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Airtel says released Rs 453 crore, Aircel says got only Rs 341 crore

Airtel, the country’s second-largest telecom operator, had paid Rs 298 crore in cash and submitted bank guarantees worth Rs 453 crore to DoT on behalf of cash-stricken Aircel.

, ET Bureau|
Updated: Jan 11, 2019, 11.40 AM IST
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Cancellation of the bank guarantees by court has extinguished DoT’s right to encash them, the primary reason why the money was not paid by Airtel till now.
MUMBAI: Bharti Airtel has begun the process of paying Aircel, bringing relief to the bankrupt telco that needs money to maintain assets and pay 3,000 employees. It has also potentially staved off contempt proceedings in Supreme Court.

While sources at Airtel say the entire due amount has been released, officials at Aircel say only Rs 341 crore of the Rs 453 crore has been received. "Airtel remains in contempt of court as it has not paid the entire amount and is setting off Rs 112 crore illegally,” said an Aircel official.

The two companies have been locked in a year-long battle. The Supreme Court had ordered Airtel to make the payment in November and on Wednesday had allowed 300 Aircel employees to file a contempt case against the Sunil Mittal-owned telco, its unit Bharti Hexacom and the telecom department (DoT) for not returning the amount.

Airtel’s lawyer said the payment has been released in compliance with the top court’s order. “The amount owed to Aircel entities was not paid till now since the bank guarantees were with DoT, which had a lien and the ability to encash them,” the lawyer told ET. “Cancellation of the bank guarantees by court has extinguished DoT’s right to encash them, the primary reason why the money was not paid by Airtel till now.”

Airtel did not respond to ET’s queries. Aircel, which expects to get another Rs 298 crore from DoT by January 25, did not respond either.

Aircel, under Rs 19,000 crore of debt, is in the last leg of a corporate insolvency resolution process. It has been trying to raise money to keep assets such as its fibre network and infrastructure afloat so they can fetch good sale value.

The National Company Law Tribunal has granted time till later this month to find buyers for Aircel’s assets. The company also needs to pay employees salaries and dues. Aircel’s employees had earlier managed to raise Rs 90 crore and had pleaded in the Supreme Court that the dues from DoT and Airtel were needed to meet basic needs.

Airtel, the country’s second-largest telecom operator, had paid Rs 298 crore in cash and submitted bank guarantees worth Rs 453 crore to DoT on behalf of cash-stricken Aircel, adjusting the amount against its Rs 3,500 crore deal to buy Aircel’s spectrum.
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