TDSAT reserves judgement on telcos’ 3G roaming pacts

Telecom firms had requested in-chamber hearing as they were fearing leakage of details and cost inputs of their respective Intra-Circle Roaming (ICR) agreements

New Delhi:  Telecom tribunal TDSAT has reserved judgement over the plea of cellular operators challenging the government's directive to stop intra-circle roaming on their 3G networks, reports PTI.

The Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) bench, headed by its chairman justice SB Sinha, concluded hearing on the plea of the operators around 10 days back.

From the third week of March, TDSAT had started in-chamber proceedings on the matter, at the request of the operators.

Telecom firms had requested in-chamber hearing as they were fearing leakage of details and cost inputs of their respective Intra-Circle Roaming (ICR) agreements.

The tribunal was hearing a bunch of petitions filed by the operators—Airtel, Vodafone, Idea, Aircel and Tata Tele—challenging the 23rd December directions of the Department of Telecom (DoT) to scrap the pacts within 24 hours.

In an interim order on 24 December 2011, TDSAT had asked DoT not to take any coercive action against the operators till further orders for their 3G roaming pacts.

Earlier, the operators had handed over the copies of their ICR to DoT on the direction of the TDSAT.

On 16 February 2012 the tribunal had asked them to explain as to how they would compensate the government if they lose the case.

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Finance ministry hits back, says Vodafone was aware of tax liability

Vodafone described the comments of finance secretary RS Gujral in this connection as ‘untrue’

New Delhi: The Indian finance ministry hit back at Vodafone’s claim that it was not told of the tax liability on the Hutchison deal, saying that the British telecom giant was provided a copy of the notice, reports PTI.

“We have provided copies of the letter (about tax liability) to the concerned parties,” Hutchison Essar, which was later taken over by Vodafone, had said in its communication to the tax department on 5 April 2007, a finance ministry official pointed out.
Vodafone in a statement had claimed that it had never received any communication from authorities to withhold tax while making payment to the Hutchison and described the comments of finance secretary RS Gujral in this connection as ‘untrue’.

The Income Tax (I-T) Department had in March 2007 advised the Vodafone to withhold tax while making payments to Hutchison to acquire its stake in Hutchison Essar in the $11.2 billion deal. The deal happened in May 2007, well after the tax demand was raised in March 2007, the official said.

“The payer (Vodafone group) as well as payee (Hutchison Telegroup) can make application to the Assessing Officer under section 195(2) and 197 of Income Tax Act 1961 for dealing the exact tax liability resulting from above mentioned (acquisition) transaction,” said the letter sent by I-T Department on 23 March 2007.

 It’s a matter of record, the official said, adding that “since Vodafone was a UK-based company, we sent letter/notice to Hutchison Essar for dealing with the exact tax liability and Hutchison Essar provided the letter to concern parties.Hutchison Essar had acknowledged this.”

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ICICI Bank lowers Kingfisher stake to 2.9%

As per the latest shareholding pattern filed by Kingfisher with the stock exchanges today, ICICI Bank held about 1.67 crore shares, accounting for a 2.9% stake in the airline as on 31 March 2012

New Delhi: Leading private sector lender ICICI Bank’s stake in the troubled air carrier Kingfisher Airlines has come down sharply to 2.9%, from more than 5% at the end of 2011, reports PTI.

As per the latest shareholding pattern filed by Kingfisher with the stock exchanges today, ICICI Bank held about 1.67 crore shares, accounting for a 2.9% stake, in the airline as on 31 March 2012.

In contrast, ICICI Bank held 2.63 crore shares, or 5.3% stake, in Kingfisher as on 31 December 2011.

While the details of sale of shares by ICICI Bank could not be ascertained, the latest list of Kingfisher shareholders includes two new entities—LKB Finance (1.38%) and SHCIL Services (1.04%).

At the current market price, the shares estimated to be sold by ICICI Bank during the quarter would be worth about Rs15 crore.

 Kingfisher shares have been seeing huge selling pressure for many months now. The stock slipped 2.2% in today’s trade at the BSE and closed at Rs15.70. Earlier in the day, the shares hit their all-time low level of Rs13, before recovering some ground.

The company has lost about two-third of its market value in the past one year. The shares were trading above Rs47 level a year ago on 26 April 2011.

The promoters currently hold little over half of the company (50.2% stake), but more than 90% of their holding is pledged with various lenders.

As per a mid-quarter shareholding pattern disclosed by the company on 8 February 2012, ICICI Bank's stake in Kingfisher stood at 3.02% at that time.

Besides ICICI Bank, state-run banking major Punjab National Bank (PNB) is also believed to have lowered its stake in Kingfisher. While PNB held 1.14% stake in Kingfisher at the end of 2011, its name does not figure among the shareholders owning more than 1% equity in the company at the end of January-March 2012 quarter.

The listed companies are required to disclose the names of all their shareholders owning more than 1% stake at the end of every quarter.

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