Govt reboots sell-off roadmap; big ticket sales soon

Undeterred by stalled attempts at divesting stake in public sector units, the government has revamped its disinvestment roadmap and is set to launch big ticket stake sales starting later this month.

On the anvil is a 9.5 per cent stake sale in Hindustan Copper Ltd (HCL) expected towards the month end, followed by a 10 per cent disinvestment in state-run miner NMDC in the first half of December. The government also plans to sell 10 per cent of its equity in Oil India Ltd later next month and is hoping to follow it up with stake sales in Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL) and Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd (BHEL) in 2013.

"A lot of issues are in the pipeline and we should be able to finally get some of them off the ground soon. They are all good companies and we expect that they will attract investors," a senior finance ministry official said.

The government is hoping to raise Rs 30,000 crore from divestment proceeds in the current fiscal but is yet to launch a single public offer this fiscal. Its previous attempts at selling equity in Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Ltd and National

Aluminum Company Ltd (Nalco) were deferred due to concerns over valuations and financial performance.

But an Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) is expected to meet later this week to finalise the timing and pricing of the long pending disinvestment in HCL. "We will be taking a call on HCL later this week," a disinvestment department official said, but cautioned that the low public float of the company is a worry.

Merchant bankers for the deal are understood have warned that the government, which holds 99.59 per cent stake in the firm, that the minuscule public float could hamper price discovery and affect valuations. On Tuesday, shares of HCL closed at Rs 248.80 on the Bombay Stock Exchange.

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