Bharti chairman Sunil Mittal meets telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, says taxes on the sector need to be rationalised and company will make balance payment after reassessment.
With no solution in sight relating to the adjusted gross revenue (AGR) crisis even after nearly a week of a stern warning by the Supreme Court to the government as well as industry, Bharti Group chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal on Thursday met telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.
DoT sources said that the operators have sought 7-10 days to make more payments. The government cannot do much in terms of relief on the AGR issue as it has to comply with the SC order but it will strike a balance between compliance to the SC order, telecom sector’s health and consumer interest.
The DoT is also seeking legal opinion from the solicitor general whether it can encash the bank guarantees of the companies which have not paid the full amount till now.
As regards rationalisation of taxes and levies, the DoT has in the past written to the finance ministry for reduction in licence fee.
Emerging from the meeting, Mittal acknowledged that the AGR issue is a major crisis for the industry but added that he met the minister to make suggestions relating to the overall health of the sector. He also said that the government is committed to the sustainability of the sector and is working towards that.
Mittal said that the industry is heavily taxed which needs to be looked at, especially since the industry revenue is very low and there’s hardly anything left in its kitty. However, he added that he did not propose exactly how much tax rationalisation should take place since such nitty-gritty issues are not discussed at such meetings.
So far out of total dues of Rs 1.47 lakh crore of AGR dues, of which Rs 1.02 lakh crore is due from three functional companies – Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Tata Teleservices – the government has received close to Rs 16,000 crore.
Specific to Bharti Airtel, Mittal said that they have already made some payment and will make the balance before March 17, the next date of court hearing, once they complete their self-assessment exercise. The company, which has total dues of Rs 35,586 crore according to DoT, has already paid Rs 10,000 crore.
Vodafone Idea, which has dues worth Rs 53,039 crore, paid Rs 2,500 crore on February 16 and another Rs 1,000 crore on Thursday. Tata Teleservices, which has dues worth Rs 13,823 crore, had on Monday made a payment of Rs 2,197 crore. Company sources have maintained that this is the amount due from them as per their calculations and they do not have anything more to pay. On this, DoT sources said they will conduct their own flash check before March 17 and issue notices to the company.
As is known, Mittal and Vodafone Idea chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla had met finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Wednesday. While Birla did not comment about the meeting, Mittal said that he discussed the overall health of the telecom sector and nothing pertaining to the AGR issue.