Airtel, TTSL could be hit with $2.15b bill over merger

13 Mar 2019

India's Bharti Airtel and Tata Teleservices may need to pay nearly 150 billion rupees ($2.15 billion) in spectrum charges to the government to clinch approval for their planned merger.

The Department of Telecom is preparing to issue the demand as a condition for granting approval for the merger, unnamed DoT officials told the Economic Times.

The expected bills will cover unpaid license fees, spectrum usage charges and a one-time spectrum reallocation charge. It will include a 120 billion rupee charge for Bharti Airtel and a 28 billion rupee charge for Tata Teleservices.

DoT approval is the last remaining major hurdle that the companies will need to clear to approve of the merger, which was announced in 2017. The deal has already been signed off on by the National Company Law Tribunal.

According to the report, license fees, which will be based on adjusted gross revenue, may further add to the cost.

But the department is already expecting the operators to appeal the one time spectrum charges with the Telecom Disputes Settlements and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT).

The operators may also potentially seek to block DoT's efforts to demand spectrum usage charges based on the legal uncertainty over the definition of an operator's adjusted gross revenue, against which annual license fees are calculated.

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