The government informed the parliament that it intends to return all bank guarantees (BGs) submitted by the telecom operators to securitise the deferred payment spectrum instalments for the spectrum auction 2012, 2014, 2015 and 2016, for which moratorium has been opted by telecom service providers. To this end, the telcos will be asked to refurnish BGs of an amount equal to their next payable instalment 13 months before its due date.

This is the first time the government has officially confirmed it would be returning the BGs to operators. The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) had withheld these BGs submitted for payment for spectrum dues as guarantee against future adjusted gross revenue (AGR) payments in accordance with the Supreme Court’s direction in its AGR judgement.

However, the calculations are yet to be finalised by the concerned authority. According to Vodafone Idea Limited’s (Vi’s) calculations, the government would hold nearly 36 per cent in the telco post conversion, making it the largest shareholder. The calculations need to be confirmed by the government.

As per Devusinh Chauhan, minister of state for communications, the finance ministry will finalise the procedure, method, rate of conversion, mix of equity and preferential capital, if any, compliance with markets regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) and other relevant guidelines.

The parliament was further informed that the telecom operators owe over Rs 1.65 trillion to the government in AGR up to financial year 2018-19. According to data shared by Chauhan, liability of telecom operators has increased compared to the previous order with calculation for full financial year 2018-19. The fresh calculation shows AGR liability on Bharti Airtel was Rs 312.80 billion, Vi Rs 592.36 billion, Reliance Jio Rs 6.31 billion, BSNL Rs 162.24 billion and MTNL Rs 50.09 billion up to financial year 2018-19.

However, telecom operators had made part payment of the demand raised from them as per order dated September 1, 2020 for the dues calculated till October 2019. The demand raised in September 2020 includes, total dues calculated generally up to financial year 2016-17 and interest, penalty and interest on penalty due on the total demand up to October 2019. The outstanding dues based on September 2020 order, after the partial payment, on Airtel was Rs 259.76 billion, Vodafone Idea Rs 503.99 billion, nil on Reliance Jio, BSNL Rs 58.36 billion, MTNL Rs 43.52 billion. The total outstanding AGR dues on telecom operators was Rs 1.39 trillion after the part payment based on demand raised in September 2020 order.