Fresh identification of PSUs gives momentum to govt’s sell-off plan

New Delhi (IANS) The government proposes to start afresh the process to firm up the list of companies for strategic sale and disinvestment as changed market dynamics post the Covid-19 outbreak and the need for distinguishing between strategic and non-strategic sectors have completely changed the gameplan for sell-offs.

Sources in the government said that NITI Aayog is spearheading the programme for identifying new set of companies for government’s share sale plan and a preliminary meeting has already taken place in this regard during the week.

As per the initial plan, sectors such as power, coal, oil, steel, fertilisers, insurance and banking have been identified as strategic sectors where a complete sell- off of companies will not be allowed and PSU presence to a maximum of four companies may be maintained.

In other sectors, which are non-strategic in nature, such as heavy engineering, pharmaceuticals, aviation etc., the government may consider complete exit by selling majority of its shares to strategic investors.

The plan will also look at asset stripping and sale of parts of manufacturing and industrial set ups of companies in non-strategic sectors that allows the government to get better valuations.

Sources said that Niti Aayog has also asked Central ministries that administer control over various PSUs to suggest names of entities that could be offered for strategic sale. This way the process could be made smoother as non-strategic entities could be pushed for sales route without difficulties.

The government has begun the exercise to identify fresh set of companies on a war footing as it is racing against time to meet the high disinvestment target of Rs 2.1 lakh crore for the current fiscal.

The target includes Rs 1.2 lakh crore to be mobilised from the strategic sale route while another Rs 90,000 crore from disinvestment of stake in public sector banks and financial institutions.

Though Niti Aayog had recommended close to 59 companies for disinvestment and strategic sale, fresh identification is being carried out to keep the programme under the ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ reform initiative of privatising non-strategic PSUs while retaining PSU presence in the strategic sectors.

In the strategic sales plan, the government is pushing through the sale of Air India and Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd this year with a lot of difficulty as finding an investor in Covid times is not easy.

Strategic sales of other companies such as BEML, Container Corporation and Shipping Corporation is likely to come next month.

Also, an aggressive buyback plan has been initiated under which about a dozen PSUs including coal India, ntpc would buyback a portion of government shares in the company.

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