Government readies plan for big-ticket stake sale in 22 PSUs

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NEW DELHI: India is preparing a plan for big-ticket asset sales that involves the disposal of controlling stakes in 22 listed and unlisted companies as the Centre looks to meet the full-year disinvestment target of Rs 56,500 crore. On the list are large state-run companies such as Container Corporation of India, Bharat Earthmovers, as many as three plants of the Steel Authority of India and unlisted entities like Cement Corporation of India.

A Cabinet note has been floated by the Department of Investment and Public Asset Management (Dipam) to this end, two officials aware of the development told ET. “Strategic disinvestment is on the cards… the process has been set in motion,” said one of them. The Cabinet is expected to take a decision on the matter shortly, said the second official.

On the list are companies that are profitable and some that aren’t but have big asset bases. The key criterion is that none of them are engaged in areas that are strategically critical for India.

The proposal draws from the Niti Aayog report on strategic disinvestment in profit-making public sector units (PSUs). It had identified the companies that will be put up for sale and is expected to work jointly with Dipam to take the plan forward. The proposed sell-off programme has a two-pronged strategy.

In the case of unlisted ones, the government will exit completely, offering 100% equity. In the case of listed ones, the government will lower its holding to less than 49% to free them from state control.

The government’s mandate on the plan is very strict and aimed at delivering substantial progress by the end of the financial year. Of the FY17 disinvestment target of Rs 56,500 crore, the government has so far got Rs 22,000 crore through various modes including buybacks.

Unlisted companies in the list include Certification Engineers International Ltd, which offers third-party consultancy, inspection and audit services in oil and gas. Hindustan Newsprint and Scooters India Ltd are also on the list.Selling off the three loss-making plants of the Steel Authority of India will help improve the valuation of the profitable part of the company.

Container Corporation is a profitmaking, zero-debt company worth more than Rs 25,000 crore in market capitalisation.

Companies like Air India are also on the radar but a decision on the national carrier will be taken after a while. This is because a revival package is under implementation at Air India and the government would like to see how this runs before taking a call.