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In setback for Vodafone Idea, Supreme Court permits staggered AGR payments: Reports

In a somewhat mixed result for Vodafone Idea, the Supreme Court has allowed telecom operators to pay their Adjusted Gross Revenue dues over the next ten years, Mint and the Economic Times report. The government had earlier asked that the Supreme Court allow these dues to be paid over a period of 20 years. The ruling reportedly requires telecom operators to pay 10% of their dues by the end of March 2021, with all dues being due in 2031.

Motilal Oswal’s Hemang Jani said that Vodafone Idea “should find it difficult to manage” paying Rs 50-75 billion per year (the amount depends on the interest rate charged) based on their current levels of revenue. While the ruling does not destroy Vodafone Idea’s business altogether, the tight payment schedule worried investors; Vodafone Idea shares were down 20% after the judgement, ET reported.

On whether Jio and Airtel are required to pay the government dues on spectrum that was sold to them by shuttered telecom operators, the Supreme Court said that this would be up to the National Company Law Tribunal to decide. The NCLT will also reportedly determine whether banks who are creditors should be able to transfer spectrum from defaulting telcos without first taking stock of dues to the government.

The cases surrounding Adjusted Gross Revenue started in 2019, when the Supreme Court ruled that the government was entitled to payments from telecom operators that relied on an expansive range of earnings, including from non-telecom related activities. This essentially opened up a financially weakened telecom sector (except for Jio) to more financial pressure, which the government told the court may be best spread out over 20 years. While Tuesday’s judgement doesn’t make the telecom sector a duopoly by immediately wiping out Vodafone Idea, it still is a body blow to the company.

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