Will pay up, but only SC relief can save us: Voda Idea

NEW DELHI: Embattled telecom provider Vodafone Idea is ready to pay the government dues related to the Supreme Court’s AGR (Adjusted Gross Revenues) judgment, but said that its ability to remain a going concern hinges on a leniency in the payment schedule for the telecom department’s demand of over Rs 53,000 crore.
The company, which has a debt of over Rs 1.1 lakh crore and appears to be the worst hit from the top court’s AGR judgment, said it is “currently assessing the amount that it will be able to pay” to the government.
“The company proposes to pay the amount so assessed in the next few days,” it said in a statement amid concerns on whether it will make the payment or not. However, it made clear that it needs relief as far as the payment schedule is concerned.
The SC order of October 24 last year had asked companies to deposit the amount in three months (by January 23), and the temporary relaxation handed by the telecom department received a reprimand by the top court on Friday.
The Department of Telecom said on Friday that it wanted the payments by the close of the day, though companies are now planning to pay it before March 17, the next date of hearing in the Supreme Court.
“As disclosed in the company’s financial statements for quarter ending December 31, 2019, the company’s ability to continue as a going concern is essentially dependent on a positive outcome of the application for modification of the supplementary order,” it said.
Vodafone Idea and its promoters — Vodafone group of the UK and India’s Aditya Birla group — have already said that the survival of the company hinges on a relief from the government, and the top court.
And while Vodafone mulls the amount that it will be paying, Sunil Mitta’s Airtel has already made clear its intentions to pay, as well as the schedule. Airtel, which faces payment dues of over Rs 35,000 crore on the AGR order, said it will pay Rs 10,000 crore by February 20, and the rest by the next hearing in the top court on March 17.
Tatas, which have sold their telecom business to Airtel, are also likely to deposit their dues of around Rs 14,000 before the Supreme Court’s next hearing.
And while the financially-stretched telcos find out ways and means to make the payments, the order has come as a bolt from the blue for many public-sector undertakings who have also been caught in the DoT-industry standoff on AGR. These non-telcos — which include Gail, Oil IndiaPowergrid and Delhi Metro — have also been asked to pay the government heavy dues on their overall revenues.

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