Bharti Airtel Ltd shares jumped as much as 4.5%, while those of Vodafone Idea Ltd tanked nearly 19% on Friday soon after the Supreme Court slammed the DoT(Department of Telecommunications) for not taking any action against telecom companies on failing to repay AGR (aggregated gross revenue) dues by 23 January as ordered earlier.
While hearing a plea filed by telcos asking for more time to pay AGR dues, the Supreme Court drew contempt against the DoT officers and the companies as it noted that not a penny has been deposited yet. The next hearing in the case has been scheduled for 16 March.
Interestingly, after the hearing, Bharti Airtel shares touched the day’s high of Rs 564.50 apiece, while Vodafone Idea hit the day’s low of Rs 3.65. Analysts believe that Airtel shares are rallying despite the adverse Supreme Court ruling on prospects of a likely duopoly in India’s telecom sector. Paying AGR dues will weaken rival Vodafone Idea further, raising questions over its survival in the Indian market.
“The company (Vodafone Idea) has no source of cash to pay the liabilities and was entirely dependent on payment relief (by the government). It has cash merely to continue operations for the next 2-3 quarters,” analysts at Motilal Oswal Financial Services Ltd had said in a note earlier this year. Bharti Airtel is reportedly supposed to pay more than Rs 34,000 crores by way of AGR dues, while Vodafone Idea owes about Rs 44,000 crores to the government.
Earlier, on 17 January, the Supreme Court had dismissed the petitions filed by telecom firms to review the court’s October 2019 verdict which rejected the telcos’ definition of AGR and exposed them to payments of up to Rs 1.33 lakh crores. Later then, telecom firms had filed a modification petition, not disputing the amount, but requesting for more time to pay the same.