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Telecom tribunal orders DoT to approve Airtel-Telenor merger without bank guarantees

The Telecom Disputes Settlement & Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) has ordered the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to approve Telenor’s merger with Bharti Airtel without bank guarantees, against its earlier demand, reports PTI.

The order comes as Airtel had approached the tribunal against DoT’s order to it, which asked for submitting bank guarantee of around Rs 1,700 crore as a condition to approve its merger with Telenor. The required guarantee included Rs 1,499 crore as one-time spectrum charge for the radiowaves that Airtel would get without auction and Rs 200 crore as spectrum payment which is due on part of Telenor.

“Regarding the demand for bank guarantee, on Airtel’s petition, TDSAT has directed DoT to take the merger (with Telenor India) on record without the need to furnish a bank guarantee. We hope to get final DoT approval soon,” PTI quoted a Bharti spokesperson as saying.

The DoT had also asked Bharti Airtel to submit an undertaking saying that it will be liable to pay  pending dues with respect to merger of the two companies and all demands which may be raised by for Telenor India. The Bharti Airtel spokesperson added that a letter of compliance on this has been submitted.

The merger of Telenor with Airtel has been approved by the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) on March 8. The deal already has approvals from the Competition Commission of India (CCI), the market regulator Sebi and stock exchanges BSE and NSE. It only awaited DoT’s nod, which will come soon, post the tribunal’s order.

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Airtel’s acquisition of the India operation of Norway-based Telenor was announced in February last year. The deal entailed transfer of all of Telenor India’s assets, licenses, and customer base of 44 million into Airtel including Telenor’s active operations in 7 circles—Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra, Gujarat, UP (East), UP (West) and Assam. This was to add Airtel close to 43.4 MHz of additional spectrum in the 1800 MHz band to Airtel’s kitty. The Indian telco was also set to take over all outstanding spectrum payments and other operational contracts, including tower lease contracts.

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