From the Viewsroom

‘File and forget’ charade

P Manoj | Updated on March 16, 2021

Firms apparently told to just express interest in PSUs

With very few expressions of interest received for firms lined up for privatisation, the Central government has hit upon an idea to swell the numbers and paint a rosy picture. The administrative ministries have apparently started dialling firms operating within their domain to “simply file their interest even if they are not serious about participating in the process for acquiring the government company”.

Such a “compulsion” to submit expression of interest has been cited by at least two firms in the case of a transport sector company for which the EoI filing date closed recently. For them, “pleasing” the ministry mandarins comes in handy while lobbying for many things that have a bearing on the firms in their respective sphere of operations.

The ‘just file and forget it’ motto is a great PR exercise for the government’s privatisation programme as the number of initial EoIs received is often taken as an indicator of the attractiveness of the PSU being sold, irrespective of whether they qualify and move to the next stage of bidding or not.

Given the media hype surrounding privatisation, it is also a great way for “virtual non-entities” to hog some free limelight in the national press.

Take the case of a bidder who voluntarily revealed that he has filed an “aggressive bid” for the same transport company even before he is notified by the government as a qualified bidder and thus eligible to place a price bid, which in any case is at least 3-4 months away.

If this firm’s statement to a news agency is anything to go by, then it would not be out of place to presume that it has quoted a price in the EoI — aggressive by his reckoning — in its over zealousness to buy the transport company.

Such instances are expected to crop up as the privatisation process moves forward.

Published on March 16, 2021

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