Home >Industry >Telecom >Airtel will comply with SC’s order, pay rest of AGR dues expeditiously: Mittal

NEW DELHI : Airtel is committed to complying with the Supreme Court order on adjusted gross revenue (AGR) dues, and is ready to pay the remaining amount “expeditiously", PTI quoted Bharti Airtel chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal on Thursday. Earlier in the day, Mittal met telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.

The meeting with Prasad comes a day after the Airtel chairman met finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman, one person aware of the development said, requesting anonymity. The meeting comes at a time when telecom companies are struggling to meet the department of telecommunications’ (DoT) demands of over 1 trillion in past dues, after winning a court verdict on the definition of AGR.

On Monday, Airtel had paid 10,000 crore to the DoT. The company, which has an estimated liability of over 35,000 crore, plans to pay the remaining amount before 17 March.

Vodafone Idea has been the most hit with dues of more than 50,000 crore, which threaten the very survival of the loss-making telco.

“AGR is an unprecedented crisis for the industry, which is being dealt with by the government," Mittal said. The industry is heavily taxed, he contended, and suggested a cut in taxes and levies for the sector. Airtel has time till 17 March to pay the remaining dues and the company will pay its dues “much before that", he added.

The top bosses of Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea reached out to Sitharaman on Wednesday as a massive payments crisis loomed over the two telcos that together serve more than 580 million customers in India. Mittal and Kumar Mangalam Birla, the chairman of Vodafone Idea, held separate meetings with the minister, Mint had reported on Wednesday.

Emerging from the North Block, which houses the finance ministry, Mittal told reporters on Wednesday that he did not discuss the dues demanded by the telecom ministry following a court order, but had pointed out the stress in the sector and the need for the government to focus on its sustainability.

The Airtel chairman had said that the telecom industry is vital to the nation and its digital future. “The only thing the government needs to do is to focus on how to ensure the sustainability of the sector," he had said on Wednesday.

Airtel has earlier announced its plan to pay up it share of dues after the Supreme Court declined to grant more time to telecom operators to pay their AGR dues, Mittal said.

Birla did not want to comment on what was discussed in the meeting.

Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea together serve 61% of the telecom users in India. Bharti Airtel had posted a loss of 1,035 crore, while Vodafone Idea reported a loss of 6,438 crore in the December quarter. Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd is the largest and only profitable telco in India.

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