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DoT Yet To Get A Formal Call From Vodafone On BSNL Merger

Among its many attempts to stay afloat, beleaguered telecom operator Vodafone Idea Ltd (VIL) has offered to merge the firm with state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL), another debt-laden company. Further, in an attempt to keep it afloat, VIL’s UK parent Vodafone Group Plc is also ready to offer its stake in the Indian company to BSNL for free. If a merger or stake exchange happens, VIL – which provides telecom services under the brand ‘Vi’ – would become a government entity, a move that would help it buy more time for raising funds. The company also hopes its spectrum dues would be kept in abeyance, giving it a much-needed lifeline. While the merger would bring in a number of synergies, including BSNL being able to provide 4G services, it also comes with a number of pitfalls. BSNL in itself is a loss-making firm, and a revival package approved by the Union Cabinet in 2019 is yet to bear fruit. Worse, the public sector unit is finding it difficult to pay salaries on time. Importantly, a formal communication from VIL or its promoters is yet to reach BSNL or its parent the Department of Telecommunications. “We might take a call depending on the contours of the offer, but we are yet to get a formal call,” a source in the telecom ministry said.