India has asked at least eight state-run companies to consider share buy-backs in the fiscal year to March 2021, two government officials said, as New Delhi searches for ways to raise funds to rein in its fiscal deficit.
The firms asked include miner Coal India, power utility NTPC, minerals producer NMDC, and Engineers India Ltd., said one of the sources, who sought anonymity as the discussions are private.
India is unlikely to be anywhere near its fiscal deficit target of 3.5% of GDP for 2020/21 as COVID-19 curbs hit tax collections and delayed efforts to privatise Bharat Petroleum Corp. and flag carrier Air India.
In February, the government had set itself a target of raising more than $27 billion from privatisations and sale of minority stakes in state-owned companies this fiscal.
However, some PSUs, particularly in the oil sector, may not be able to do buy-backs, the sources warned, as the government’s stake is just sufficient to ensure its position as a majority holder. “The government stake in these companies is about 51% and there is a competing claim on their cash in the form of huge Capex commitment and dividend payments,” the official said.
But for those with sufficient funds and capital expenditure below target for this fiscal year, the government could seek approval from the Cabinet to prune its stake to less than 51% in individual firms without giving up control, the official said.
India had tasked 23 state-run companies with capital expenditure of ₹1.65 trillion ($22.5 billion) this fiscal year, but some firms face spending challenges as the world’s second most populous nation adds virus infections.
The Centre had asked PSUs to either meet their targets for capital expenditure or “reward the shareholder in the form of a dividend,” the officials added.