Airtel, VIL, Tata seek review of SC’s AGR order for waiver

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Telecomm, Spectrum, Network Tower

New Delhi, Nov 22 : Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea Ltd and Tata Teleservices on Friday individually filed review petitions in Supreme Court on the recent AGR verdict seeking waivers on penalties and interest, and interest on penalties, according to sources.

They decided to go to the SC for review of the apex court’s order of October 24 after the recent Cabinet decision cleared a two-year moratorium on spectrum payments but did not give any relief on the AGR front and the government announced in the Parliament that there is no consideration on its part to go for a waiver on any component of the Supreme Court’s AGR order.

Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Tata Teleservices filed review petitions in the Supreme Court on the order for them to pay around Rs 92,000 crores to the Centre in the Adjusted Gross Revenue case, the sources added.

For Tata Teleservices, it is a setback of different kind as it had sold its consumer mobility business to Bharti Airtel, but still owes the government about Rs 12,907 crore on account of licence fees and spectrum usage charges (SUC). The sale is not yet approved by DoT pending the OSTC or one time spectrum charges of Rs 8,000 crore for which DoT has already filed a case in the Supreme Court holding up the merger. For legal purpose, Tata Teleservices’ mobile business is still a Tata business.

As per the Communications Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad’s replies to the Parliament, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and other telecom companies owe the government as much as Rs 1.47 lakh crore in past statutory dues. In replies to separate questions in the Lok Sabha, Prasad said telecom companies owe the government Rs 92,642 crore in unpaid licence fee, and another Rs 55,054 crore in outstanding spectrum usage charges.

Under the impact of the dues, Vodafone Idea filed the highest-ever quarterly loss in the corporate history – Rs 50,992 crore in the second quarter of 2019-20. Airtel’s net losses were also phenomenal at Rs 23,045 crore in the same quarter. Both telcos have counted higher losses on the provisioning for AGR dues.

In the case of Bharti Airtel, the liabilities added up to nearly Rs 35,586 crore, of which Rs 21,682 crore is licence fee and another Rs 13,904.01 crore is the SUC dues (not including the dues of Telenor and Tata Teleservices). Airtel said that as of September 30, it has provisioned for Rs 34,260 crore as liabilities from AGR that comprise principal of Rs 8,747 crore, interest of Rs 15,446 crore, penalty of Rs 3,760 crore and interest on penalty of Rs 6,307 crore.

It had provisioned Rs 28,450 crore in the September quarter which is over and above its earlier provisioning of about Rs 5,810 crore – taking the total provisioning (for AGR dues) to Rs 34,260 crore.

In the case of Vodafone Idea, this number stands at a cumulative Rs 53,038 crore, including Rs 24,729 crore of SUC dues and Rs 28,309 crore in licence fee.

The deadline for payment of licence fee and spectrum charges dues on account of AGR definition as decided by the court over the last 14 years is January 24.

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has already issued demand notices to telcos asking them to do self-assessment, and submit the dues by around January 22, as directed by the Supreme Court in its October judgement that favoured DoT in the 16-year-old dispute. The court decided that AGR includes revenue from a telco’s non-core activities, broadening the base on which the statutory dues are calculated.

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