More reports on: Telecom

Aircel exploring all options as staff threatens FIRs over dues

07 March 2018

Aircel, which moved the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) last week for insolvency, is exploring many options to run the business as an ongoing concern till the resolution process takes off.

According to Business Standard, it is learnt that a bid by the management, backed by financial investors, is an alternative that the telco is looking at. It is also weighing the possibility of an interim financing deal approved by a proposed resolution professional to take care of the operational expenses till the bids come.

Another option the company is weighing is to convince key promoter Anand Krishnamurty of Maxis to pay the interest overdue of Rs3 billion so that it becomes eligible to bid. Maxis has already invested more than $7 billion Rs 465 billion at the current forex value) in the India venture.

Sources said the top management was expected to go to Malaysia in a few days to discuss the plan of action. Further investment in the company was unlikely, they added.

Meanwhile, employees of Aircelhave threatened to register police cases (First Information Reports) against the senior management and promoters for failing to pay salary dues to them.

In an email to the members of the board and stakeholders, employees have asked for an immediate solution to various issues including taking back stocks of channel partners and retailers or giving them a written confirmation that the company will take back all stocks lying in the market, DNA reports.

They have also asked the company to pay back all their dues along with full provident fund and gratuity payments and severance packages. Besides, the company should allow mass unique porting code generation and share the codes with channel / customers / other operators, they say.

The employees also said they have been receiving threats from channel partners.

Senior executives pointed out to Business Standard that on 25 January, the consortium of banks had cleared a restructuring plan under which the promoters would bring in fresh equity capital of $400 million (Rs2,600 crore), while the banks would convert a portion of their loans into equity so that they had a 45 per cent stake in Aircel. The rest of the debt would be restructured. However, weeks later, new rules announced by Reserve Bank of India abolishing such debt restructuring schemes forced Aircel to take a new path.

Aircel executives said the company could offer value to big players like Bharti Airtel or Reliance Jio as a low-end mobile services brand. These customers (of Aircel) would take two to three years to move to 4G, they said.

The telco has substantial presence in Tamil Nadu, followed by the North-East, Assam and Kolkata. Its plan is to operate only in seven circles and run 2G and 3G services. Currently, it is operational in 16 circles after it closed six some months ago.

The company would be a test case in NCLT as unlike manufacturing plants, in service companies customers move away quickly and most of the assets except spectrum is outsourced, executives said. It is therefore trying to impress upon NCLT the need to hasten the process of resolution.

''If we have to wait for 270 days, there will be no choice but to liquidate as customers would have left us and we of course won't have the money to pay for rental of towers or electricity and employees,'' said a BS source.

The only value that the company will have is in the sale of its spectrum. The telco has over 84 million customers but has been losing market share due to the onslaught of Reliance Jio.

The company has a total debt of Rs150 billion, of which 70 per cent is with Indian banks. It also has to pay its vendors, many of whom have also filed recovery suits in courts.

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