Vodafone CEO Nick Read is set to visit India later this week. Vodafone Idea is struggling to survive in the country due to tariff war and the massive AGR due. The company has to pay adjusted gross revenue of Rs 53,000 crore. Read, who is the global CEO of Vodafone, is visiting the country with a hope for bailout. He has reportedly sought time to meet with telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad. Earlier, Vodafone CEO had expressed doubts about the company’s ability to continue in the Indian market.
Aditya Birla Group chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla has also met with government officials to discuss relief. He has met with Prasad and finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman. Late last year, Birla warned that Vodafone Idea Ltd will be forced to shut shop if there was no relief from the government. His remarks came after the Supreme Court ruled requiring telecom operators to pay statutory dues of Rs 40,000 crore to the department of telecommunications (DoT) within three months.
Nick Read’s planned visit to India was first reported by the Times of India. The report citing sources familiar with Vodafone CEO’s plan did not share actual dates. We reached out to Vodafone for a comment and will update the story accordingly. Read’s visit will be an important one as the company is inching towards the possibility of shutting down operations here. Last month, the DoT asked telcos to clear dues immediately. Airtel had filed a curative petition after the Supreme Court ordered telcos to clear all AGR dues.
According to DoT calculations, Airtel has to pay Rs 35,500 crore while Vodafone Idea has to pay Rs 53,000 crore. Tata Teleservices has a due to little over Rs 12,500 crore. The telecom operators owe Rs 1.47 lakh crore in dues on account of AGR. DoT has also withdrawn its earlier directions granting protection from coercive action to defaulting telecom companies. Since Jio started operations in 2016, Airtel and Vodafone Idea have struggled in the market.
While the incumbent players initially struggled with revenue, they are now forced to ensure they continue operations. The telecom operators have only recently increased their tariffs to sustain the decline in revenue. Airtel seems to have managed to survive but Vodafone Idea is struggling. With Read’s visit, it needs to be seen whether the company can get a bailout from the government.