Despite some dramatic statements by Vodafone Idea to the Indian Supreme Court, Monday’s long-awaited hearing on AGR dues payment seems to have ended fairly tamely with no payment timeline being agreed.
According to reports in the Indian press, Vodafone Idea told the Supreme Court that over the last 15 years, the entire net worth of the company had been wiped out.
Vodafone Idea's legal representative pointed out that the company has spent whatever it has earned on running its telecommunications infrastructure. It added that all of its tangible assets are secured with banks and no lender is willing to lend it more.
Thus, Vodafone Idea again pointed out, it could not pay its AGR dues – fixed last year at somewhere around $7 billion – immediately. Some upfront payments have, however, been made, though about $6 billion has still to be found. Another leading operator, Bharti Airtel, is said to have a balance amount of about $3.47 billion waiting be paid to India’s Department of Telecommunications.
In the event, there was no decision made. The Supreme Court reserved its order on the timeline for staggered payment of AGR dues. However, both Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel suggested that they might be able to complete their payments in 15 years. The government, by contrast, has suggested a 20-year payment period.
The court has again insisted that the amounts suggested by the government can be taken as final and that no reassessment can be made. The next hearing will be on 10 August.