Sony files insolvency petition against MSO Ortel over unpaid dues

MUMBAI: Broadcaster Sony Pictures Networks India (SPNI) has filed an insolvency petition against multi system operator (MSO) Ortel Communications for payment default.

SPNI had moved National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) against Ortel in July. The matter has been listed for further hearing on 18 September.

The MSO owes Rs 12 crore to the broadcaster.

Ortel had recently informed the BSE that Sony has filed a petition against the company under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (IBC). It further stated that due to poor performance and bad financial condition, the company has no defence for that.

As per the order of the NCLT, consent of the Board has been accorded to file an Affidavit on behalf of the Company before the NCLT to the effect of admitting the default and for initiation of Corporate Insolvency Resolution Process (CIRP).

Ortel has seen the exit of two Directors with Jyoti Bhusan Pany and Joseph Puliparambil resigning from the company with effect from 12 September.

It is pertinent to note that SPNI had switched off signals of its channels to Ortel in June due to unpaid dues. The Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) had also refused to provide relief to the embattled MSO.

Ortel had moved TDSAT in May against disconnection notice by SPNI.

In the order dated 3 August, the tribunal had noted that the MSO has not made arrangements for paying anything even the admitted dues. By way of last opportunity, Ortel was granted six weeks’ time.

“If the petitioner is seriously interested in reviving its business with the respondent (SPNI), it must come ready with a substantial amount of money and a payment plan by the next date, otherwise petition may be disposed of on the ground that it is not possible to grant relief to the petitioner (Ortel),” the tribunal had said in an interim order.

In hearing on 15 May, Ortel had offered to clear the arrears in installments of various amounts through cheques. Ortel had claimed that the dues are in the vicinity of Rs 7 crore while Sony argued that the MSO owes it Rs. 12 crore in dues.

In fact, SPNI counsel had filed certain documents and charts to prove that about 50 cheques issued by the MSO in the recent past six months have bounced.

SPNI had argued that the MSO must clear at least the admitted amount of Rs. 7 crore and odd till date to get an interim protection.

However, the tribunal refused to grant interim protection to the MSO considering the poor credibility of its assurances in the past. The tribunal had also kept it open for the parties to enter into negotiation to settle the terms as to how they may move forward.

In Q1 FY19, Ortel had narrowed its net loss to Rs 13.5 crore from Rs 80.2 crore in the preceding quarter. The company’s EBITDA had dropped to Rs 60 lakh compared to Rs 5 crore in the sequential quarter.

Total income had fallen to Rs 31.7 crore from Rs 39.7 crore. Expenses dropped to Rs 46.1 crore compared to Rs 50.6 crore a quarter ago. Total receivables stand at Rs 23.9 crore compared to Rs 23.8 crore.

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