Bharti Airtel has begun the process of paying bankrupt cellco Aircel dues relating to its acquisition of 4G spectrum from Aircel in 2016. The Economic Times quotes an Aircel official as saying that Airtel has so far handed over INR3.41 billion (USD48.4 million) of the INR4.53 billion it is required to pay, but is ‘setting off INR1.12 billion illegally.’ In November last year the Supreme Court had ordered Airtel to make the payment, and earlier this month Aircel petitioned for contempt of court proceedings to be brought against Airtel for its failure to comply with the order. The case is part of the stricken cellco’s efforts to recover unpaid dues to preserve its assets and pay staff as it progresses through the insolvency process.
As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, Airtel had submitted INR2.98 billion in cash and bank guarantees for INR4.53 billion to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) on behalf of Aircel to complete the purchase of its 4G spectrum in 2016, adjusting the amount against the agreed purchase price. With the guarantees now lapsed, the funds are due to be returned to Aircel and, whilst Airtel has paid part of the amount owed to Aircel, the DoT has yet to make any payments.
Commenting on the matter, Airtel’s legal representative said, meanwhile, that: ‘the amount owed to Aircel entities was not paid until now since the bank guarantees were with the DoT… Cancellation of the bank guarantees by court has extinguished DoT’s right to encash them, the primary reason why the money was not paid by Airtel till now.’