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Kumar Mangalam Birla steps down as Vodafone Idea Chairman

Kumar Mangalam Birla has stepped down as the chairman of struggling carrier Vodafone Idea Ltd.

The board accepted Birla’s request to step down as a non-executive director and the non-executive chairman of Vodafone Idea from Aug. 4, the telecom operator said in an exchange filing.

Himanshu Kapania, a nominee of the Aditya Birla Group, has been appointed as the non-executive chairman.

The board also appointed Sushil Agarwal, a nominee of Aditya Birla Group, as an additional director.

Birla had written to the the government on June 7 seeking immediate support for Vodafone Idea. The carrier’s survival is in doubt after the Supreme Court did not allow telecom operators’ plea to correct pending dues. Vodafone Idea’s liabilities surged after the top court last year allowed the government to levy statutory dues on non-core revenue as well.

A recent report by ICICI Securities had said that Vodafone Idea had liabilities worth Rs 23,200 crore coming up for repayments within the next 12 months. In comparison, the company’s liquid assets include Rs 350 crore cash and cash equivalents, and land and tax refunds worth Rs 3,000 crore.

Previously, Vodafone Idea, Tata Teleservices Ltd. and Bharti Airtel Ltd. have challenged the Department of Telecom’s math on the dues at the Supreme Court. On July 23, the apex judiciary had dismissed appeals by the telecom companies, stating that no further recalculation of dues would be permitted.

Before the Supreme Court judgment, on July 19, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta informed the court that he does not have any instructions from the government on the issue and that he would need two days to revert.

In October 2019, the Supreme Court had ruled that non-core revenue must be included while calculating statutory levies, ending a 14-year-old legal battle between mobile operators and the government on the definition of AGR. That had increased the liabilities of Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea to more than Rs 90,000 crore. BloombergQuint

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