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Aircel calls drop after CBI probe

Chennai, June 20 () : Aircel the telecom company rated seventh in terms of subscriber base needs Rs 6000 crore to start all over again and has to look ways to clear Rs 24,000 crore debt and answer the CBI about the corruption charges against the owner, Maxis.

Banks which lend money to Aircel held a series of talks in India and Malaysia (where promoter T Ananda Krishnan of Maxis resides). The CBI getting nod from Malaysia to conduct probe on its soil has pushed the company stocks down.

The banks were hoping for capital from promoters, restructure loans from banks or money from an asset sale. But, the CBI corruption probe has affected the company’s credibility, and no investor wants to commit any funds. Aircel’s operations are at 60 % below its network capacity since it has 61 million subscribers. To raise money it is selling spare time on the network for one-third the price of Reliance in Mumbai. With a loss of Rs 1680 crore every year from January 2014 it should not only pay interest but also principal on loans.

In 2005, when Dayanidhi Maran was telecom minister, Maxis, along with Apollo Group owners Reddy with a 26% partnership bought Aircel from businessman Sivasankaran paying $800 million (around RS 4,390 crore). A year later, it added licences for 14 more circles, besides the existing eight it had. The 2G spectrum was allotted in 2008-09. With $1.5 billion from promoters , Aircel went on $3.5 billion expansion across India.

The telecom suppliers Huawei and ZTE credit facility kept it going. After the 3G rollout in mid-2010, the promised equity was to come from promoters. Without any equity investment, Aircel rolled out 3.5 billion. The telecom company lived on short term funds for the long term schemes. It sold the towers for Rs 8000 to raise Rs 9900 crores to get BWA and 3G waves. The move to get 3G helped the company. It then moved to 4G where it got on the wrong foot.

Maxis started getting the jitters when CBI based on evidence from the erstwhile owner filed cases against Maran, Maxis owner and CEO for aiding the deal with Sivasankaran. Ananda Krishnan fearing arrest kept off from India and so did his director Ralph.

Dayanidhi Maran’s brother Kalanidhi Maran had meanwhile got Rs 550 crore from Maxis as investment for Sun Direct DTH. With CBI getting nod to enter Malaysian offices of Maxis, Aircel is out on a limbo.

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