Mumbai: The National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) on Thursday admitted the bankruptcy petition filed by Aircel Ltd, even as it rejected the intervention sought by GTL Infrastructure Ltd, an operational creditor of the Chennai-based telecom company.
GTL had earlier filed a case against Aircel in the Delhi high court over non-payment of dues. It intervened in the bankruptcy case, arguing that the high court in a 29 January interim order had said that separate applications had to be filed before it for issues such as sale of assets.
The next high court hearing is on Monday.
However, NCLT said that an operational creditor cannot intervene at this juncture (before the admission of insolvency petition) and admitted Aircel’s insolvency plea.
Vijay Kumar Iyer of Deloitte has been nominated as the interim resolution professional. The judge also said that the promoters and directors cannot leave the country without prior approval from the tribunal.
Aircel and its subsidiaries Aircel Cellular Ltd and Dishnet Wireless Ltd together owe around Rs50,000 crore to creditors. The combined liability of the firms towards financial creditors stands at Rs15,545 crore and towards operational creditors at around Rs35,000 crore.
Aircel’s lawyer argued that the operator was not prohibited by the high court from filing for bankruptcy, and said the admission of the firm for insolvency proceedings required a sense of “urgency" as several stakeholders were being affected. He said the appointment of an interim resolution professional would increase the probability of maximizing the asset value instead of continuing in a distressed state.
Aircel’s assets including spectrum licences and fibre, are valued at around Rs32,362 crore, the company’s lawyer said.
Aircel Group had on 1 December 2017 informed the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) that it intended to surrender its licence in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh (West), following which the company shut services in these circles from 31 January.
On 22 February, Aircel had informed the telecom regulator that it was facing deep financial stress. Subsequently, Trai asked the troubled telecom operator to give time to its subscribers to shift to other networks.