Relief for GP at last after it pays Tk 1,000cr | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 24, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 09:29 AM, February 24, 2020

Relief for GP at last after it pays Tk 1,000cr

Grameenphone yesterday deposited Tk 1,000 crore to the state coffer as per the Supreme Court's order on Thursday, bringing to an end its years-long tussle with the telecom regulator over unpaid dues.

The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) has claimed Tk 12,579.96 crore from the operator in revenue shares, taxes and late fees -- a figure Grameenphone maintains is not correct.

The deposit though should not be seen an admission of liability, Grameenphone said in a statement yesterday.

"It is our ambition to resolve the audit dispute, either through an amicable and transparent solution or before the courts," said Hossain Sadat, director and head of regulatory affairs of Grameenphone.

With the view to cranking up the pressure on Grameenphone to get it to pay the sum, the telecom regulator has put a host of restrictions including declining no-objection certificates since July, issuing show-cause notice for licence cancellation, and denying recycling of number series along with the threat of appointing an administrator for its day-to-day running.

"Grameenphone looks forward to resuming normal business operations, so that we are allowed to best serve our customers again," said Sadat, who handed over a pay order of Tk 1,000 crore to Md. Jahirul Haque, chairman of the BTRC, at the latter's office.

With this, the BTRC at last realised some money from the operator against its audit claims. The audit looked into Grameenphone's books from its inception until 2014.

Grameenphone followed the lead of Robi, the country's second largest mobile operator, which was also locked in a similar tussle with the telecom watchdog over unpaid dues amounting to Tk 867.23 crore after audit. The matter was taken to court as well.

The High Court on January 5 ordered Robi to pay Tk 138 crore in five instalments against the BTRC's claim. The operator has already paid the first of the five instalments of Tk 27.60 crore on January 10, after which the restrictions on it were lifted by the telecom regulator.

The Norwegian Telenor Group's subsidiary's move to pay comes after it was raked over the coal on Thursday by the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court.

"First pay Tk 1,000 crore to the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission and then come on February 24 for further orders," said Chief Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain, who led the seven-member of the SC's Appellate Division, while passing the order.

The order came in response to a review petition filed by Grameenphone earlier on January 26 to allow it to pay Tk 575 crore in twelve equal instalments.

The review petition was filed after the apex court had directed Grameenphone on November 24 last year to pay Tk 2,000 crore to the BTRC within three months (by February 23) against the claim of Tk 12,579.96 crore.

Legal counsellors of the both the parties said the court will hear the petition today and will give its final order.

The BTRC chairman thanked the operator for complying with the court's order.

Grameenphone is the largest listed company in the country's capital market and its regulatory tussle over the best part of the last 12 months dented investor confidence.

The news of the operator putting to bed its regulatory problems has led to its stock soaring 7.58 per cent yesterday to Tk 318.

International Leasing Securities said in its daily market analysis that the bourse witnessed massive buying pressure in the telecom sector from the opening of the session that continued until the closure -- riding on Grameenphone's good news.

Robi's announcement of its possible initial public offering also fuelled stock investors to buy Grameenphone's stocks, said a top official of a leading merchant bank.

However, Robi gave two conditions for listing and the operator is lobbying with the government for them: lowering of corporate tax by at least percentage points and a minimum income tax of 0.75 per cent as opposed to 2 per cent for listed telecom companies.

If the government agrees with the conditions then Grameenphone also will benefit and hence the clamour for its stock yesterday, he said.

Grameenphone topped the turnover list yesterday with its transactions of Tk 47.02 crore. 

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