Exclusive: Aircel files to bankruptcy; SBI, other banks could be robbed off staggering Rs 15000 Cr by the insolvent telecom entity

11 March 2018, 01:28 AM

The financial sector of the country has been in doldrums ever since PNB, the nation's second largest public sector bank, unearthed  fraudulent banking transactions to the tune of over Rs 12000 crore allegedly committed by billionaire jeweller Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi.

At the time when the Indian government is coming up with a new set of guidelines to prevent future banking frauds and working towards recovery of loan amounting in thousands of crore from various Indian businessman, a Malaysian company Aircel Maxis has filed for bankruptcy with National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT), which means India’s largest bank State Bank of India (SBI) and other banks are going to lose at least RS 14,300 crores which they had lended to the company.

Aircel and its subsidiaries Aircel Cellular Ltd and Dishnet Wireless Ltd together owe around Rs 50,000 crore towards financial creditors and operational creditors at around Rs 35,000 crore.

Senior journalist Manoj Gairola said, “On investigating the case we have have learnt that alleged loan debt fraud by Aircel is larger than bank fraud committed by Nirav Modi and Vijay Mallya.”

“The way Aircel-Maxis owner Ananda exploited our system, it is no less than fraud,” added Gairola.

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News Nation in its investigation found that State Bank of India (SBI), Indian Bank of Consortium and Standard Chartered Bank lended Rs 14300 crore to Maxis Aircel in 2009.

The Malaysian company debt comes from loans raised to buy spectrum, including broadband wireless airwaves (BWA) back in 2010.

SBI in 2009 issued loan of Rs 10,000 crore to Aircel by keeping its 2G spectrum as a guarantee, which then valued Rs 1650 crore. While, Standard Chartered bank kept Maxis properties as guarantee for loan of Rs 4300 crore.

Banks usually recover default debts by selling of company properties. But in case of Aircel, the banks will fail to recover the loan amount as the Malaysian company does not have any asset - optical fibre, mobile tower and infrastructure - in the country except 2G spectrum license.

Aircel in India to run its cellular network in the country had outsourced its services to Nokia, Ericsson and ZTE.

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According to telecom and banking experts, evening after auctioning the spectrum banks will not be able to recover one-tenth of the loan amount.

Former VSNL CMD B K Singhal talking to News Nation said, “Aircel as an asset only has the 2G spectrum. The banks will have a tough time recovering the loan as spectrum price will hardly raise any money compared to the loan given.”

The experts also added that there are no buyers for the 2G spectrum. Even if any company buys the spectrum its current value has dropped below Rs 1000 crore. Aircel had purchased the spectrum for Rs 1650 crore for a contract of 20 years.

Gairola further said, "Aircel was alloted the 2G spectrum on first come first basis. According to Telecom Department norms the company or anyone cannot sell the spectrum."

"The only asset with Aircel now is 3G spectrum, which was bought for Rs 6500 crore in 2010 for 20 year license period. The current value is not more than Rs 4000 crore as one-third period of license tenure is over," added Gairola.

Aircel is the fifth largest mobile service provider with 85 million subscribers across 17 telecom circles in India.

First Published: Saturday, March 10, 2018 12:15 AM
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