Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea must pay 10% of AGR dues by March 31: DoT

According to DoT, operational telecom operators are expected to pay Rs 12,921 crore by March 31, of which close to 80 per cent has to be paid by Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel.
Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea are busy dialing their legal teams to interpret what the Supreme Court meant when it said 10 per cent of their adjusted gross revenue (AGR) dues must be paid by March 31, 2021, even as the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) believes there's no ambiguity in the order. 

While these telcos maintain they have already paid more than the 10 per cent of their AGR dues, the DoT view — that the companies will have to pay 10 per cent of the total dues by March 31, 2021, irrespective of what one has already paid — has turned the industry calculation topsy turvy. The telcos would decide their future course of action depending on the legal advice they get as senior counsels study the fine print of the verdict.              

On September 1, the court had asked the companies to make 10 per cent of the upfront payment of their dues before March 31, 2021 to the DoT, with the remaining to be paid over 10 years starting April 1, 2021.

On Monday, a Press Trust of India report quoted an unnamed DoT official to say that telecom operators, including Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea, which have pending AGR dues, will have to pay 10 per cent of the total liability by March 31, 2021, irrespective of the part-payments made by them. DoT too has been consulting lawyers to understand what the court verdict on the 10 per cent upfront payment may mean. 

While the two companies are busy doing their maths, experts feel that since the telcos have made payments over and above the 10 per cent of the total dues, they should be allowed to start the payment cycle from the next fiscal (April 2021-March 2022). If they are spared the 10 per cent payment by March 31, 2021, the telcos would get an additional year to kick off their 10-year instalments.

According to DoT, operational telecom operators are expected to pay Rs 12,921 crore by March 31, of which close to 80 per cent has to be paid by Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel.

The DoT official told PTI that the Supreme Court order is very clear that telecom operators have to make 10 per cent payment of the total dues as demanded by DoT by March 31, 2021. “DoT has already raised demand for full AGR dues. The 10 per cent payment to be made by this March will be calculated on total AGR liability,” the official said.

Based on this calculation, Vodafone Idea will have to pay around Rs 5,825 crore and Bharti Airtel Rs 4,398 crore by March 31, 2021, against the total demand of Rs 58,254 crore and Rs 43,980 crore, respectively. This is despite Vodafone Idea having already paid Rs 7,854 crore and Bharti Airtel Rs 18,004 crore out of their total dues.

There’s no AGR due pending against Reliance Jio.

Earlier this month, Vodafone Idea CEO Ravinder Takkar had said at a virtual press meet that the SC order allowing 10 years to telcos for clearing the AGR dues was a positive outcome. He had pointed out that the telco had already paid more than 10 per cent of the AGR dues as ordered by the court, giving it time till March 2022 to pay its first instalment.

The SC had last year upheld the DoT definition of AGR, ordering telcos to clear their dues which were estimated at Rs 1.47 trillion. It’s another matter that some of the telcos, which are part of the order, have either shut down, sold their operations or are going through liquidation.

Dear Reader,

Business Standard has always strived hard to provide up-to-date information and commentary on developments that are of interest to you and have wider political and economic implications for the country and the world. Your encouragement and constant feedback on how to improve our offering have only made our resolve and commitment to these ideals stronger. Even during these difficult times arising out of Covid-19, we continue to remain committed to keeping you informed and updated with credible news, authoritative views and incisive commentary on topical issues of relevance.

We, however, have a request.

As we battle the economic impact of the pandemic, we need your support even more, so that we can continue to offer you more quality content. Our subscription model has seen an encouraging response from many of you, who have subscribed to our online content. More subscription to our online content can only help us achieve the goals of offering you even better and more relevant content. We believe in free, fair and credible journalism. Your support through more subscriptions can help us practise the journalism to which we are committed.

Support quality journalism and subscribe to Business Standard.

Digital Editor

Business Standard is now on Telegram.
For insightful reports and views on business, markets, politics and other issues, subscribe to our official Telegram channel