‘Don’t want any company to shut operations’: FM says govt will address concerns of telecom sector

PTI, Nov 16, 2019, 9:50 AM IST

New Delhi: Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday said the government intends to address the concerns of the crisis-ridden telecom companies, which are facing billions of dollars of fresh statutory liability following a recent Supreme Court ruling.

“I want no company to shut operations. I want everyone to be up and running. We want the economy to have good number of companies in business and flourish in their business,” she said.

“Not just the telecom sector, my wish is all companies in all sector(s) be able to do business, service their market customer and survive. So with that approach, the finance ministry has always been talking and in telecom as well, that’s the approach we have taken,” said Sitharaman in reply to a query regarding stress in the telecom sector.

While announcing its financial results on Thursday, telecom major Vodafone Idea (VIL) had said its ability to continue as a going concern is dependent on obtaining relief from the government and positive outcome of the legal remedy post the apex court ruling on the Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) issue.

The Supreme Court last month ruled in favour of the government and directed telecom companies to pay as much as Rs 1.42 lakh crore in past statutory dues to the government.

Days after the Supreme Court verdict, the government had set up a Committee of Secretaries (CoS) under the Cabinet Secretary to suggest measures to mitigate financial stress in the sector.

Sitharaman said “it is the intention” to address concerns of all those who have approached the government with serious concerns post the court’s decision.

“We are also conscious there is a Supreme Court order that the government has won and therefore, the department concerned has to take a call that would be a collective call, taking into account… understanding implication for the sector and finances of the government,” she said.

Regarding the CoS, Sitharaman said “it is yet to take a call”.

The minister also said no bank has approached the finance ministry raising concern over their exposure to the telecom sector.

VIL posted a loss of Rs 50,921 crore — the highest-ever quarterly loss by any corporate in India, mainly on account of provisioning for paying the statutory dues. The company said it is in the process of filing a review petition on the AGR matter.

Telecom major Bharti Airtel also reported a loss to the tune of Rs 23,045 crore for the September quarter.

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