Tel­cos Get a Shrill Ear­ful from TRAI on Call Drops

Reg­u­la­tor tells SC cos only want to add users; not in­vest­ing in in­fras­truc­ture

The Economic Times - - Front Page - Sa­man­waya.Rau­tray @times­group.com

New Delhi: The Tele­com Reg­u­la­tory Au­thor­ity of In­dia launched a fierce at­tack on the country’s phone com­pa­nies in the Supreme Court on Thurs­day, ac­cus­ing of them of be­hav­ing like a car­tel that was only in­ter­ested in prof­i­teer­ing at the ex­pense of con­sumers who have to put up with atro­cious ser­vice qual­ity in the form of dropped calls.

“This is a car­tel of four-five play­ers in a country of a bil­lion,” At­tor­ney-Gen­eral Mukul Ro­hatgi told the apex court, ar­gu­ing against a pe­ti­tion filed by tel­cos against a Delhi High Court rul­ing up­hold­ing TRAI penal­ties on call drop charges. “They earn huge rev­enues and couldn’t be both­ered about consumer sat­is­fac­tion.”

Ro­hatgi said the com­pa­nies were earn­ing up to 61% profit but only in­vest­ing 5% in in­fras­truc­ture and only in­ter­ested in sign­ing more sub­scribers with­out fix­ing call drops.

The com­pany has suf­fered al­most a decade of losses amid poor de­mand and cheap Chi­nese im­ports.

Tata Steel has made it clear that it wanted to com­plete the sale process in a “time-bound” man­ner.

Min­is­ters un­veiled their pro­pos­als for a pack­age of sup­port af­ter Busi­ness Sec­re­tary Sa­jid Javid said last week that the govern­ment was pre­pared to “co-in­vest” in Bri­tish Steel. The of­fer has been made by the UK and Welsh govern­ments and will be made avail­able on com­mer­cial terms to po­ten­tial buy­ers of the busi­ness. “This govern­ment is com­mit­ted to sup­port­ing the steel in­dus­try to se­cure a long-term vi­able fu­ture and we are work­ing closely with Tata Steel UK on its process to find a cred­i­ble buyer. The de­tail of our com­mer­cial fund­ing of­fer is clear ev­i­dence of the ex­tent of that com­mit­ment,” Javid said in a press re­lease on Thurs­day.

Out­lin­ing its pack­age, the De­part­ment for Busi­ness, In­no­va­tion and Skills said the fi­nan­cial sup­port will be tailored to the pur­chaser’s strat­egy and fi­nanc­ing needs. How­ever, it is ex­pected that all, or the large ma­jor­ity, will be through the pro­vi­sion of debt fi­nanc­ing.

The govern­ment is also open to pro­vid­ing hy­brid (con­vert­ible debt) or al­ter­na­tive forms of fi­nanc­ing. It will not ac­quire any ma­te­rial el­e­ment of con­trol over the busi­ness.

In ad­di­tion to the sup­port pack­age, the UK and Welsh govern­ments will be will­ing to con­sider sup­port, for ex­am­ple, for the de­vel­op­ment of power plant in­fras­truc­ture, en­ergy ef­fi­ciency, en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion mea­sures, re­search & de­vel­op­ment and train­ing.

Tata Steel wel­comed the an­nounce­ment, say­ing it out­lined po­ten­tially im­por­tant sup­port to the process of find­ing strate­gic al­ter­na­tives for its UK oper­a­tions. “Tata Steel Europe will con­tinue to work with all stake­hold­ers, in­clud­ing the UK and Welsh govern­ments, to de­velop the best out­comes for Tata Steel’s UK oper­a­tions on an ur­gent timescale,” a spokesman said.

Tata Steel sold its long prod­ucts busi­ness to Grey­bull Cap­i­tal last week for 1 pound. It is now left with the strip busi­ness in Port Tal­bot and re­lated rolling mills. So far, San­jeev Gupta’s Lib­erty House and Port Tal­bot man­age­ment have shown in­ter­est in Port Tal­bot as­sets. The com­pany has reached out to 190 po­ten­tial fi­nan­cial and in­dus­trial in­vestors for the sale. The UK govern­ment is also work­ing on the Tata Steel and Bri­tish Steel Pen­sion Scheme’s Trus­tees to find a so­lu­tion that will help min­imise its im­pact on a po­ten­tial pur­chaser, and po­ten­tially sep­a­rate it from the busi­ness. Tata Steel UK has a 15 bil­lion pounds com­mit­ment to 135,000 cur­rent and for­mer steel­work­ers, which has been putting off po­ten­tial buy­ers.

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