Govt exploring if it can cede control in CPSEs on case-to-case basis (LD Disinvestment)

Last Updated: Sat, Jul 06, 2019 12:54 hrs
India Union Budget

New Delhi: The Union Budget on Friday hiked the disinvestment target for the year to Rs 1,05,000 crore, up from Rs 90,000 set in the interim Budget. It proposed re-initiating disinvestment of Air India and on a case-to-case basis of Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSEs).

"Strategic disinvestment of select CPSEs will continue to be a priority. Such disinvestment of Air India will be re-initiated. The disinvestment target for 2019-20 is Rs 1.05 lakh crore," said Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, while presenting the Budget in the Lok Sabha on Friday.

She said the government is considering whether its holding can go below 51 per cent in some CPSEs on a case -to-case basis. The government has decided to modify the present policy of retaining 51 per cent government stake in public sector undertakings (PSUs), including that of government institutions, she said.

It was expected that the government would up the disinvestment target by getting out of loss-making CPSEs. What has added a new twist to the plan is the case-to-case consideration where the government could pare its stake below 51%.

More details will emerge on this from the Department of Heavy Industries and Department of Investment and Public Asset Management. This is because there is a possibility of a general impression that the Modi government is going for CPSEs' privatisation.

Last year, the government raised Rs 85,0000 crore from selling assets in Coal India Ltd and Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd and others. The government had exceeded its disinvestment target for the 2018-19 fiscal by Rs 5,000 crore, with the proceeds touching Rs 85,000 crore. It had also crossed Rs 1 lakh crore proceeds from disinvestment in 2017-18.

In the current fiscal, though, the government hasn't been able to sell any CPSE stake despite having approval for 24 of them from the think tank Niti Aayog. All 24 of these companies are loss-making. These include Air India, Scooters India, Bharat Pumps, Project & Development India, Hindustan Prefab, Hindustan Newsprint, Bridge and Roof Co and Hindustan Fluorocarbons.

Disinvestment Secretary Atanu Bhattacharya said in the post-Budget media interaction that the profit-making PSU will not be sold. The government, she said, will undertake strategic sale of PSUs and will also continue with consolidation of PSUs in the non-financial space.

Outlining the roadmap, the Finance Minister said the government is considering going below 51% to an appropriate level, on a case-to-case basis

The government has also decided to modify present policy of retaining 51% stake inclusive of the stake of Government controlled institutions. She said the government intends to further encourage retail participation in CPSEs which, of late, has shown very encouraging upward trend.

In order to provide additional investment space, the Government will realign its holding in CPSEs, including Banks to permit greater availability of its shares and to improve depth of its market.

ETFs have proved to be an important investment opportunity for retail investors and have turned out to be a good instrument for government of India's divestment programme.

To expand it, Government will offer an investment option in ETFs on the lines of Equity Linked Savings Scheme (ELSS). This will also encourage a long-term investment in CPSEs, she noted.

Last fiscal, for Air India bids were invited, but it did not elicit any interest and government had to scrap it.

The Finance Ministry has lined up 10 IPOs for the fiscal and so far the disinvestment department has completed the RVNL -- a Railway arm IPO which raised Rs 466 crore.

With the addition of enemy property sale of Rs 1800 core so far, DIPAM has raised a little over Rs 23.00 crore. There are plans to launch a debt ETFA and a financial sector ETF this fiscal.