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Bharti Airtel joins Vodafone Idea’s chorus, won’t pay AGR dues today

Bharti Airtel is likely to raise between $750 million and $1 billion to reduce debt.pradeep gaur/mint (MINT_PRINT)Premium
Bharti Airtel is likely to raise between $750 million and $1 billion to reduce debt.pradeep gaur/mint (MINT_PRINT)

  • The deadline to pay dues to department of telecommunications (DoT) is 23 January
  • Failure to pay the dues before the deadline may invite contempt of court proceedings against defaulters, legal experts believe

NEW DELHI : After Vodafone Idea said it will await the Supreme Court order before paying its adjusted gross revenue (AGR) dues to the government, Bharti Airtel has decided to follow suit, a person aware of the matter told Mint.

The deadline to pay dues to department of telecommunications (DoT) is 23 January, Thursday.

Vodafone Idea, the worst hit by the top court’s order on telecom dues, said it will await the hearing of its modification plea that it had filed earlier this week seeking easier payment terms before clearing its AGR dues, Mint had reported earlier on Thursday.

While the Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to hear modification pleas filed by Vodafone Idea, Bharti Airtel and Tata Teleservices next week, it did not comment on the status of the original payment deadline.

This means that DoT can press for dues if the 23 January deadline is not adhered to.

Failure to pay the dues before the deadline may invite contempt of court proceedings against defaulters, legal experts believe.

It remains to be seen whether DoT will raise a fresh demand notice to the telcos that don’t adhere to the deadline to pay dues.

The 24 October court order that ended the 14-year legal battle between telcos and the department of telecommunications (DoT) asked India’s top wireless carriers to cough up more than 1 trillion in dues, straining their already precarious financial situation.

Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd, the least affected by the court order, is expected to pay dues on Thursday.

Vodafone Idea owes over 50,000 crore to DoT, while Bharti Airtel has to pay 35,586 crore. Tata Teleservices, which sold its mobile services business to Airtel, has dues of 14,000 crore. Jio owes 60 crore as it started operations only in 2016.

At 11:49 am, shares of Vodafone Idea were up nearly 5.3% at Rs5.93 on the BSE, while those of Bharti Airtel rose nearly 1% to 518.20. The BSE Telecom index advanced 0.8% to 1,218.77 points, while the benchmark Sensex was up 0.3% at 41,226.42 points.

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