British telecom firm Vodafone Friday said it is doing the groundwork for a potential IPO of its Indian arm and holding private discussions with banks, but no decision has been taken as of now.
“We are not commenting. We have previously said we have started preparations for a potential IPO, which includes private conversations with banks, but this is a lengthy process and no decision will be made until we are at the end of it,” a Vodafone spokesperson said in response to an e-mail query.
Vodafone has reportedly asked banks to sign a non-disclosure agreement as it proceeds to launch IPO of its Indian arm despite its ongoing dispute with the government.
The company is believed to have moved the Hague-based International Court of Justice (ICJ) seeking appointment of a judge to preside over an arbitration over its Rs. 14,200-crore tax case.
Vodafone moved ICJ in March after arbitrators appointed by it and the government of India failed to reach a consensus on selection of a neutral/presiding judge of the three-member panel, sources aware of the development said.
Vodafone, in 2013, had invoked the India-Netherlands bilateral investment treaty seeking resolution of a retrospective tax demand, which was imposed on it to sidestep a Supreme Court judgment that went in its favour.
Conciliatory proceedings were initiated to resolve the dispute, but differences led to a breakdown following which arbitration was initiated.
The government, in June 2014, had appointed former Chief Justice of India R C Lahoti as arbitrator while Vodafone came out with Canadian trial lawyer Yves Fortier as its choice.
The two had zeroed in on Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf of ICJ as the presiding arbitrator.
Lahoti recused himself from the case in May 2015 and a month later, Yusuf too declined to be part of the panel.
Thereafter, India in July last year named Costa Rica-based lawyer Rodrigo Oreamuno to arbitrate on its behalf.
But Oreamuno and Fortier have not been able to decide on a presiding arbitrator, forcing Vodafone to move ICJ, sources said.
The government had initially issued a tax demand of Rs. 7,990 crores on Vodafone for failing to deduct tax on capital gains made over its $11-billion (roughly Rs. 73,222 crores) acquisition of 67 percent stake in the mobile-phone business owned by Hutchison Whampoa in 2007.
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