Loss making Vodafone idea’s shares closed down 2.8% at Rs12.54 on the BSE Friday, while the Airtel stock ended 2% lower at Rs586.55. Reliance Jio isn’t listed.
Bidders are required to show a net worth of Rs 100 crore per service area in which they want to submit bids, although this requirement is not applicable in the case of existing licensees, according to the Department of Telecommunications’ Notice Inviting Applications – the main auction document containing all rules — for the upcoming spectrum sale.
Provisioning for statutory dues and mounting losses have driven Vi’s net worth to negative, say analysts. Vi needs cash to ramp up its 4G network to counter competition from Jio and Airtel and also to clear its backlog of Rs 50,400 crore adjusted gross revenue (AGR) dues in 10 annual instalments.
Earlier, this week, Jio, Airtel and Vi filed applications with DoT to participate in the 4G spectrum sale. Over 2300 units of airwaves across seven bands – from 700 MHz to 2500 MHz – valued at Rs 3.92 lakh-crore at the base price will be up for sale.
Jio is believed to have deposited earnest money of nearly R 10,000 crore, which would give it the option to buy 4G spectrum worth Rs 50,000-70,000 crore, while Airtel is believed to have deposited around Rs 3,000 crore, which would allow it to buy 4G airwaves worth Rs 15,000-25,000 crore, industry executives aware of the matter said. Vi’, financially the weakest, is said to have put in a modest Rs 475 crore, would enable it to buy spectrum worth only Rs 2,400—3325 crore in some bands and some circles.
Jio and Airtel, by virtue of their higher earnest money deposits (EMD), would potentially be in a position to bid for spectrum in all bands being auctioned and in any circle.
The EMDs are part of the applications that the three telcos have filed to participate in the airwaves sale, and the quantum of EMD reflects a telco’s bidding strategy and ambitions.
Jio’s high earnest money deposit, typically, underlines its need to renew expiring airwaves in the 800 Mhz band and add spectrum to cater to rising data consumption. It is likely to be the most aggressive buyer, followed by Airtel, with Vi expected to show only marginal interest.
Jio and Airtel, which have 5G-ready networks, are expected to target airwaves in multiple 4G bands to deploy them for 5G in the near future. This is since the auction rules allow telcos to offer new technologies such as 5G on existing 4G bands by giving six months’ notice.
Analysts, however, expect the government to rake in less than Rs 50,000 crore from the auction as the most expensive 700 MHz band may go unsold yet again, as it did in 2016.