Vodafone Idea down amid telcos' financial bailout buzz

Vodafone Idea stock closed at Rs 3.81 apiece, 1.04 per cent lower on the BSE. Reuters file photo

In a highly volatile trade, shares of Vodafone Idea on Wednesday settled in the red after soaring 8.5 per cent in early deals amid reports that a government panel is being formed to work out a bailout package for the telecom sector.

Vodafone Idea stock closed at Rs 3.81 apiece, 1.04 per cent lower on the BSE. Intra-day, its shares zoomed 8.57 per cent to Rs 4.18 a unit.

Buoyed by the reports, Bharti Airtel too saw its stock rise 2.31 per cent to close at Rs 368.25 apiece.

Its shares fell over 3 per cent on Tuesday after the company deferred the September quarter result announcement till November 14, due to the adjusted gross revenue (AGR) issue.

As the telecom sector stares at a massive payout following a Supreme Court order, the government has created a Committee of Secretaries (CoS) to work out a financial bailout package that may include lowering of spectrum charges as well as ending the era of free mobile phone calls and dirt cheap data.

The CoS has been asked to examine "all aspects" of "financial stress" faced by service providers such as Bharti Airtel and Vodafone-Idea and suggest measures to mitigate them, sources in the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) said.

The panel, which will comprise secretaries to the ministries of finance, law, and telecom, has been asked to look at the demands of telecom service providers (TSPs) for deferment of payments they had promised for the spectrum won through auction as well as consider lowering airwave usage charge.

While older TSPs such as Bharti Airtel and Vodafone-Idea have been talking of financial stress ever since they faced intense competition from free voice and dirt-cheap data from newcomer Reliance Jio, the matter has assumed greater importance after the October 24 judgment of the Supreme Court.

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