Any immediate payment of dues by telcos following the Supreme Court order on adjusted gross revenue (AGR) would leave them with limited financial flexibility to bid for 5G spectrum thus delaying its auction, Fitch Ratings has said.

“The Supreme Court’s acceptance of the DoT’s definition of AGR is a setback to the telecom industry. The quantum and timing of cash outflow is uncertain as over 60 per cent of outstanding dues include taxes and penalties. If Vodafone Idea were to pay $4 billion immediately, it would cause a severe stress on their balance sheet. Also an immediate payment of such dues could delay the 5G spectrum auction as incumbents would have limited financial flexibilities to bid for 5G spectrum auctions,” Nitin Soni, Director – Corporates, Fitch Ratings told IANS.

The Supreme Court had on Thursday upheld the government’s broader definition of revenue on which it calculates levies on telecom operators, dealing a Rs 92,000 crore blow to an industry already reeling from a collapse in tariffs and mounting debt.

The Supreme Court (SC) has said the telecom companies would have to pay the fine and penalties, apart from the AGR dues on licence. The payout by telcos could rise to an estimated Rs 1.23 lakh crore once spectrum usage charges (SUC) linked to the AGR are taken into account.

Recovery is unlikely from bankrupt companies given banks are already taking a haircut on such bankrupt telcos.

While Bharti Airtel has pending licence fee dues of nearly Rs 21,700 crore, the dues of the combined entity of Vodafone Idea amount to nearly Rs 28,300 crore. Anil Ambani-led Reliance Communications, which is undergoing insolvency proceedings, has pending licence dues of nearly Rs 16,500 crore, according to an affidavit submitted before the apex court by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) in July.