New Delhi: Aiming to shore up finances in the face of a growing domestic economic downturn and depleting foreign investments, the government aims to sell its stake in some key profit-making blue-chip public sector entities like Bhel and Hindustan Copper Ltd, as well as others like the iconic ITDC Ashok Hotel, and even in the loss-making Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL), apart from National Textile Corporation Ltd, among others, in the next five years.
Highly-placed sources told this newspaper that these companies form part of the list of 11 state-owned units to which the Prime Minister’s Office is learnt to have given its clearance for selling the government’s stake in the current as well as in the next four fiscals.
There is a possibility that the government could even go in for a strategic sale option in some of the 11 public service enterprises, and it is reliably learnt that the proposal for a stake sale in these companies may soon be sent for the Union Cabinet’s approval.
The interesting aspect to be noted here is that the Centre is not averse to selling its stake in profit-making firms like Hindustan Copper Ltd and Bhel, which is a Maharatna company.
Hindustan Copper had recorded a net profit of Rs 145.74 crores in 2018-19, which was a humungous 83 per cent more than the previous fiscal.
Similarly, Bhel had recorded a 50 per cent jump in its net profit for FY19, which stood at Rs 1,215 crores, as against Rs 807 crores in the previous fiscal (2017-18).
On the other hand, the crisis-ridden state-owned telecom service provider MTNL’s consolidated loss stood at Rs 3,388 crores for 2018-19, which was more than the Rs 2,970-crore loss it had recorded in the previous fiscal (2017-18). The other companies where the government aims to sell its stake are Balmer Lawrie Investments Ltd and Balmer Lawrie and Company Ltd, Telecommunications Consultants India Ltd, FCI Aravalli Gypsum and Minerals India Ltd, MECON Ltd, Braithwaite and Company Ltd as well as Andrew Yule & Co. Ltd.
Sources further said the Centre is likely to focus on the disinvestment process in the 11 companies during the next five years.
In the past four years since 2015, the NDA government has approved disinvestment in 25 public sector undertakings. In her maiden Budget speech on July 5, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman had set a disinvestment target of Rs 1.05 lakh crores for 2019-2020. This was Rs 15,000 crores more than the target of Rs 90,000 crores set by Piyush Goyal, who was the interim finance minister during the interim Budget on February 1, 2019.
The disinvestment proceeds for FY19 had stood at Rs 85,000 crores, up 6.2 per cent from the Budget estimate of Rs 80,000 crores.