RCom taking insolvency route out of 'dishonest intention': Ericsson to SC

In a fresh contempt plea moved before the Supreme Court, Ericsson India has alleged that the insolvency route taken by Anil Ambani-led Reliance Communications (RCom) has "dishonest intention" intended to frustrate the orders of the court, sources close to the development said. The Supreme Court had ordered RCom to pay Rs 550 crore to Ericsson India latest by December 15.  

The purpose of the application filed by RCom to take the company into "voluntary winding up" is to obtain a moratorium, which would prevent it from making any payments to all creditors, including Ericsson, sources said. 

RCom had on February 1 sent a notice to the exchanges, stating that it had been unable to find a solution for its debt and hence, would approach the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) for initiating insolvency. The move, company sources had then said, boosted hopes of the debt-laden firm being able to sell its spectrum and fibre optics assets to Reliance Jio Infocomm (RJio) soon. "As the matter moves to the NCLT, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) nod will come earlier. The DoT is also a creditor and until the deal (worth Rs 25,000 crore) goes through, no lender will get anything," a source in the company who did not want to be named had said.

In the fresh petition, Ericsson has further alleged that despite the completion of sale of RCom's fibre and related infrastructure worth Rs 3,000 crore to RJio, the dues of the company were not paid. As State Bank of India was the lead banker for the Joint Lenders Forum, which had allowed the spectrum sale of RCom to RJio, it should also be held liable for the nonpayment of dues till date, the sources said. 

In an earlier contempt plea moved in the Supreme Court, Ericsson India had sought the arrest of RCom Chairman Ambani and sought that his assets be frozen until the company pays its dues to the Swedish telecom equipment manufacturer. The same has been sought in the fresh petition also, along with a prayer seeking the court's directions to prevent him from leaving the country, the sources said. 

On Monday, RCom also moved the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) to withdraw its opposition to an insolvency petition filed by Ericsson India in the NCLT Bench at Mumbai. Ericsson, however, is opposing RCom's move to go for insolvency as it fears that under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code proceedings, it will end up being only an operational creditor, and consequently, get less than the Rs 550 crore it is now getting, company sources had said.

The NCLAT had on Monday also stayed the sale of RCom assets and invocation of bank guarantees against it till the next date of hearing, which is February 12. "Until further orders, appellants, corporate debtors, respondents or any third parties will not sell or transfer or alienate any movable or immovable assets of the company or corporate debtor," a two-member Bench led by Justice S J Mukhopadhaya had said in its order.

The fresh contempt plea has also prayed that the NCLAT's Monday order be stayed and all further proceedings at the appellate tribunal also be stayed, the sources said.  

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