BPCL setback: Govt to push asset sales

NEW DELHI: The Centre is set to give a fresh push to its privatisation drive after facing a setback over the sale of state-run oil refiner BPCL and will make a renewed bid to complete the transactions of a clutch of companies in the current fiscal year.

Senior officials said Shipping Corporation of India (SCI), defence PSU BEML, engineering consulting firm PDIL and the Nagarnar steel plant of the country’s largest iron ore producer NMDC are among the companies where the Centre hopes to accelerate the privatisation process and complete the transactions. Plans are also on the anvil to give a fresh push to the privatisation of a state-run bank and perhaps a state-run insurance company, the process for which had been delayed due to a raft of factors, including the Covid pandemic.

The officials said the approval for demerger of SCI was expected anytime soon, and the process for moving ahead with the sale would be stepped up.

“The review of the sale process has been undertaken and once the demerger approval comes through, we expect to proceed,” said an official. While the overall situation linked to the shipping industry globally hasn’t improved significantly, the government is hopeful of completing the transaction successfully in the current fiscal year.

Similarly, the Centre is awaiting the demerger approval for BEML and for the Nagarnar steel plant of NMDC and is confident that once the corporate affairs ministry gives the green light, the transactions can gather momentum. The PDIL sale is also expected very soon, the official said, adding that substantial progress has been achieved so far.

The government is also moving ahead with the closure of state-run firms where the sale process has repeatedly met with roadblocks and tepid response. The new guidelines on closure provide enough flexibility to the administrative ministries to proceed with closure of such PSUs that have been on the list of privatisation for a long time.

“Different ministries are proceeding with the closure of some of the PSUs which have been on the privatisation list and where the buyer interest has been minimal. Some of them have already been closed down and we hope a few will also be shut down shortly,” said an official.

The Covid pandemic has emerged as a major obstacle for the Centre’s privatisation drive and has taken a toll on a number of key stake sales as global travel has been affected. But now the opening-up across the world has triggered hope for accelerating the process. The Centre is confident of meeting the Rs 65,000-crore disinvestment target set for the current fiscal year. So far, it has raised Rs 24,047 crore from asset sales in state-run firms, and residual stake sales in Hindustan Zinc and Paradeep Phosphates are set to bring it closer to the target.