Bharti Airtel today hoped that the government panel constituted to examine the sector’s financial stress would take a “prudent view” of the industry’s demands, including deferred payment for spectrum. The company has also earmarked a capital expenditure of $3 billion for 2017-18 for its India and Africa operations.
Bharti Airtel in an investor call said the sector is “heavily taxed” and that the levies like licence fee, spectrum usage charges and service taxes add up to a “very substantial number”.
“The question is, what can we do to get rationalisation on that, at a time when the industry is under stress. Also, the spectrum cost, which has historically been high…what can we do to bring it down,” Bharti Airtel MD and CEO (India and South Asia) Gopal Vittal said during the earnings call.
The company said resolution of some of these issues would come as a relief to the industry. “What can we do to defer some of the payments that need to be made to the government on both spectrum and also interest rate that we pay…,” he said. The company expressed hope that a “prudent view” will be taken on various issues, and said that the industry will be willing to give its views to the panel, if asked.
Airtel said it believes that a healthy telecom sector forms the bedrock of economic growth, which can be served through a robust data network. The government has recently set up inter-ministerial panels to examine financial woes of telecom and power companies and recommend solutions. The telecom sector has a debt of Rs 4.6 lakh crore.
On the investments earmarked for the current financial year, the company’s Chief Financial Officer Nilanjan Roy said, “It will roughly be what you see now. About $2.5 billion in India, and $500 million in Africa”.