The board of Bharti Infratel Monday has extended by another two months, to April 24, the deadline for the closure of its merger with Indus Towers, and said that the final decision to implement the deal will take into account the impact of the current AGR crisis on the company, shareholders and its major customers.

“Since the other actions/conditions precedent to be fulfilled for the Scheme to become effective cannot be completed by the extended Long Stop Date i.e. February 24, 2020, the Board of Directors have further extended the long stop date till April 24, 2020, subject to agreement on closing adjustments and other conditions precedent for closing, with each party retaining the right to terminate and withdraw the scheme,” Infratel said in a statement to the exchanges Monday.

“The final decision to implement the scheme will be taken by the Board keeping in mind the best interest of the Company and its stakeholders including the assessment of the current crisis facing the telecom industry and the extent of its impact on the Company’s major customers,” the company added.

Shares of Infratel, India’s only listed tower company, was down 1.9% at Rs221.75 on the BSE in afternoon trade.

The deal now needs to next be cleared by the National Company Law Tribunal-Chandigarh and then taken on record by the Registrar of Companies, a process which will take atleast two to three months.

But Vodafone Idea needs cash desperately to pay off even a part of its adjusted gross revenue (AGR) dues.

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Estimates by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) show VIL needs to shell out nearly Rs 57,000 crore towards AGR dues, of which it has paid only Rs 3,500 crore. The telco, though, estimates its dues much lower at about Rs 23,000 crore, of which Rs 7,000 crore is the principal. Experts said VIL would find it difficult to pay even the lower amount by the due date.

The Supreme Court has given telecom companies, including VIL, time till March 17 to pay the full AGR dues. That’s the date when the modification pleas filed by the telcos would be heard next by the court.

The merger deal, announced in April 2018, received a crucial clearance for foreign direct investment (FDI) on Friday last week.

Under the Bharti Infratel-Indus merger terms, cash-strapped VIL has the option to sell its entire 7% stake which it will get in the merged entity to the shareholders for cash, based on an agreed formula. VIL is expected to generate about Rs 4,500 crore via this route.

Indus Towers is co-owned by Bharti Infratel, UK’s Vodafone Group Plc and VIL, with the first two holding 42% each. VIL owns 11.15% while the remaining 4.85% is with the private equity firm Providence.

Bharti Airtel has a majority stake in Bharti Infratel. After VIL’s exit, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Plc are expected to hold 37.2% and 29.4%, respectively, in the merged entity.

Alternatively, VIL can sell the stake to a third party. But under the current circumstances, when the telco is in need for urgent cash, selling to existing shareholders under a pre-agreed formula may be the best or quickest option, according to industry executives.

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