Regular-article-logo Thursday, 21 September 2023

Vodafone holds crisis talks with Centre

Against a due of Rs 53,000 crore, Voda has paid Rs 2,500 crore and has promised to pay Rs 1,000 crore before the end of the week

Our Special Correspondent New Delhi Published 18.02.20, 07:11 PM
Cannot say anything at the moment: Kumar Mangalam Birla, Vodafone chairman, after meeting telecom secretary Anshu Prakash

Cannot say anything at the moment: Kumar Mangalam Birla, Vodafone chairman, after meeting telecom secretary Anshu Prakash Telegraph file picture

Amid reports that the government is mulling the encashment of bank guarantees to settle the defaults in the payment of dues, Vodafone Idea chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla on Tuesday met telecom secretary Anshu Prakash as he looked for options to keep the company afloat.

After the meeting, Birla said he “cannot say anything at the moment”.


Birla, who met the telecom secretary for over an hour, was accompanied by Ravinder Takkar, managing director & chief executive officer of Vodafone Idea.

He refused to respond to queries on whether or not Vodafone Idea would default on the payment of AGR dues or if the company could head towards insolvency.

Vodafone Idea on Monday paid Rs 2,500 crore to the DoT and promised to pay another Rs 1,000 crore before the end of the week. But the amount paid for now is less than 5 per cent of the dues that the DoT estimates the company owes to the government following a Supreme Court ruling that asked for including non-telecom revenues of telcos in computing statutory payments such as licence fees and spectrum charges.

The Supreme Court on Monday refused to stop the DoT from taking any coercive steps for the recovery of dues from Vodafone Idea. Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Monday hinted at the possibility of an arrangement with the operators to pay AGR (adjusted gross revenue) dues of Rs 1.47 lakh crore.

In December, Birla said Vodafone Idea may have to shut down if there is no relief on statutory dues.

“If we are not getting anything, then I think it is the end of the story for Vodafone Idea,” Birla had said. “It does not make sense to put good money after bad... We will shut shop.”

Analysts said if the telecom operator shuts shop, it would have ripple effect encompassing network vendors, tower companies and banks, among others. It would also impact the global investment sentiment against the Modi government.

The shutting down of Vodafone “could have far-reaching serious ramifications on the telecom and banking sectors with ripple effects on the overall economy, as the company faces a risk of shutdown with large scale debt default (Rs 1 lakh crore), job losses and subscriber churn/annoyance. Ironically, the government, despite winning the suit, could see the biggest impact through deferred spectrum debt default Rs 90,000 crore,” Motilal Oswal said in a research note.

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