State-owned full service provider Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL) has approached the government with a proposal to sell off some of its real estate assets to reduce its debt burden. The Economic Times cites MTNL Chairman and Managing Director PK Purwar as saying that the telco has a great deal of available real estate which is not being effectively utilised, that MTNL has applied to either redevelop or sell. According to the official, land worth around INR30 billion (USD461 million) to INR50 billion is currently ‘readily available’ for monetisation. ‘Many of the buildings are near the metro stations, and have a huge commercial potential,’ Mr Purwar explained, going on to say: ‘In case where the land comes with certain restrictions and clauses, we can work with the government and developmental agencies to fully utilise the potential of the buildings.’ Where there are no such restrictions, MTNL is open to sell the land outright, the official added.
Recent years have seen the government implement several measures to help restore the loss-making telco to profitability, including refunding the operator for the return of unused spectrum and taking on the operator’s substantial pension burden. The operator fell behind its privately-owned rivals as competition intensified from 2009 onwards, entering a downward spiral as mounting losses reducing its ability to invest in upgrades, making it less competitive and leading to further losses. As previously reported by CommsUpdate, however, the telco is beginning to break the cycle, with the operator announcing in late March this year that it plans to invest USD62 million on the development of its mobile infrastructure in Delhi.