The Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed Department of Telecommunications's (DoT) petition challenging the order of telecom tribunal TDSAT, which had directed the government to clear a deal between Bharti Airtel and Telenor without a bank guarantee of Rs 1,499 crore.
With this development, the last hurdle in the approval of the deal has been removed and it is expected that the deal will be approved within a week, according to sources.
DoT has been asking Airtel to submit a bank guarantee of Rs 1,499 crore as one-time spectrum charge for buying out mobile operations of Telenor India.
Another Rs 200 crore was also demanded by DoT for deferred payment of the spectrum held by Telenor. This amount of Rs 200 crore has been paid by Bharti Airtel already, according to sources.
“The special leave petition is dismissed. Pending application(s), if any, stand(s) disposed of accordingly,” Justices S K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan said in their order on Wednesday.
Airtel had moved Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) against the DOT’s demand, saying the issue of one-time spectrum charge is pending in the courts.
On April 12, TDSAT had directed DoT to clear the deal with Telenor without any bank guarantee. But this was challenged by the telecom department in the Supreme Court on May 3.
The deal has already been cleared by Competition Commission of India, Securities and Exchange Board of India and National Company Law Tribunal. The last approval has to come from DoT.
Airtel is buying out operations of Telenor in a no-cash deal while taking over its spectrum liabilities. The Telenor buyout will give Airtel access to 43.4 MegaHertz (MHz) spectrum in 1800 MHz band in seven circles and about 40 million users. The agreement between the two firms was signed last year in February.
The entry of a new player Reliance Jio has triggered a consolidation phase in the telecom industry, forcing small and marginal players to exit the hyper-competitive market.
Vodafone and Idea Cellular have announced a merger. Airtel announced buying out of operations of Telenor India and wireless operations of Tata Group. Reliance Jio has agreed to buy wireless assets of Reliance Communications and Aircel has filed for bankruptcy.
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