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Indian operators given ten years to pay up

The Indian Supreme Court had made the final judgment on the matter of the mountain of cash owed to the government by Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel.

A month ago the Supreme Court appeared to extinguish all hope for the embattled Indian operators, with a ruling that they definitely have to pay the zillions of rupees of historical spectrum and license fees to the government. Vodafone Idea had repeatedly plead for clemency on the simple ground that it couldn’t afford to pay and thus could be forced out of business.

This latest ruling, as reported by multiple Indian media, the one concession granted allows the money to be paid over the course of ten years, apparently at a rate of 10% per year. It looks like both the operators and the government wanted a 20-year window, but the Court decided to go against the wishes of everyone involved.

On top of that it looks like the CEOs in question are being made personally liable for the repayments and even put in place the procedure for selling spectrum assets by bankrupt companies. Everything about this ruling seems designed to increase the likelihood of Vodafone Idea, which is the most adversely affected by this legal saga, going out of business.

Indian analysts now seem to think Bharti Airtel will be OK but the real winner is Jio, which not only owes very little money but is already in a dominant position in the country. No company should be considered too big to fail, but when they state plays such a major and avoidable role in their failure, you have to wonder what has been going on behind the scenes.


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