AGR concerns: Vodafone Group's global CEO Nick Read plans to meet telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad

Even as the pressure on Vodafone Idea to pay the AGR dues is mounting, Read and chairman of Vodafone Idea Kumar Mangalam Birla had recently said that they were not keen to infuse any more equity in the firm.

FP Staff March 03, 2020 12:47:55 IST
AGR concerns: Vodafone Group's global CEO Nick Read plans to meet telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad
  • The telcom minister's office is reportedly yet to respond to Vodafone Group global CEO's request for a meeting with him

  • Read and chairman of Vodafone Idea Kumar Mangalam Birla had recently said that they were not keen to infuse any more equity in the firm

  • According to the DoT estimates, Vodafone now owes statutory dues of about Rs 53,000 crore

A few days after seeking more time from the government to pay its adjusted gross revenue (AGR) dues, a top executive of Vodafone Group is making a move to meet telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, said a news report.

Vodafone Group’s global chief Nick Read a few days ago reportedly sought an appointment with Prasad on 6 March and the minister's office is yet to respond to the telco's chief executive officer's (CEO) request, said a report in Financial Express.

Even as the pressure on Vodafone Idea to pay the AGR dues is mounting, Read and chairman of Vodafone Idea Kumar Mangalam Birla had recently said that they were not keen to infuse any more equity in the firm, the report said.

AGR concerns Vodafone Groups global CEO Nick Read plans to meet telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad

Representational image. Reuters.

Meanwhile, Vodafone Idea told the government that it is unable to pay Supreme Court mandated Rs 53,000 crore dues and sought state support to survive the crisis, a contention that was supported by industry association Cellular Operators' Association of India (COAI).

With the crucial meeting of Digital Communications Commission (DCC) likely to be held on Friday (6 March) to discuss relief measures for the AGR-hit industry, Vodafone Idea has made a strong push for setting off Rs 8,000 crore of GST credits and a three-year moratorium on payment of the remaining amount which should be staggered over 15 years at a simple interest rate of 6 percent.

It has also sought a drastic cut in licence fee and the fixing of a minimum price for calls and data.

According to the DoT estimates, Vodafone now owes statutory dues of about Rs 53,000 crore. Last week, Vodafone Idea paid Rs 3,500 crore in two installments. However, the telco's own estimates peg the dues at around Rs 23,000 crore, of which Rs 7,000 crore is the principal amount.

In the last week of February 2020, the telco had urged the government to provide 15 years time to pay the AGR dues. Apart from this, Vodafone Idea also demanded tax refund, a cut in licence fees and spectrum usage charges (SUC), besides the establishment of a floor for tariffs among other measures to help the company overcome the crisis.

Vodafone Idea, in a letter to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), the finance ministry and NITI Ayog, said that a goods and services tax (GST) refund of Rs 8,000 crore can be adjusted against the telco's AGR dues and the remaining amount can be paid in a span of over 15 years, the report said. Vodafone Idea also sought an initial moratorium of three years.

On 17 February, the Supreme Court had rejected Vodafone's proposal to pay Rs 2,500 crore by the end of the day and Rs 1,000 crore by Friday against AGR dues, while also refusing its plea that no coercive action be taken against it.

On 14 February, the top court had warned of contempt proceedings against top executives of Bharti Airtel, Vodafone-Idea and other telecom firms for failing to comply with its directive to pay an estimated Rs 1.47 lakh crore in past dues, and asked whether there was no law left in the country.

On 18 February, Birla had met telecom secretary Anshu Prakash as he looked for options to keep the company afloat. After the meeting, Birla did not divulge what was discussed. Instead, he said, "cannot say anything at the moment."

In December last year, Birla had said Vodafone Idea may have to shut down if there is no relief on statutory dues. "If we are not getting anything, then I think it is the end of the story for Vodafone Idea," Birla had said. "It does not make sense to put good money after bad... We will shut shop."

With PTI inputs

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