Swamped By Debt, Aircel Gets DoT Nod To Raise Over Rs 21k Crore Via Loans

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The telecom department has allowed Aircel to raise more than Rs 21,000 crore via local and overseas loans through a consortium led by State Bank of India.

The financially struggling telco could use the funds to refinance existing debt. Analysts said the in-principle approval could mean the mobile phone operator, 74% owned by Malaysian telecom operator Maxis, is the first to have pledged spectrum to raise money. The move will help in making the company more attractive to a potential buyer.

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT), according to an internal note, has agreed to sign a tripartite agreement with SBI and Aircel to raise Rs 14,500 crore as do domestic lending and $1.18 billion (Rs 7,080 crore) as overseas borrowings against licences/spectrum in 15 service areas. Aircel didn’t respond to an emailed request for comment.

Chennai-based Aircel has permits to operate 2G services in 22 telecom circles in the country, 3G in 13 service areas and broadband wireless services, or 4G, in eight circles. It hasn’t yet started any 4G operations.

The company’s total debt has shot up to more than Rs 24,000 crore primarily due to a hefty payout of nearly Rs 10,000 crore for 3G and broadband wireless access (BWA) spectrum in the 2010 auctions, and for expanding operations in 2G and 3G over the years.

Intense competition and high interest costs have meant Aircel has been losing money substantially over the years, leaving it with a negative net worth of Rs 4,198.25 crore, according to DoT data released late January. Original Post at The Economic Times

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Wahengbam Rorrkychand

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