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Bharti Airtel Shares Down 2% On News Of Rs 650-cr Fine

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Shares in Bharti Airtel Ltd fall nearly 2 per cent after reports that the company could be asked to pay Rs 650 crore ($116 million) for alleged breach of telecoms licensing rules nearly a decade ago.

Bharti was allowing roaming subscribers to make and receive calls at local prices, which the telecoms ministry says bypassed rules for national long-distance calls, according to an official with knowledge of the matter. The services were allowed between 2002 and 2005, according to an internal memo seen by Reuters.

A Bharti Airtel spokesman declined to comment saying the company was yet to receive any notice from the ministry. Typically, the telecoms ministry asks companies to first explain why action should not be taken against them before sending the penalty notice.

Carriers including Bharti have in the past challenged in courts fees and penalties imposed by the government. The cases are still on.

Bharti shares were down 1.8 per cent at Rs 309.35 in a Mumbai market that eased 0.2 per cent.

It has been reported in media that the department of telecommunications (DoT) is set to issue notice to Bharti Airtel, imposing Rs 650 crore as penalty for violation of licence agreement-related roaming services.

Though the violation of the agreement took place between 2003 and 2005, and DoT issued a show-cause notice a decade ago, so far no penalty had been imposed, which had made the department jittery. Officials in the department are now raising the demand, fearing judicial or vigilance-related action.