Reliance Communications and its subsidiaries filed pleas in the appellate tribunal to set aside the National Company Law Tribunal’s decision to start insolvency proceedings against them on a petition filed by network vendor Ericsson.
The move comes as the Anil Ambani-controlled companies are in talks with Ericsson to settle a long-pending dispute over unpaid dues worth more than Rs 1,000 crore owed to the Swedish telecom equipment maker.
Reliance Communications, Reliance Infratel and Reliance Telecom filed the pleas in the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal asking it to set aside the NCLT’s order on the grounds that Ericsson was an operational creditor, one of two lawyers aware of the development said, asking not to be identified.
“There is a dispute, so under Section 9, insolvency proceedings cannot begin,” the person said, adding that the plea was filed on Monday. RCom and Ericsson did not respond to ET’s queries as of Monday evening.
The other lawyer said RCom was in talks with Ericsson’s headquarters in Sweden and is yet to settle the dispute out of court. ET reported last week that the latest settlement amount discussed was Rs 700 to Rs 800 crore, after Ericsson rejected an initial offer of Rs 400-500 crore. RCom confirmed the discussions, adding that resolution of the issue would help it exit the insolvency process.
Ericsson has sought an undertaking that State Bank of India, one of Reliance Communications’ lenders, will pay up the dues if the telco does not clear the settled amount. Discussions around this are still going on. RCom shares fell 12.7% to Rs 13.40 at the close on the BSE on Monday on speculation that talks with Ericsson were unlikely to result in a settlement.
Following the order, RCom’s plan to sell its wireless assets – spectrum, towers, fibre network and switching nodes – to Reliance Jio Infocomm for Rs 18,000 crore and pare debt of Rs 46,000 crore was stalled. A settlement with Ericsson outside the insolvency process, if allowed, could revive the plan to sell the assets.
The tribunal appointed three interim resolution professionals from RBSA Restructuring Advisors LLP to run each of the three companies. The IRPs have 270 days to come up with a solution for RCom, failing which the company could face liquidation.