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ICRA Downgrades Bharti Airtel's Long-term Rating To AA-minus

It said the ratings continue to remain under watch with negative implications. Separately, it also reaffirmed Bharti Airtel's commercial paper worth Rs 15,000 crore at A1-plus.

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Investment information company ICRA has downgraded Bharti Airtel Ltd's long-term rating from AA to AA-minus due to recognition of higher-than-anticipated provision after the Supreme Court judgment on dues payable towards license fees on adjusted gross revenues (AGR) and spectrum usage charge in the second fiscal quarter results.

It said the ratings continue to remain under watch with negative implications. Separately, it also reaffirmed Bharti Airtel's commercial paper worth Rs 15,000 crore at A1-plus. "Although the company has not tied up funds for the same, this liability if materialises is expected to be funded through a bridge loan which will result in deterioration in debt coverage metrics in the near term," ICRA said in a statement.

The provisioning follows communication from the Department of Telecom (DoT) that mandated the operators to pay the license fee and other dues after carrying out their own assessment within the timeline stipulated by the Supreme Court.

Moreover, additional provisioning related to indemnities to be paid to certain investors of Airtel Africa is also a credit negative, the ratings agency said.

As an interim relief, the government has announced deferment of auction installments for 2020-21 and 2021-22 which is expected to provide cash flow easing to the tune of Rs 5,500 crore per year for the next two years.

However, ICRA said the debt on the company's books has remained elevated as reflected by gross debt of Rs 1,36,579 crore as on September 30, which has kept the debt coverage indicators under stress.

This has been on account of continued high capex intensity amid relatively low cash flow generation in the past, thereby limiting any scope of organic deleveraging, said ICRA.

(ANI)


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