Amid concerns over the Supreme Court’s order on payment of AGR dues, Bharti Airtel chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal met Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Wednesday as he looked for options to keep the company afloat.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Mittal said the Indian telecom industry has been under stress for the last three-and-a-half years and the government should ensure sustainability of the sector.
He said that the issue of pending dues arising out of the Supreme Court ruling on Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) was not discussed.
“The only thing government needs to do is to focus on how to ensure sustainability of the sector,” he said without elaborating.
Mittal, who met the telecom secretary prior to going to the finance ministry, said that telecom industry is important for the nation and the digital agenda of the government. He said that the company is calculating its liability.
Commenting on AGR dues, he said that Airtel has already announced its plans to pay the dues that arose from the Supreme Court ruling.
Earlier this week, Bharti Airtel had paid Rs 10,000 crore to the telecom department as part amount of its AGR dues. The company plans to pay the balance amount before the next date of Supreme Court’s hearing which is on March 17.
Bharti Airtel’s overall AGR dues as assessed by the department of telecommunications (DoT) stand at Rs 35,586 crore including licence fee and spectrum usage charge.
In a separate development, Vodafone Idea Chairman Kumar Managalam Birla, who had met the telecom secretary on Tuesday, also met Finance Minister today. The troubled telecom major has also paid Rs 2,500 crore to the Department of Telecom (DoT) earlier this week. It has promised to pay another Rs 1,000 crore before the end of this week.
Currently, Vodafone Idea owes Rs 88,530 crore to the department of telecom (DoT) for the spectrum that it has bought in the previous auctions. This is in addition to the AGR liability of Rs 53,039 crore.
By Chitranjan Kumar with PTI inputs