Govt aware of telcos' stress, wants 3 private players: Voda Idea CEO

The response of the government has been consistent. They said they want this sector to be healthy, it is a very strategic sector, too important for the country. They have said they want to see 3 private players and one public sector player in this se

A day after it posted a staggering Rs 50,921 crore loss for the September quarter, Vodafone Idea on Friday said it believes the government is aware of the "tremendous stress" being faced by telcos and wants a healthy sector with three private and one public operator.

In a post-earnings investor call, Vodafone Idea CEO Ravinder Takkar said the company has been engaging "very positively" with the government and that its discussions on telecom stress began even before the AGR ruling was pronounced by the Supreme Court.

"In our engagements...the response of the government has been very consistent. They said they want this sector to be healthy, it is a very strategic sector, too important for the country, too important for Digital India vision...Secondly, they have said to us that they want to see three private players and one public sector player in this sector," Takkar said.

The company believes the Centre is looking at a "comprehensive solution" for the sector with an aim to restore the industry's health, he said.

"We hope to hear something from them very soon," he added.

On a specific question on minimum tariff fixation, Takkar said he did not wish to speculate on how floor price mechanism can be implemented.

"We know it is in the purview of the regulator and government and it can be implemented...We know it has been done in certain other countries in the region, but I don't want to speculate on what they would implement or how they would implement," he said.

Vodafone Idea Ltd (VIL) plans to monetise its 11.15 per cent stake in Indus Towers on completion of the Indus Towers-Bharti Infratel merger, and is also exploring options to monetise nearly 160,000 kms of intra-city and inter-city fibre as well as data centre.

Akshaya Moondra, chief financial officer of VIL, said the company continues to remain engaged with its financial creditors but asserted that there is no acceleration of payment which has happened.

"From time to time, some banks have requested us if we could pre-pay them any amount...we have declined that. We continue to remain engaged with all our financial creditors but there is no acceleration of payment that has happened," he said.

On vendor finance, Moondra said the company has strong vendor partners and that "they are already supporting us through vendor financing route".

Vodafone Idea on Thursday reported a consolidated loss of Rs 50,921 crore -- the highest ever loss posted by any Indian corporate -- for the September quarter on account of liability arising out of the Supreme Court's order in the adjusted gross revenue (AGR) case.

The Supreme Court, last month, ruled in favour of the government and directed telecom companies, including Vodafone Idea, to pay dues as demanded by the Department of Telecom.

Vodafone Idea has said its ability to continue business will depend on relief sought from the government and positive outcome of the legal option it has (filing of a review petition).

It said the company, through the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), has made representations to the government to provide relief to the telecom sector.

This includes request to not press for the AGR liability payment and grant waivers, not levying spectrum usage charges (SUC) on non-licenced revenue, reduction of licence fee and SUC rates and use of GST credit for payment of government levies.

The industry body has requested the government to allow payment to be made in installments after some moratorium, and grant a moratorium of two years for the payment of spectrum dues beyond April 1, 2020 up to March 31, 2022.



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