Kumar Mangalam Birla, Vodafone Idea executives meet Cabinet Secretary

A committee headed by the Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba is looking into the health of the telecom industry. Vodafone Idea, which is making quarterly losses of roughly Rs 5,000 crore with debt of over Rs 99,000 crore, is believed to have also writt...

Vodafone Idea chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla and senior company executives are believed to have met top bureaucrats late last week to seek urgent relief from the government, warning that failure to do so could pose stiff business challenges for the telco and rapidly lead to a monopoly situation in the telecom industry.

Birla, also chairman of the Aditya Birla Group—a co-promoter of Vodafone Idea—is learnt to have met Cabinet secretary Rajiv Gauba at a private meeting last Friday, a person with direct knowledge told ET. Gauba heads the panel of secretaries set up by the government to suggest measures to restore the health of the industry, laden with debt of over Rs 7 lakh crore and with no carrier making profits, except for latest entrant Reliance Jio.

Vodafone Idea, which is making quarterly losses of roughly Rs 5,000 crore with debt of over Rs 99,000 crore, is believed to have also written again to the government, underlining the criticality of early relief measures for its business, the person added.


An Aditya Birla Group spokesman declined to comment.

Bharti Airtel chairman Sunil Mittal is also learnt to have separately met telecom secretary Anshu Prakash on Saturday.

A Bharti spokesperson confirmed Mittal’s meeting with Prakash, but declined to say what transpired. A person familiar though said, “Seeking relief measures wasn’t part of the agenda for the meeting”.
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Vodafone Idea and Airtel are among the worst hit by the top court judgment—that backed the government’s broader AGR definition to include non-core items—and face combined dues worth nearly Rs 81,000 crore in licence fees and spectrum usage charges (SUC), with penalties and interest. The industry overall is facing additional dues worth over Rs 1.3 lakh crore. Vodafone Idea itself faces dues worth over Rs 39,000 crore.

Vodafone Idea and Airtel will report September quarter earnings on November 14, and are expected to provision for potential repayments of their respective statutory dues. Airtel had deferred the release of its audited second-quarter results to November 14 to get more clarity on implications of the apex court’s AGR order.
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