SC stays NCLAT order that allowed RCom to sell tower assets

The Supreme Court stayed National Company Law Appellate Tribunal’s (NCLAT) order that allowed Reliance Communications’ towers and fibre assets, to be sold, creating further hurdles for the Anil Ambani owned company’s attempt to pare down debt.

The apex court on Monday agreed to hear the plea of HSBC Daisy Investments and some other minority shareholders who have about 4% stake in Reliance Infratel -the unit that houses Rcom’s towers and fibre assets. The minority shareholders had challenged NCLAT’s earlier order that allowed State Bank of India (SBI)-led lenders to sell any of the mortgaged assets of Rcom to a third party.

Shares in the telco, which had shut its wireless operations last year, dropped by 2.69% and was trading at Rs 21.70 a piece on the Bombay Stock Exchange during Monday noon time.

In late December, RCom had signed a pact to sell its wireless assets, including tower and optic fibre assets, to Reliance Jio for some Rs24,000 crore. Of that, the towers and optic fibre assets were worth Rs 8,000 crore, of which Rs 5,000 crore would be for the towers and land alone.

But the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) stayed the sale of towers and fibre till further orders after a challenge by the minority shareholders of Reliance Infratel on grounds their consent was not sought for the asset sale. They told the NCLT last month that, if allowed, the sale would be an “oppression of a minority shareholder under section 397 and 398” as Reliance Infratel would become defunct.

Rcom and its units then moved the Supreme Court to clear the sale, which would help pare its Rs 45000 crore debt by nearly Rs 25,000 crore. Last Thursday, Supreme Court allowed the company to sell the rest of its assets but did not vacate the stay imposed by NCLT. In turn, it directed RCom and its units to move the NCLAT as per procedure to get the stay on sale of towers and fibre vacated.

The Ambani owned telco immediately moved NCLAT, which in turn allowed sale but directed that the funds be kept in an escrow account till the final ruling is given on April 18 in a dispute with minority shareholders.