Telecom minister: no plans to disinvest BSNL/MTNL

3 Dec 2015

India’s telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has confirmed that the government has no plans to disinvest state-backed telcos Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL) and Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) as part of efforts to revive the duo, the Economic Times writes. The minister noted that every attempt is being undertaken to make the two operators competitive, adding that so far: ‘The results are positive. There is no proposal to disinvest them as part of [the] revival plan.’ The official also pointed out that INR77.96 billion (USD1.2 billion) had been allocated and authorised by BSNL in 2015/16 for network expansion and improvement works.

As noted by TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, since 2012/13 the government has sought to revive the two loss-making telcos. To that end, the government has implemented measures such as refunding the pair for unused spectrum and shouldered the burden of MTNL’s pension payments. A potential merger of the two state-owned firms has been mooted on several occasions as a means to pull the two out of the red, but has been continually rejected as impossible, most recently in January 2015, when Mr Prasad dismissed the plan as too complicated.