Finance minister AHM Mustafa Kamal said they would solve the problems involving payment of audit claims by two leading mobile phone operators, Grameenphone and Robi, ‘mutually’ through discussion as Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal stepped in.
He said they will resolve this issue within the next two-three weeks. Finance minister made the statement in the presence of posts and telecommunications minister Mustafa Jabbar, National Board of Revenue chairman Md Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan and Grameenphone chief executive officer Michael Patrick Foley.
Kamal’s involvement came after he waded through the reasons for the ongoing slump of the stock market, and the sinking stock price of Grameenphone, the largest listed company by market capitalisation, was a major reason.
In a span of five months Grameenphone’s share sank 30.70 percent to Tk 289, as its regulatory issues concerned investors.
This prompted the finance minister to call a meeting with Grameenphone Chief Executive Michel Foley yesterday.
As soon as his meeting with Foley wrapped up, Kamal summoned Telecom Minister Mustafa Jabbar, National Board of Revenue Chairman Md Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan and officials of the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) to his office.
As part of regulatory measures to realise the audit claims Tk 13,447 crore, the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission on September 5 served two separate show-cause notices to GP and Robi asking the operators to explain in 30 days why their 2G and 3G licences would not be cancelled.
In August this year, both the operators filed lawsuits with a Dhaka court raising legality of the BTRC audit claims.
According to the BTRC’s audits into the two operators’ books from their inception until December 2014, Grameenphone has Tk 12,579.95 crore pending and Robi Tk 867.24 crore.
Both operators vehemently dispute the amounts and are willing to fight the matter in court. Robi and Grameenphone filed two cases with a Dhaka court earlier on August 25 and 26 respectively seeking permanent injunctions against the telecom regulator’s audit claims.
Until then, Grameenphone and Robi will withdraw their cases and the BTRC will withdraw their restrictions on the two operators, according to the finance minister.
The two operators, which have 12.36 crore, or 76 percent of total active mobile connections between them, have not been getting any approval from the BTRC since July 22 for new services and packages and cannot import equipment to maintain their network. Both operators have expressed satisfaction about the new development.
Earlier, both Grameenphone and Robi had demanded arbitration but the regulator denied them saying the telecom act does not allow it.The audit found the NBR is owed about Tk 4,500 crore but Bhuiyan yesterday said they are trying to settle the issue by way of alternative dispute resolution and the matter is in the court.
This leaves about Tk 8,500 crore owed to the BTRC and of the sum, late fees account for a major portion.
GP CEO Michael Foley said there are certain issues which had to be resolved only through discussions and nothing else. He also claimed that GP had always paid their dues to the government which were justified.
‘I’m pleased now that we have come together to find out an amicable, transparent and fair solution to the issues around audit,’ added the CEO of the country’s top mobile phone operator.