Robi yet to clear all merger fees
Mobile phone operator Robi is yet to pay Tk 108.83 crore in merger fees and spectrum amalgamation charges to the telecom regulator.
Robi did not seek to pay the dues in instalments either. As a result, the operator did not get the Order of Merger Licence from Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission.
The Order of Merger Licence is the ultimate certification of a merger between the telecom companies. Without it, the merged entity cannot start joint commercial operations or amalgamate their networks, said a top official of the regulator.
On Thursday, BTRC sent a letter to Robi, asking it to clear its position on the different issues in 10 days.
"Until the Order of Merger Licence is issued, the merger procedure is not completed, and BTRC holds the right to cancel its previous decision to allow the merger," said a top BTRC official requesting anonymity.
On November 20, Robi paid Tk 318.52 crore to the regulator as part of merger fees and spectrum charges.
BTRC officials received the cheque with a written condition that Robi will pay the rest by November 24, or seek an option to pay in instalments.
However, Robi did not contact the regulator yet.
Its total dues to the telecom regulator and the National Board of Revenue were Tk 468.05 crore.
Of the amount, Tk 307 crore is to acquire the 10 megahertz 2G spectrum of Airtel, Tk 100 crore for merger fees and Tk 61.05 crore for value-added tax, while Tk 40.70 crore is payable to the NBR in advance income tax, according to the BTRC.
The operator organised a thanksgiving programme for the stakeholders on December 10, where State Minister for Telecom Tarana Halim was present.
BTRC officials related to the matter said there are still several technical issues that need to be addressed and the merged company's commercial launch will be a violation of regulations without the regulator's final consent.
After receiving approval from the Office of the Registrar of Joint Stock Companies and Firms for the merger, Robi immediately dissolved Airtel Bangladesh Ltd, which it cannot do without BTRC's consent, another senior official of the telecom regulator said.
"In the High Court order, it was mentioned that BTRC will take care of the technical issues. But Robi is not cooperating with us," said the official.
Khandaker Reza-E-Raquib, legal consultant of BTRC, said the High Court gave exclusive authority to the telecom regulator on some technical issues.
In its approval, BTRC incorporated 21 conditions and gave Robi one month to comply with, he added.
However, the merged entity has not updated the regulator on the progress in complying with the conditions.
If Robi's reply fails to satisfy BTRC, it might take legal action against it, said another top official of the legal and licensing wing of BTRC.
When asked, Robi refused to comment on the matter.
Robi and Airtel started its merger process in September last year and have subsequently received the government's consent, a court order and finally BTRC's approval to become the second largest operator in Bangladesh in terms of customers.
In the merged entity, Axiata, the parent company of Robi, will hold a 68.7 percent stake, while Bharti Airtel will hold a 25 percent share; Axiata's old partner NTT DOCOMO will have 6.3 percent.