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Telecom spectrum auctions credit neutral for Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel

The acquisition of spectrum by Reliance Jio Infocomm (RJio) and Bharti Airtel in recently-concluded 4G spectrum auction will not impact their financial and credit profiles, India Ratings and Research (Ind-Ra) said on Friday.

Ind-Ra rates RJio at AAA with stable outlook and Bharti’s debt at A1-plus. The agency believes both RJio and Bharti have strong financial flexibility to make immediate upfront payment (RJio ₹19,900 crore and Bharti ₹7,000 crore) and adequate cash flow buffers to cover yearly spectrum payments FY24 onwards.

Bharti’s spectrum acquisition strategy is to focus on increasing its spectrum footprint (especially in the 1,800MHz band) and create additional capacities (especially in B and C circles by acquiring the 2,300MHz band), possibly to make its network ready for higher data usage or for improving service quality.

RJio, while renewing and simultaneously enhancing most of its 1,800MHz spectrum, has also focused on enhancing its coverage (acquisition of the 800MHz band) and capacity (acquisition of the 2,300MHz band).

The government will receive total consideration of nearly ₹77,800 crore from the auction of which about ₹27,600 crore will be immediate upfront payments, said Ind-Ra.

Payment terms for the spectrum involve an option to the bidders to make the entire payment upfront or pay 25 to 50 per cent upfront with the remaining to be paid over 16 years after a two-year moratorium.

RJio has acquired the highest spectrum, adding up to a total of 488MHz through three bands 800MHz, 1,800MHz and 2,300Mhz. The acquisition of this additional spectrum in all the 22 circles has increased the telco’s spectrum footprint and will enhance its network capacity.

RJio has also announced that the company intends to utilise the acquired spectrum for the transition to 5G at the appropriate time.

Bharti has acquired 356MHz spectrum through five bands ranging from 800MHz to 2,300Mhz, to improve its services and widen the customer base. HindustanTimes

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