The Finance Ministry will move ahead with the already-announced and planned privatisation of state-owned companies in the next fiscal, and the chances of the new addition to that list of CPSEs in the Budget for 2023-24 are unlikely, sources said.
The disinvestment target outlined in the Budget for the next fiscal is likely to be a scaled-down and realistic one, as the budgeted PSU sell-off target is going to be missed for the fourth year in a row this fiscal.
In the current fiscal, the government had budgeted to collect Rs 65,000 crore from disinvestment. However, so far, it has realised only Rs 31,106 crore by selling minority stakes in public sector companies.
After tasting success in privatising loss-making Air India in 2021, the progress of the PSU sell-off has not been very impressive over the past year, and experts say that with the general election around the corner in 2024, no major disinvestment announcement is expected in this Budget either.
“The plan is to move ahead with the strategic sale of the companies for which the Cabinet approval is already in place,” an official told PTI.
This means that the government will go ahead with the privatisation of companies like Shipping Corporation of India, NMDC Steel Ltd, BEML, HLL Lifecare, Container Corporation of India and RINL or Vizag Steel, as well as the big-ticket IDBI Bank.
Considering that strategic sale or privatisation takes at least a year, and in some cases even more, to conclude, a high budgeted disinvestment target may not be achievable.
Nangia Andersen LLP, Partner- Government and Public Sector Advisory, Suraj Nangia said: “The privatisation process often takes time, depending on the type of privatization and the economic, social, and political context, emphasising the importance of a medium-term plan, a solid regulatory framework, and competitive markets”.
“A multi-year strategic plan for privatisation can be formulated to ensure there is a concrete timeline and a well-designed sequencing and strategy for privatisation,” Nangia said.
EY India, Associate Partner, Tax and Economic Policy Group, Rajnish Gupta said the privatisation programme may see an uptick after the 2024 general elections.
“Maybe this year’s Budget is going to be a little muted and we may see announcements around disinvestment and sale of minority stakes. After 2024, we may see an acceleration in the privatisation programme again,” Gupta said.
In the past year, the government had called off a couple of strategic sales, including BPCL, due to a lack of investor interest. Experts feel that the private sector will be more keen on buying state-owned companies if their deal is sweetened with tax incentives and regulatory exemptions.
Nangia said private sector participation is more likely to be successful when the required information is accurate, such as that of the operating performance, the condition of assets etc.
“An important factor considered by investors as they decide on bidding in privatisation programme is a ‘predictable regulatory environment and absence of undue administrative impediments to business in general’.
“Other relevant factors include sufficient and accessible resources, including the presence of relevant infrastructure and human capital, tax incentives, financial subsidies and regulatory exemptions,” Nangia added.
Edited by Teja Lele