Bharti Airtel in row over RCom assets

Bharti Airtel in row over RCom assets

Is India’s Reliance Jio behind the extension of a bid submission deadline relating to the assets of bankrupt rival Reliance Communications (RCom)? Bharti Airtel seems to think so.

Indian press reports indicate that Bharti Airtel, one of the country’s three biggest operators, has withdrawn a bid to acquire spectrum from the former operator, accusing creditors charged with selling-off assets from RCom of being "unfair" and "biased".

It seems a decision to extend the bidding deadline by 10 days was made at the request of an interested party, possibly Reliance Jio, though a similar, earlier request from Bharti Airtel had been turned down by the committee of creditors (CoC) of RCom. This was noted by Bharti Airtel director of finance Harjeet Kohli in a letter to resolution professional Anish Niranjan Nanavat.

Bharti Airtel and its sister company, infrastructure specialist Bharti Infratel, had already submitted its bids, (as had private equity firm Varde Partners), when the committee decided to extend the deadline by ten days to 25 November.

Expressing the company’s "shock”", Kohli pointed out that Bharti Airtel had been forced to submit the bids quicker than it would have liked. Now it has formally withdrawn resolution plans, while reserving the right to submit a new resolution plan in line with the new deadline.

Newspaper estimates of RCom Group's total secured debt are put at some $4.6 billion, though lender claims to date apparently total around $6.8 billion.

RCom has put up its all assets for sale; they include spectrum, the towers business, optical fibre network and data centres.

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