Airtel plans filing curative petition as SC rejects AGR dues plea

India’s Supreme Court has dismissed the plea of telecom operators such as Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Reliance Jio who sought reduction in payment towards Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR).
Communication towers
Supreme Court’s judgment on the definition of Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) will have an impact of over INR 1.47 lakh crore on the industry. The development will slow down the Capex plan of telecom operators. Investment in 5G infrastructure and participation during the 5G spectrum auction will be delayed.

Airtel has dues of over Rs 35,500 crore.

Vodafone Idea needs to pay more than Rs 53,000 crore.

Tata Teleservices, which has sold its consumer mobility business to Airtel, has dues of Rs 13,823 crore.

Reliance Jio, which entered the Indian telecom market recently, needs to relatively small amount as compared with Airtel and Vodafone Idea.

Airtel said that it was disappointed and evaluating filing a curative petition, on the same. Other operators are yet to respond on the AGR issue.

“We would like to express our disappointment as we believe the long standing disputes raised regarding the AGR definition were bonafide and genuine. The industry continues to face financial stress and the outcome could further erode the viability of the sector as a whole,” a statement from Airtel said.

Airtel, the largest integrated telecom operator, said that the Indian telecom operators need to invest in expanding networks, acquiring spectrum and introducing new technologies like 5G. India is aiming to conduct 5G spectrum auction this year.

“The money required to pay punitive interest, penalty and interest on penalty which forms nearly 75 percent of AGR dues would have better served the digital mission of the country,” Airtel said.

The Supreme Court, on October 24, ordered telecom operators to pay statuary dues by January 23. Operators had sought a limited review of the ruling in order to reduce the burden.

Indian telecom sector is reeling under a debt of approx. INR 4 Lakh crore and operators are making negative returns on their investments. The telecom EBITDA continues to contract, while the interest expense of the Industry continues to increase, Rajan S Mathews, director general of COAI, said earlier.