Aircel wants more time for fresh bids, citing 127 days lost in Supreme Court

The resolution professional of Aircel Friday sought excluding the 127 days it lost in fighting and winning a case against the government and Airtel so that it could get fresh bids for the remaining assets of the crippled company.

The IBC-mandated 270 days for a resolution is already over for the bankrupt company and it needs the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) to exclude the 127 days it spent in fighting the case against government and Airtel at the apex court and won.

It can be confirmed that on January 12, 2019, the Supreme Court had directed Bharti Airtel to pay Rs 453 crore immediately to Aricel. It also demanded DoT pay Rs 298 crore to the operator.

This is yet another example of the NCLT cases failing to meet the law mandated 270 days for resolution failing which the company goes into liquidation.

Relating this, the RP said it should be allowed to seek fresh bids for Aircel. But the NCLT bench headed by MK Shrawat did not offer any relief and posted the matter for further hearing on February 8.

The Supreme Court order came on a contempt petition filed by Aircel employees, who had accused both Airtel and DoT of failing to repay Rs 751 crore. The licensor was holding about Rs 751 crore as bank guarantees deposited when Aircel transferred its spectrum to Bharti Airtel in April 2016.

Aircel had to pay DoT Rs 298 crore in cash and Rs 453 crore in bank guarantees (totaling Rs 751 crore) as a precondition for clearing the spectrum transfer.

These were arranged by Airtel, which was deducted from the consideration price of Rs 3,500 crore.

Aircel had contested DoT’s demand for Rs 751 crore before the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT), which in a January 9, 2018 order had directed that the bank guarantees should be released within four weeks. But the TDSAT had permitted DoT to retain Rs 298 crore till another matter was settled.

Aircel and its subsidiaries Aircel Cellular and Dishnet Wireless together owe the sum of Rs 50,000 crore to creditors. The combined liability of the firms towards financial creditors stands at Rs 15,545 crore and around Rs 35,000 crore to operational creditors. The telco’s assets comprising spectrum licenses and fiber assets are valued at around Rs 32,362 crore.

Aircel group had on December 1, 2017, informed the Telecom Regulatory Authority (Trai) that it intended to surrender its whole license in the Gujarat, Maharashtra, Haryana, Himachal, MP and UP-West circles, following which the company shut services in these circles from January 31, 2018.

On 22 February, Aircel had informed Trai that it was facing deep financial stress. Subsequently, Trai asked it to give time to its subscribers to shift to other networks.


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