Faced with a massive Rs 170-billion non-performing asset, lenders have warned wireless telephony provider Aircel to either infuse more funds into the company or go to the National Companies Law Tribunal (NCLT). The lenders have called a meeting on January 19 to take a final call on the company’s future.
The lenders want Aircel promoter, Malaysia-based Maxis, to invest at least $1 billion into the company so that it can meet financial obligations. With the company planning to shut services in six circles, lenders expect its financial metrics to fall further. Hence, the lenders want Maxis to infuse more cash from promoters.
Until October last year, Aircel was planning a merger with Anil Ambani-owned Reliance Communications (RCom) to emerge as the fourth player in the Indian market. But they could not get permission from the Department of Communications due to a pending case in the Supreme Court, and its merger plan collapsed.
Aircel has already defaulted on repayment of interest on its debt obligations worth Rs174 billion on account of its weak liquidity position, which worsened after the launch of Jio’s free services in September 2016The company then was seeking a merger with telecom tower company, GTL Infrastructure. But minority shareholders of GTL Infra, too, are not in favour of the merger due to Aircel’s failing financial health. Lenders, who own a majority stake in GTL Infra, are currently evaluating this possibility.
It has been a roller coaster journey for Maxis in India. It has invested close to $7 billion in India’s wireless telephony market but has not made any money. Without elaborating, an Aircel spokesperson said the promoter was committed to its India operations. Banking sources said if money was not invested in Aircel by March to repay its debt, they will have no choice but to send the company to the NCLT for resolution under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code.
Aircel has already defaulted on repayment of interest on its debt obligations worth Rs174 billion on account of its weak liquidity position, which worsened after the launch of Jio’s free services in September 2016. After withdrawing services from six circles, it is focusing only on the profit-making circles.