A slew of Divestments lined up

The government is getting set for a series of blockbuster divestments — lining up strategic sales in four blue-chip, state-run companies and firming up plans for embattled Air India.

A group of secretaries have cleared strategic sales in Bharat Petroleum Corp. Ltd, BEML, Container Corporation of India and Shipping Corporation of India. Stake sales in THDC India and Neepco, both power companies, have also been approved. These could be taken over by state-run NTPC.

The Air India expression of interest paperwork is also likely to be finalised and issued soon, setting in motion the formal process for the state-owned airline’s sale, two government officials familiar with the process said.

The government proposes to raise ₹1.05 lakh crore from disinvestment in the current financial year. It had exceeded asset-sale targets of ₹1 lakh crore in FY18 and ₹80,000 crore in FY19.

The Air India EoI with all relevant details for investors is in the process of being finalised and could be cleared by the special mechanism headed by home minister Amit Shah over the next fortnight, the official said.

“About ₹30,000 crore debt (in Air India) would be taken over by the government,” the second official said. “The EoI would provide completely clarity to investors looking to buy.” While BEML has the requisite approvals in place, the Department of Investment and Public Asset Management will take proposals for BPCL, SCI and Concor soon to the special mechanism set up to approve their disinvestment.

At the current market value, the government stake in BPCL is worth about ₹55,000 crore, but the actual realisation may be higher if it gets a control premium from the strategic investor. The government expects up to ₹65,000 crore. Another official said the sale of the government’s stake, currently at 53.3%, will not require parliamentary approval. “We have got the issue examined… The law has been repealed,” he said. “Parliament will only need to be informed.”

The government expects the open bidding for BPCL to be aggressive in view of the company’s extensive retail network.

The government’s 54% stake in BEML, a state-run entity under the defence ministry, is worth about ₹2,100 crore at current prices; the 54.8% stake in Concor about ₹20,000 crore and the 73.75% stake in SCI could fetch ₹1,300 crore. Share prices of these companies closed 1.38-2.27% higher on the BSE Monday.

With barely six months left in the fiscal year, the government is keen to push through strategic sales and public offers aggressively, hoping to make the most of the buoyancy in the markets following corporate tax cuts. The initial public offer of the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corp. opened on Monday.

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