Disinvestment is the government’s go-to route to bulk up its finances. For this fiscal, the target has been set at ₹43,425 crore, over twice what the programme actually raised last year. This may seem like a tall order in light of the past record.
The target for this fiscal is not very far off from the ₹40,000 crore set for 2013-14. But in practice, the amount actually raised has never met the intended level. Amounts raised have usually fallen woefully short of target. A combination of poor market conditions and bad timing and pricing hampered fund raising. However, stock markets are looking up now, with earlier bad apples such as oil and gas, power, mining, finding market favour. It’s these sectors that pepper the Government’s portfolio. That may make it easier for stake sales to be quickly snapped up.
For instance, further public offers in Engineers India and Power Grid Corp, made towards the end of the 2014 fiscal, sailed through with no trouble. This can help the government reach closer to its target than in earlier years. At current market valuations, a 1 per cent stake sold in the BSE PSU index will yield approximately ₹18,381 crore.
The Budget has also listed selling off its stake in banks and raising funds from the public to meet the recapitalisation requirements for banks. Banks currently account for around a fifth of government holding in PSUs.
And finally, where the government holds more than 75 per cent, it has to necessarily bring it down to that level over the next three years as per SEBI’s minimum public shareholding rule.
Some stocks stand a better chance at successful fund raisers than others. In Coal India, for instance, the government holding is 89.6 per cent. A 5 per cent stake sale in this will net a good ₹11,902 crore at current market valuations. NMDC, in which the government holds 80 per cent, can raise ₹3,451 crore if shareholding is brought down to 75 per cent. NHPC and Neyveli Lignite are other potential candidates, where a 5 per cent sale can bring in about ₹2,230 crore. ONGC, NTPC and IOCL are other stocks which can bring in good money; even 1 per cent sold in the three can raise ₹5,464 crore.
Among banks, Central Bank, United Bank and Indian Bank seem to be prime candidates. These can raise ₹1,054 crore if a 5 per cent stake is sold. For all the banks that the government holds, sale of every 1 per cent will give it ₹4,299 crore.
Therefore if the market continues on these lines, meeting this year’s divestment target should not prove too difficult. That’s one feather in the cap for the NDA.