Loss-making Vi, the worst hit by the AGR case ruling of October 2019 which left it facing the most dues among telcos, follows rival Bharti Airtel in highlighting what it claims are calculation mistakes. But unlike its competitor, it has not called on the top court to recall its earlier “mistaken” orders.
“Vi is seeking a clarification, pointing out that the arithmetical errors in the Department of Telecommunications’ (DoT) (AGR) calculations need to be looked into,” said a person aware of the developments.
The DoT, as per its calculation, has sought AGR dues of Rs 58,400 crore. Of this, Vi has paid Rs 7,854 crore and now owes the government Rs 50,400 crore more to be paid in 10 equal instalments through March 31, 2031. The telco’s own estimate puts the dues at Rs 21,533 crore, but the top court had barred telcos from self-assessing their dues, and went with the DoT’s claimed amounts.
Vodafone Idea didn’t respond to ET’s emailed queries.
Rival Airtel has also recently approached the Supreme Court, seeking a modification, clarification or recall of “mistaken orders” which have allowed the government to demand a total of Rs 43,980 crore as AGR dues from the telco. Airtel’s own calculations put its due at Rs 13,004 crore.
The Sunil Mittal-led telco, in its petition, has cited duplication in revenue addition, incorrect interest rate for calculating spectrum usage charges (SuC), payments made by the telco not factored in, amongst other errors in DoT’s AGR calculations.
Airtel, in fact, has said that the DoT’s errors have resulted in a significant increase in the due amounts being claimed. “…as for every Re. 1 increase in the principal amount, the levy of interest, penalty and interest on penalty, results in the amount being claimed by the Respondent increasing by up to Rs. 8/-, depending on the year to which it pertains”.
Another telco – Tata Teleservices – which has AGR dues of Rs 16,798 crore, of which the company has paid Rs 4,197 crore so far, may follow Airtel and Vi in moving the apex court on similar grounds, say people familiar. Tata Tele didn’t comment.
Any reduction in AGR dues is critical for Vi, given its weak cash flows, huge debt and need to invest in expanding its 4G network to stem rapid subscriber losses, say analysts. The company is looking to raise Rs25,000 crore via a mix of debt and equity to tide over its financial crisis.