Shareholders of Bharti Airtel have approved proposals to raise up to $2 billion in equity and another $1 billion in debt, as it looks for ways to pay down overdue fees it owes the government.
The proposal for issuance of securities for up to $2 billion received 99.99 per cent votes in favour of the special resolution at the company’s extraordinary general meeting held on January 3, a regulatory filing showed.
The second special resolution was for issue of foreign currency convertible bonds and unsecured/secured redeemable non-convertible debentures along with or without warrants. This also received 99.99 per cent votes in favour of the proposal.
In November, Airtel and industry peer Vodafone Idea warned that their ability to operate and make profits would depend on relief from the government after the Indian Supreme Court upheld a demand by the telecom department that wireless carriers pay overdue levies and interest.
Airtel said it will raise $2 billion via qualified institutional placement and $1 billion via bonds and debentures.
As two of the country’s top three carriers, Vodafone Idea Ltd and Bharti Airtel will have to pay a bulk of the $13 billion owed. Both carriers have approached the court to review the October ruling.
Indian mobile carriers have to pay at least $13 billion in dues within January to the state following a court ruling in October. The sector got some respite when the government allowed mobile operators to defer upcoming spectrum payments for the next two financial years until March 2022. Both carriers have since raised tariffs of some call and data services.
“For the time being, the fundraising will help Airtel tide over the liquidity requirement till March,” said Deepak Jasani, head of retail research at HDFC Securities.
“If there are no reductions in usage because of tariff hikes or downtrading, then revenues will see a substantial rise and that will help them sustain.”
Airtel has suffered a staggering Rs 23,045 crore net loss for the second quarter ended September 30 because of the provisioning of Rs 28,450 crore in the aftermath of the Supreme Court ruling on statutory dues.
Airtel, which has $16.44 billion in debt, is also under pressure to gain market share after the entry of Reliance Jio triggered a price war in the sector.
According to government data, the liabilities in the case of Bharti Airtel add 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).
The year 2018-19 witnessed multiple rounds of successful fund raising through equity infusion by both Bharti Airtel and Airtel Africa. While Airtel successfully completed its first ever rights issue to raise Rs 249.4 billion, Airtel Africa completed its initial public offer on the London Stock Exchange in the premium listing segment at an offer price of 80 pence/share to raise $ 750 million at an overall equity valuation of $3.9 billion, with a secondary listing on the Nigerian Stock Exchange.