Mukesh Ambani advises Airtel and Vodafone on handling AGR dues

Reliance Jio Infocomm said rival telecom operators Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea, which have been ordered to pay $7 billion in past dues, had adequate recourse to funds to handle the AGR issue.
Mukesh Ambani at RIL AGM in 2019Bharti Airtel can easily raise $5.7 billion by selling some of its assets or shares. Vodafone Idea has no dearth of resources to pay the government its dues, Reliance Jio said in a statement dated Nov. 1 and issued on Sunday. India’s Supreme Court had last month ordered Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea to pay 499.9 billion rupees.

If Bharti Airtel liquidates small parts of its assets or issues 15-20 percent new equity in its Indus Tower business it can raise the funds, Kapoor Singh Guliani, president for regulatory affairs at Reliance Jio, said in the letter.

Vodafone India also has stake in Indus Towers, thus there is no dearth of sources to pay their dues. Airtel’s telecom tower business operates more than 163,000 mobile-phone towers across India, Bloomberg reports.

The letter addressed to India’s telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad comes after a government panel agreed to examine Bharti Airtel, controlled by billionaire Sunil Mittal, and Vodafone’s demand for reducing the spectrum usage levies and the Universal Service Obligation Fund charge.

The two carriers are struggling, with Vodafone Idea, led by billionaire Kumar Mangalam Birla, posting 11 straight quarters of net losses and Bharti slipping into its first-ever loss in the June quarter.

Reliance Jio separately cited a Supreme Court verdict that held spectrum as a finite resource and its distribution should not be made in a manner that’s detrimental to public interest. All operators should be mandated to deposit applicable amounts within the three-month time period, as mandated by the court, Reliance said.