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Minister Meets FM Over MTNL Wage Bill

Telecom Minister Manoj Sinha on Tuesday met Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and is understood to have sought funds amounting to over Rs 1000 crore for salary payments to cash-strapped MTNL till June this year.

Sinha was accompanied by telecom secretary Aruna Sundararajan and MTNL chairman and MD Praveen Kumar Purwar to the meeting. Sinha, Sundararajan and Purwar declined to comment on the purpose of their meeting. However, MTNL sources said the meeting took up the sector’s concerns.

MTNL share price is down 2.51 per cent at Rs 13.60. The PSU is under intense pressure over high competition, lack of funds and revenues. Its networth has turned negative. MTNL operates in Delhi and Mumbai.

Sources said MTNL is not in a position to pay salaries any further. The Department of Telecom has been paying the salaries amounting to around Rs 200 crore a month since November last year.

The funds sought from the Finance Ministry would cover MTNL’s wage bill till June or completion of polls. MTNL, which operates only in Delhi and Mumbai and expects that these measures will help the company is doing away with debt to the tune of around Rs 19,000 crore. The revenue to wage ratio in case of MTNL has swelled to 90 per cent.

In January, MTNL had sought Rs 500 crore from DoT to pay January salary by raising pending dues for the period 2000-13.

MTNL has sought financial support, 4G spectrum and approvals for asset sales as part of its revival plan. It has pleaded for a refund of interest that it paid for broadband wireless access spectrum which it had returned to the government.

DoT had returned MTNL’s loans taken for the purpose on the principal amount while withholding the interests.  The PSU has also sought permission to monetise their land assets as well as the voluntary retirement scheme for employees on the Gujarat model costing Rs 2120 crore.

MTNL’s December-quarter loss widened to Rs 832.26 crore. Total income of the telecom PSU stood at Rs 692.42 crore, 18.7 per cent lower than Rs 852.64 crore notched in the corresponding period of the previous year.

Total expenses climbed to Rs 1524.6 crore as against Rs 1491.6 crore in the year-ago quarter.―The Quint

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