Dec 10 (Reuters) - An Indian court extended a hearing over
local tax authorities' seizure of a Nokia factory by seeking
information on the plant value, adding to concerns whether the
company can transfer the property to Microsoft as part of the
sale of its mobile phone business.
Nokia has offered to pay a 270 million euro ($369
million) deposit to Indian authorities to unfreeze assets in a
tax dispute, according to sources familiar with the matter.
The Finnish firm has been trying to free up the assets,
particularly its Chennai factory which is one of its biggest
phone-making plants, ahead of the sale of its mobile phone
business to Microsoft.
The Delhi High Court on Tuesday asked the tax authorities to
submit the value of the Chennai factory on Wednesday, when it is
due to hear the case again, amid growing uncertainty about
Nokia's exact tax liabilities in India.
A lawyer for the tax department said on Tuesday Nokia owed
78 billion rupees ($1.28 billion) in tax payments.
The Times of India reported on Tuesday the tax department
had informed the Delhi High Court that Nokia owned the
authorities more than 210 billion rupees ($3.4 billion), which
included penalty for a seven-year period beginning 2006.
The final sum of tax liabilities are not yet known. But in
March, it was served with a tax demand of about 20.8 billion
rupees for five fiscal years starting from 2006/07, according to
a March 22 notice on the Delhi High Court website.
Nokia said it had not been served with any claim beyond that
20.8 billion rupee amount.
"In recent months we have seen and read about many claims
from the tax authorities," the company said in a statement on
Tuesday. "We feel they are without merit and will defend
ourselves vigorously in court."
While Nokia has said it does not expect the dispute to
affect its 5.4 billion euro deal with Microsoft, which is
expected to close in the first quarter of 2014, a lengthy asset
freeze could complicate matters by preventing the transfer of
ownership in the Chennai plant.
Nokia has said it wanted the assets to be released by
($1 = 61.1025 Indian rupees)
(Reporting by Nigam Prusty in NEW DELHI and Ritsuko Ando in
HELSINKI; Writing by Sumeet Chatterjee; Editing by Louise