18 September 2019: Reliance Communications is set to approach the appellate tribunal in a bid to get Swedish telecom equipment maker Ericsson to refund Rs 576.77 crore paid by the bankrupt telecom operator, a person familiar with the matter said.
The refund of the money paid on the direction of the Supreme Court is being sought on the grounds that Ericsson should not have got its dues while other creditors and vendors await the proceeds from an impending asset sale under the ongoing insolvency process, the person added.
“Resolution professional Deloitte sent a mail informing that RCom and its units – Reliance Telecom and Reliance Infratel – will head for the appellate tribunal to seek the refund,” the person told ET.
RCom, Deloitte and Ericsson did not respond to ET’s queries.
Deloitte, which oversees RCom’s operations during the insolvency process, had earlier written to Ericsson seeking the refund. Ericsson then contended that the RP had no right to seek a refund of the amount paid under the Supreme Court’s direction.
The Swedish firm wanted to know under what provisions the refund was sought. It asked for copies of the minutes of meetings held by the telco’s committee of creditors, a list of financial and operational creditors who attended the meetings where the refund was discussed, copies of the tribunal order appointing Deloitte as the resolution professional, and any applications filed by financial and operational creditors.
The battle started when Ericsson petitioned for RCom’s bankruptcy in September 2017 over non-payment of dues worth over Rs 1,500 crore. The bankruptcy court – National Company Law Tribunal – admitted the petition but under RCom’s appeal, the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal stayed the order and a settlement was chalked out with Ericsson.
When RCom failed to pay the settlement amount of Rs 550 crore, the matter went to the apex court, after which the telco cleared the dues with interest to Ericsson in March 2019 to save chairman Anil Ambani from being jailed for contempt.
RCom’s operational creditors include tower companies, equipment vendors and the Department of Telecommunications.
The battle may eventually head to the Supreme Court, experts said. Creditors, financial and operational, have claimed some Rs 90,000 crore in dues. Deloitte is trying sell RCom’s assets including spectrum, a fibre optic network, towers and real estate to raise funds to at least partly repay lenders.