The government expects to complete sale of national carrier Air India in the first half of the next fiscal, Department of Investment and Public Asset Management (DIPAM) Secretary Tuhin Kanta Pandey said on Friday. During an interaction with financial sector experts to discuss the Union Budget, Pandey also said disinvestment strategy has shifted from minority stake sale in public sector units to strategic sale, and a lot of privatisation would happen in the next fiscal.
In November, he said the government decided on big ticket disinvestments while referring to sale of stakes in BPCL, CONCOR, and Shipping Corporation of India.
“I think our movement has been very swift. Even the Expression of Interest (EoI) for Air India is in the public domain… We intend to complete these transactions in the first half of financial year 2020-21,” he said.
The next financial year starts from April 1.
Last month, the government issued a preliminary information memorandum for 100 per cent stake sale in Air India. The airline’s 100 per cent shareholding in profit-making budget carrier Air India Express as well as 50 per cent shareholding in equal joint venture Air India SATS Airport Services (AISATS) would also be sold. The deadline for submitting the EoI is March 17.
This is at least the third time that the government is attempting disinvestment of Air India, which has been in the red since merger with Air India Express in 2007. The first attempt for stake sale, when Air India and Indian Airlines were separate entities, was done in 2001-2002 period when the NDA government was in power.
In 2018, the government proposed to offload 76 per cent stake as well as transfer the management control but there were no bidders. Air India has more than Rs 60,000 crore debt. About proposed stake sale in LIC, Pandey said it was a “big thing” and lot of value would be unlocked.
According to him, disinvesment in the public sector insurance company would be done, keeping in mind the interest of all stakeholders.
Department of Economic Affairs (DEA) Secretary Atanu Chakraborty, who was also present at the session chaired by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, sought suggestions from the industry on direct listing of Indian companies on foreign bourses.
He said the government was working on a scheme towards it as many companies want to get listed both in India and abroad at the same time. The discussions are at an advanced stage, he added.
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Currently, Indian companies can list their shares through depository receipts abroad, while foreign companies need to go through the Indian Depository Receipt route for listing of equities.
A high-level panel has already recommended to markets regulator Sebi to allow direct listing of Indian companies on overseas bourses and of foreign firms on Indian exchanges.