| NEW DELHI
NEW DELHI Oct 7 India said on Friday it will
consider re-auctioning mobile phone spectrum that remained
unsold in a sale this week when the financial situation of its
telecoms companies improves.
The government raised $9.9 billion from a spectrum auction
that ended on Thursday, but there were no takers for the
most-efficient yet priciest 700 megahertz band of airwaves and
only 40 percent of the total on offer was sold.
Indian telecoms services are among the cheapest in the
world, making margins relatively lower than elsewhere and
putting pressure on carriers' finances, with local ratings
agency ICRA forecasting their combined debt to rise to 4.25
trillion rupees ($64 billion) after funding the latest sale.
"If their financial situation is not good, and they can't
buy it now, what is the guarantee that they will be able to if
we do another auction immediately," Telecoms Minister Manoj
Sinha told reporters, when asked about the unsold airwaves.
"So, we will take the appropriate decision at the
Telecoms Secretary J.S. Deepak separately told Reuters that
the ministry was on course to achieve its revenue target set by
the finance ministry, despite earning far less than he budgeted
645 billion rupees from the auction.
Deepak said the government will decide later on whether to
consider cutting the price of the 700 band airwaves.
The telecoms ministry will get a minimum of 320 billion
rupees upfront as carriers are allowed to pay in instalments.
Vodafone Group Plc was the top spender in the
auction with 202.8 billion rupees worth of bids, followed by
Bharti Airtel's 142.44 billion rupees, according to
government data released on Friday.
Reliance Jio Infocomm bought airwaves worth 136.72 billion
rupees, Idea Cellular spent 127.98 billion rupees, and
Tata Teleservices bid for 46.19 billion rupees.
($1 = 66.7349 Indian rupees)
(Editing by Alexander Smith)