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Government targets $2.3B asset sales by year-end

11 November, 2013

India has revived plans to sell stakes in two state-owned companies to raise about $2.3 billion to boost public finances, aiming to push through a sale by mid-December to take advantage of a share market rally.

Two sources with direct knowledge of the matter said investor roadshows will be launched in the United States on Tuesday for a 10 per cent stake in state refiner Indian Oil Corp (IOC).

The government’s Department of Disinvestment (DoD), which oversees stake sales in state companies, has also completed most of the overseas roadshows to sell a 5 per cent stake in state miner Coal India, which could fetch about $1.5 billion, the sources told Reuters.

The department hopes to launch the stake sales in the two state companies before December 15, they said, after which overseas investors typically start to wind down for Christmas and New Year holidays.

“We would like to launch both before mid-December, but not sure if we will be able to do that,” one of the sources said.

The government’s planned sale of stakes in Indian Oil and other state companies including Coal India is critical to relieving pressure on public finances that could put the country’s investment-grade credit rating at risk.

India has targeted raising $6.4 billion from selling stakes in state companies in the fiscal year ending March 2014, but has so far managed only $233 million, as ministries squabbled over the timing of the issues and the rupee fell against the dollar.

IOC’s share sale had been set for October, but planned roadshows were cancelled after the oil ministry pulled out, citing the weak share price and uncertainty over a new fuel-subsidy formula.

The Coal India stake sale has been halved from 10 per cent to 5 per cent after union opposition.

“IOC (Indian Oil Corp) roadshows are starting from the 12th (of November), even though it is a difficult issue to market because of the sector problems,” the source said, referring to losses that state oil retailers incur because of selling diesel, kerosene and cooking gas at state-capped rates.

The sources declined to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter. DoD officials, as well as officials at Indian Oil and Coal India could not be reached for comment.

Market rally

Indian Oil, India’s largest refiner and fuel retailer, on Friday reported an 82 per cent fall in net profit on account of foreign exchange losses and lower compensation from the government for losses on fuel sales.

India’s oil ministry has forecast revenue losses of 803 billion rupees for state fuel retailers IOC, Bharat Petroleum and Hindustan Petroleum in the second half of this fiscal year, up from 623 billion in the first half.

The divestment department is keen to push through the stake sales to take advantage of a share market rally that sent India’s benchmark stock index .BSESN to a record high this month on the back of strong foreign inflows. The index is up 6.4 per cent this year.

The Indian Oil investor roadshows will be held in New York and Boston. The Indian cabinet cleared the sale in August.

At current market prices, the 10 per cent stake sale in Indian Oil could fetch New Delhi around $800 million. The government owns nearly 79 per cent in Indian Oil, and 90 per cent in Coal India.

So far, officials have pitched the Coal India offering to investors in the United States and Britain, and will proceed to Australia and South East Asia this week, a third source said. Roadshows for local investors will be held after that, he added.

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Government targets $2.3B asset sales by year-end

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