Anil Ambani, chairman of Reliance Communications.
Anil Ambani, chairman of Reliance Communications.

While India’s richest man Mukesh Ambani has disrupted India’s mobile phone services industry by launching Reliance Jio Infocomm, his younger sibling Anil Ambani is struggling to keep his telecom venture Reliance Communications (RCom) afloat amid staggering debt burden.

RCom’s latest attempt to reduce its debt burden by merging with Aircel, owned by Maxis of Malaysia, failed to materialize due to legal and regulatory hurdles, and this has put a question mark on the company’s promise to its lenders to reduce its debt burden of Rs 457.33 billion (US$ 6.99 billion) by the end of December.

This has caused anxiety among the lenders, led by a consortium of banks. They will soon meet to explore the possibility of persuading other industry players to step in to bail out RCom, reports Economic Times.

With the standstill clause set to expire in December, bankers are worried that they may be forced to take the case to the National Company Law Tribunal for bankruptcy proceedings. This will cause provisions to rise hitting their bottom line, the daily added.

RCom has, however, offered an alternative plan to reduce its debt by around Rs 285 billion (US$ 285 crore). This includes selling its tower business (Rs 110 billion or US$ 1.68 billion), sale of fiber (around Rs 75 billion or US$ 1.15 billion), monetizing real estate (Rs 10 billion or US$ 150 million), and also selling or trading its 2G and 3G spectrum.

It expects that the alternative plan will be completed by December next year, the deadline for strategic debt restructuring to be completed. Earlier, it had promised to reduce its debt by more than Rs 210 (US$ 3.21 billion) by December this year.

So banks are now left with two options — either convert their loans into equity by the end of the year and take up to a 51% stake in the company. Or wait for another 14 months if they are convinced that the new plan will yield results.