Barely a few days before spectrum auction for 2G, the Finance Ministry today gave some breather to telecom operators allowing them to refinance their rupee loans for upfront payment for this purpose with cheaper and long-term external commercial borrowings (ECBs).
"The successful bidders in the 2G auction would be eligible to refinance their Rupee loans availed of from the domestic lenders for making the upfront payment with a long-term ECB, under the automatic route," a statement from the finance ministry said.
Not only that the operators are also allowed to ustilise ECBs raised by their parent companies for the purpose.
Besides, the successful bidding operators will be allowed to avail ECB raised by their parent company without any maximum ECB liability-equity ratio. In 2010, the government had allowed a window of 12 months to the successful bidders of 3G auction to refinance the rupee loans. The Reserve Bank of India is expected to issue relevant circular to this effect within a week, the statement added. Auction for 2G spectrum is slated to be held on November 12. Yesterday, the Cabinet had cleared a proposal to impose a one-time charge on incumbent GSM operators' spectrum beyond 4.4 MHz. According to the Department of Telecom calculation, operators including Bharti Airtel, Vodafone, Aircel, Idea Cellular and the state-owned BSNL and MTNL would have to fork out Rs 24,989 crore for this purpose. However, nearly half the burden (Rs 11,573 crore) will have to be borne by the government telecom operators. The Cabinet had, however, deferred a decision in this respect on CDMA operators.
This is so because there are no bidders for this band in the auction, with both Videocon and Tata Teleservices having pulled out. The Budget pegged proceeds from 2G spectrum sale and one-time fee at Rs 40,000 crore for this fiscal. However, Finance Minister P Chidambaram had said yesterday that the government had targeted Rs 30,000 crore revenue from this route. However, DoT officials said the proceeds could be just Rs 20,000 crore.