India’s top court gives telcos ten years to pay back AGR dues

A woman checks her mobile phone inside the premises of the Supreme Court in New Delhi, India. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis/Files

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India’s top court on Tuesday gave telecom firms 10 years to pay back AGR dues they owe to the federal government after they failed to make the payment by the January deadline.

Telecom providers in India pay the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) nearly 3-5% of their adjusted gross revenue (AGR) in usage charges for spectrum or airwaves and 8% of AGR as licence fees, but they have been at odds on the definition of AGR.

The decision would provide some respite to embattled Vodafone Idea Ltd, a joint venture between Britain’s Vodafone Group Plc and India’s Idea Cellular, even though it had asked the court for 15 years to complete payments.

The Supreme Court, however, asked that telecoms firms pay 10% of the dues owed by March 31, 2021.

Vodafone Idea, seen as the most vulnerable if the court did not allow for staggered payments, has so far paid 78.54 billion Indian rupees ($1.08 billion), but still owes roughly 500 billion to the government.

Bharti Airtel has said it has paid its complete dues of 180 billion rupees on the basis of self-assessment, but still needs to pay another 259.76 billion rupees, according to government calculations.

Shares in Vodafone Idea were down 14.7%, while Bharti was up 5.3% at 0623 GMT.

($1 = 72.7800 Indian rupees)

(Reporting by Suchitra Mohanty; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa)

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