Anil Ambani, chairman of Reliance Communications Limited, leaves after a conference (Photographer: Amit Bhargava/Bloomberg News)  

Anil Ambani’s RCom Still Chasing Spectrum Sale Possibility

(Bloomberg) -- Billionaire Anil Ambani’s telecom unit is still fighting to get approval for the sale of its airwaves, indicating that the company hasn’t given up on selling the assets outside India’s bankruptcy process.

India’s Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal on Monday heard arguments on Reliance Communications Ltd.’s petition to allow it to sell its airwaves without past liabilities from the asset being passed to the buyer. The issue was behind the unraveling of RCom’s deal to offload its assets to Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd., owned by Anil’s older brother. The case will next be heard on Feb. 26.

“The deal could not go through because of confusion over wording of spectrum trading guidelines,” RCom’s lawyer Meet Malhotra told the tribunal. “I’ve bound myself in the agreement that the liabilities remain mine,” he said, referring to the deal between RCom and Jio.

RCom had agreed to sell its airwaves, towers, fiber and other telecom assets to Reliance Jio in December 2017 for 173 billion rupees ($2.4 billion) to fend off creditors. The deal came undone over the issue of who would be responsible for past liabilities to the government. RCom had agreed to stand guarantee, but the Department of Telecommunications refused to clear the deal until the buyer agreed to stand by the liabilities.

The company is arguing before the telecom tribunal that spectrum trading guidelines refer to past liabilities only related to spectrum and not all past dues. RCom had filed the case before deciding this month to enter insolvency proceedings, a decision on which hasn’t yet been taken by the court.

“If they don’t push me to the wall, I will survive and I will pay all dues,” RCom’s lawyer Malhotra said.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.