March 22, 2018 / 10:34 AM / 9 months ago

UPDATE 1-India's top court defers asset sale permission to RCom

* Supreme Court says to hear case next on April 5

* RCom had aimed to close deal by end-March

* Co says confident of “expeditiously” completing asset sales (Adds RCom comment)

NEW DELHI, March 22 (Reuters) - India’s top court on Thursday deferred a decision to lift a ban on the sale of assets by embattled telecoms firm Reliance Communications Ltd (RCom) , saying it will hear the case again in two weeks.

The Supreme Court ruling marks a setback for RCom, which is trying to reduce its debt load of $6.8 billion as of last March. The company in December agreed to sell most of its wireless assets to Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd and had been expecting to close the deal by March.

RCom shares closed 5.9 percent lower, having fallen as much as 7.1 percent after the court order.

The company said in a statement to stock exchanges it was confident its asset sale programme would be “completed expeditiously” ... “much in advance” of an end-August deadline set by the central bank for resolution of large stressed loan accounts.

The Supreme Court will next hear on April 5 the case brought by RCom’s lenders led by State Bank of India, which are seeking to overturn a ban on the asset sales imposed by an arbitration tribunal.

The tribunal had halted RCom from selling any asset without its permission following a legal challenge from Swedish telecoms gearmaker Ericsson.

RCom is also facing a separate legal challenge after the National Company Law Tribunal, India’s designated court for bankruptcy cases, last week stayed the asset sale following a petition filed by HSBC Daisy Investments (Mauritius) Ltd.

$1 = 65.0850 Indian rupees Reporting by Suchitra Mohanty, Writing by Sankalp Phartiyal, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips

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