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LIC open to picking up govt's stake in Axis Bank, L&T, ITC

Govt wants to sell its stake in these companies to an SPV

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today said it has not been approached by the government to pick up the latter's stakes in Axis Bank, L&T and ITC, which are currently held by the Special Undertaking of Unit Trust of India (SUUTI), but added if it is so asked, it will definitely look at it.

"As far as LIC is concerned, we have not been approached (to buy the government's stakes in Axis Bank, L&T and ITC). In case they approach us, we will definitely have a look at it," Corporation Chairman Dinesh Kumar Mehrotra told reporters on the sidelines of a capital markets summit organised by industry body Ficci here.

SUUTI, created in 2002 after the then UTI was wound up, owns strategic stakes in three listed blue-chip entities: (11.54%), (23.58%) and L&T (8.27%).

Besides, SUUTI also owns significant stakes in unlisted firms such as the Stock Holding Corporation in which it owns 16.96%, valued at about Rs 300 crore.

The government is planning to encash these holdings, which are worth over Rs 40,000 crore, as part of its efforts at meeting the fiscal deficit target by divestment.

The plan is to sell the SUUTI stakes to an SPV. The SPV holding will not pledge shares but will borrow funds by way of negative liens under which it cannot sell the shares without the permission of lenders and the government.

When asked about the 10% equity exposure cap, Mehrotra said, "The corporation has been approaching the regulators and the finance ministry on this issue for quite some time. I think, both of them have taken it very positively. Hopefully, something should come and we will get some headroom".

LIC, which had bailed the government last March when the follow-on option of ONGC was bombed by picking up almost the entire stake worth over Rs 12,000 crore, plans to invest Rs 2.4 lakh crore this fiscal.

"We propose to invest Rs 2.4 lakh crore this fiscal and have invested Rs 65-70,000 crore so far," Mehrotra said, adding of the total investment, 10-15% constitute pure equity investments out of which it has invested Rs 7,000-8,000 crore as of now.

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