Bharti Airtel fumes over extension of bid deadline for Reliance Communications assets

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Updated: November 16, 2019 5:53:09 AM

While Bharti did not name the bidder, according to reports, Reliance Jio had sought extension of the November 12 deadline to make an offer under the ongoing insolvency proceedings for RCom's assets.

Bharti Airtel, extension deadline, Reliance Communications, industry newsThe CoC of RCom on Wednesday had extended the deadline for submission of bids for the company’s assets and said the bids will now open on November 25, FE had reported on November 14. (REUTERS)

Bharti Airtel has written a letter to Anish Nanavaty, the resolution professional in charge of the insolvency proceedings against the bankrupt Reliance Communications (RCom), objecting to the extension of 10 days given by the committee of creditors (CoC) for submission of bids.  The letter dated November 14, which has been reviewed by FE, says: “To our utter shock, we have learnt that CoC has now decided to extend the submission timeline to November 25, 2019 until 1200 hrs, solely based on the request of another potential bidder.” Bharti has said while the company’s request for extension of deadline for submission of bids till December 1, 2019 was “rejected” by the CoC last month, the same has been granted now.

The initial date for submission of resolution plan was September 20, 2019, which was extended till November 11, 2019 on the request of potential bidders. However, Bharti had requested for an extension in a letter dated October 31, 2019 “given the complexities in the proposed transaction”, but that request was turned down. The company is now seeking to withdraw its initial bid and resubmit the same.

The company has also raised concerns over the fairness of the process. “Surprisingly, to accommodate and afford an opportunity to the said bidder, which had failed to submit the resolution plans within the specified time, the date was extended well after it had actually expired. We find this conduct inequitable, questionable and against the spirit of what should be a highly transparent process. To say the least, it is extremely unfair, and rather biased,” the letter said.

While Bharti did not name the bidder, according to reports, Reliance Jio had sought extension of the November 12 deadline to make an offer under the ongoing insolvency proceedings for RCom’s assets. The CoC of RCom on Wednesday had extended the deadline for submission of bids for the company’s assets and said the bids will now open on November 25, FE had reported on November 14.

Further, Bharti has asked the RP to return its three resolution plans that it submitted, formally withdrawing its bids. “Our resolution plans remained sealed and the envelopes submitted have not been opened by the CoC. In light of the above circumstances, we hereby formally withdraw our resolution plans while reserving all rights, including the right to submit our resolution plans afresh within the new deadline communicated now,” the letter said.

So far, the lenders have received bids from Bharti group companies and private equity investor Varde Partners, while Reliance Jio is also expected to put in its bid. As part of the insolvency proceedings for RCom and two of its units – Reliance Infratel and Reliance Telecom, the resolution professional has asked for bids from interested bidders for spectrum in the 850 MHz band used in 4G in 14 of India’s 22 telecom circles, around 43,000 telecom towers and fibre.

The NCLT has directed the RP to conclude the sale of assets of RCom by January 10, 2020. The stressed telco’s total debt to financial creditors stands at Rs 51,141 crore, while the secured debt is estimated to be Rs 33,000 crore.

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