Government intends to address concerns of telecom sector: FM Nirmala Sitharaman

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Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the government plans to address the concerns of the crisis-ridden telecom companies which are facing billions of dollars of fresh statutory liability.

The finance minister said, “I want no company to shut operations. I want everyone to be up and running. We want the economy to have good number of companies in business and flourish in their business.

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“Not just telecom sector, my wish is all companies in all sector(s) be able to do business, service their market customer and survive. So with that approach, the finance ministry has always been talking and in telecom too that’s the approach we have taken,” the minister added.

While announcing its financial results on Thursday, telecom major Vodafone Idea (VIL) had said its ability to continue as a going concern is dependent on obtaining relief from the government and positive outcome of the legal remedy after the apex court ruling on the Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) issue.

The Supreme Court last month ruled in favour of the government and directed telecom companies to pay as much as Rs 1.42 lakh crore in past statutory dues to the government.

Days after the Supreme Court verdict, the government had set up a Committee of Secretaries (CoS) under the Cabinet Secretary to suggest measures to mitigate financial stress in the sector.

Sitharaman said “it is the intention” to address concerns of all those who have approached the government with serious concerns post the court’s decision.

“We are also conscious that there is a Supreme Court order that the government has won and therefore, the department concerned has to take a call that would be a collective call, taking into account… understanding implication for the sector and finances of the government,” she said.

Regarding CoS, the minister said “it is yet to take a call”.

Sitharaman also said that no bank has approached the finance ministry raising concern over their exposure to the telecom sector.

VIL posted a loss of Rs 50,921 crore which is the highest-ever quarterly loss by any corporate in India, mainly on account of provisioning for paying the statutory dues.

VIL said it is in the process of filing a review petition on the AGR matter.

Telecom major Bharti Airtel too reported a loss of Rs 23,045 crore for the September quarter.

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