November 15, 2019 / 1:25 PM / 24 days ago

India considering telecoms firms' request for relief on overdue payments

India's Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman attends a joint news conference with U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in New Delhi, India, November 1, 2019. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India is considering requests for financial relief from mobile carriers Vodafone Idea Ltd and Bharti Airtel Ltd, the finance minister said on Friday.

Bharti and Vodafone Idea are due to pay the bulk of 920 billion rupees ($13 billion) in overdue levies and interest owed by telecoms firms to the state, after India’s Supreme Court last month upheld a demand by the telecoms department.

Both companies reported combined losses amounting to more than $10 billion on Thursday, after making provisions for the dues owed to the government. They have also asked the government for relief from the charge. Relief measures could include a waiver or deferred payment terms.

New Delhi is not rushing to account for the money it will receive from telecom operators after the Supreme Court ruling, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman told reporters on Friday, adding the government was yet to take a final decision on companies’ requests.

India has formed a panel of bureaucrats to suggest ways to alleviate financial pressures on the telecoms sector which once comprised more than a dozen carriers but is now left with three major private players.

($1 = 71.3500 Indian rupees)

Reporting by Aftab Ahmed; Editing by Mark Potter

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