Drawing comfort from the improved macro-economic conditions that has stabilised its finances, the Centre is unlikely to go ahead with any more stake sales in public sector units in the current financial year.
“There is no pressing need for us to go ahead with any more disinvestment in public sector undertakings. All the planning will now be for the next fiscal,” said a senior government official.
The Centre has raised ₹13,340 crore from stake sales this fiscal in half a dozen PSUs, including Engineers India Ltd, Indian Oil Corporation, Power Finance Corporation, Rural Electrification Corporation and Dredging Corporation.
In contrast, the Budget had set a target of ₹69,500 crore from disinvestment proceeds, including ₹41,000 crore from minority stake sales and ₹28,500 crore from strategic stake sales.
The Department of Disinvestment had recently also invited applications from merchant bankers for managing a 10 per cent initial public offer in Cochin Shipyard Ltd and is also working on 5-per cent stake sale in Container Corporation of India, apart from planned stake sales in Coal India Ltd and BHEL.
But, its confidence to push back further disinvestments to 2016-17 comes on the back of robust tax collections and low oil prices that have enabled the exchequer to save substantially on its fuel subsidy bill.
Revenue Secretary Hasmukh Adhia had recently said the government will meet its tax collection target of ₹14.49 lakh crore this fiscal and the shortfall on direct tax mop-up will be met by additional receipts of ₹40,000 crore from indirect taxes. It also expects at least a ₹40,000-crore savings in fuel subsidies in the fiscal due to the low global crude oil prices.
Further volatility and uncertainty in global and domestic bourses is another reason that the Finance Ministry wants to keep PSU disinvestments on hold. “A situation like the IOC stake sale is best avoided when markets are choppy,” said a second official.
IOC stake sale A 10-per cent stake sale in IOC in August 2015 had to be rescued by domestic institutional investors such as the Life Insurance Corporation of India after it opened on a day when the markets tanked.
While Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has expressed confidence of meeting the fiscal deficit target of 3.9 per cent of the GDP in 2015-16, analysts said that the low disinvestment proceeds could pose a challenge.
“Assuming that aggregate tax and non-tax revenues will meet the Budget target, the likely shortfall in revenues would be due to a shortfall in disinvestment receipts and impact of lower nominal growth. The overall impact could be 0.6 per cent of the GDP,” said DK Srivastava, EY Chief Policy Advisor.