The fascinating – except perhaps to the central actors – saga of the massive payments due to the government from Indian operators has continued to add some twists after new legal representations offered hopes of a reprieve to some of India’s biggest service providers.
On Tuesday India’s Supreme Court agreed to hear the modification applications of Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Tata Teleservices next week.
These modification applications are, in effect, a request to try for an adjustment to the timing of massive payments due on Thursday. The Supreme Court gesture seems to mean that the three companies will not have to pay these dues, relating to adjusted gross revenue, on the appointed date.
The three companies are hoping they will be allowed to negotiate conditions and schedules for the payment of statutory dues with the Department of Telecommunications (DoT). At the moment, this remains to be seen but, given that a bench will not hear the matter until next week, one can assume that 23 January can no longer be the payment deadline.
An October 24 Supreme Court verdict, upheld last week, widened the definition of adjusted gross revenue (AGR), leaving the three companies facing billions of dollars in additional licence fees, spectrum usage charges, penalties and interest, although Vodafone and Bharti have been by far the worst hit, to the extent that, in Vodafone Idea’s case, there have been suggestions that the company would be hard pressed to carry on without some relief.
Shares of Vodafone Idea jumped 15 per cent in Tuesday’s trading after the approach to the Supreme Court.