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Tikona-Airtel Merger: SC Orders 15-Day Status Quo On DoT Demand

The Supreme Court on Monday ordered status quo for 15 days on the DoT’s demand of `1,627 crore for allowing the merger of Tikona Wireless with Bharti Airtel. The amount is on account of one-time spectrum charge (OTSC) of Bharti Airtel.

A Bench led by Justice Arun Mishra, while observing that it was not expressing any opinion on the validity of OTSC, asked both parties to approach TDSAT for hearing of a review plea filed by Bharti.

Bharti, through senior counsel AM Singhvi, claimed that the government appeal is intended to delay the case on OTSC in TDSAT. He said the high court has already dismissed its appeal against the tribunal’s interim order.

The government had last week moved the SC against the TDSAT order that stayed its demand of `1,627 crore for allowing the merger.

“…Accordingly, we direct the authorities concerned of the Union of India to take the merger of two companies and licence on record, subject to the under mentioned conditions and the final result of this petition… This interim order shall govern the parties till it is vacated or modified after considering any further or new material, which may be brought on record on behalf of the respondent,” TDSAT had stated while ruling in favour of the merger.

DoT had in August 2018 asked Bharti Airtel to pay a total of `1,626.89 crore to clear the merger with Bharti Digital Networks (formerly known as Tikona Digital Networks). Airtel had, however, approached the TDSAT seeking a stay on the DoT demand.

In March 2017, Airtel had announced its decision to acquire the 4G business of Tikona Networks, including broadband spectrum and 350 sites across five telecom circles, for about `1,600 crore. Tikona had 20 MHz spectrum in the 2,300-MHz band, with second largest ecosystem of 4G devices in Gujarat, eastern and western Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh circles.

The National Company Law Tribunal in July last year had approved the merger.

Airtel plans to roll out high-speed 4G services on the newly acquired spectrum in the five circles immediately after the transaction is complete.―Financial Express

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