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Report: Bankrupt Aircel warns staff to brace for 'difficult times ahead'

Aircel Ltd.'s roughly 5,000 employees are preparing for potential layoffs as the debt-laden Indian mobile operator is set to apply for bankruptcy, The Economic Times reported.

Aircel CEO Kaizad Heerjee has warned staff via email to brace for "more difficult times ahead" as the company faces "serious funding issues" amid heightened competition. Sources said there has been no update since Heerjee's letter and "employees are worried if they will get salaries on time."

Meanwhile, headhunters are reportedly expecting the number of applications from Aircel employees to pile up. With most operators on a hiring freeze, the staff could be headed to a job market already teeming with former employees of other telcos that either shut down or are into mergers.

Aircel is now working to nominate new board members and an insolvency professional to begin the bankruptcy process. The company is reportedly likely to stop paying salaries by the end of the week of Feb. 19.

The bankruptcy application came after Aircel's Malaysian parent Maxis Bhd. backed out of plans to invest up to $1.1 billion in the company, supposedly to help restructure debt worth 155 billion Indian rupees.

Recruitment firms earlier said India's telecom sector is looking at up to 30,000 job cuts following a wave of consolidation. Jobs will be affected in infrastructure and network engineering, sales and distribution, telecom engineering, human resources and finance, call centers and other support functions.

As of Feb. 23, US$1 was equivalent to 64.98 Indian rupees.