After the Supreme Court ordered telecom companies to pay their adjusted gross revenue (AGR) dues immediately, State Bank of India (SBI) chairman Rajnish Kumar has reportedly said the bank was prepared for the worst. He said that the banks will speak to telcos about their exposure and hope they have some plans for it.
"Telecom companies have to talk to the government. We will talk to them and I am sure they will be having plans," Kumar said speaking on the sidelines of an event organised by the Nasscom in Mumbai.
Kumar's comments came after the Supreme Court made it clear that telecom companies will have to pay the Rs 1.47 lakh crore in AGR dues. State Bank of India (SBI), the country's largest lender, has nearly Rs 29,000 crore loan exposure in telecom sector, the highest among Indian banks. Apart from this, SBI has an additional Rs 14,000 crore in non-fund based exposure which will devolve only if there is a non-payment of dues.
"Our exposure to them is Rs 29,000 crore. After this order we will ask them what their plans are to comply with the order and whatever is the situation, we are capable of handling," Kumar added.
In a massive blow to telecom companies, the Supreme Court on Friday rapped the DoT desk officer for scuttling SC's original AGR order which asked the telecom operators to pay up their dues of Rs 1.47 lakh crore by January 23. DoT desk officer had asked circle head to not take any coercive action against telcos in contravention of the SC judgement. The court also pulled up Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea for not paying their AGR dues to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT).
In October last year, the apex court had ordered operators to pay Rs 1.47 lakh crore in statutory dues by January 23. A review petition against the order was rejected on January 16.
According to industry experts, banks would be severely impacted if their exposure to telecom turns non-performing assets after the Supreme Court latest order.
As of now, only Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Jio has paid its AGR dues of Rs 60 crore. While Vodafone Idea owes over Rs 53,038 crore to DoT, Bharti Airtel has dues of Rs 35,600 crore. Tata Teleservices has to pay Rs 14,000 crore.
Meanwhile, Bharti Airtel has informed the DoT that it would deposit Rs 10,000 crore by February 20, and the remaining amount will be paid before the next hearing date - that is March 17. Airtel said that its payments pertain to group companies such as Bharti Airtel, Bharti Hexacom and Telenor India.
By Chitranjan Kumar with PTI inputs