods. Just from a national perspective, it would be appropriate to see an industry structure with three players, not just survive but thrive,” he said.

 

 

Published on August 04, 2021

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