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PSUs may be asked to buy back govt equity: official

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

Amid volatility in the stock market, the Finance Ministry today said it is exploring other options, like asking PSUs to buy back equity, to help the government achieve the Rs 40,000-crore disinvestment target in the current fiscal.

"There are other options. There can be equity shrinkage. Many, many possibilities are still there. Our aim is to achieve Rs 40,000 crore (disinvestment target). You can buy back equities, you can go for public offers. We are not going to revise our target as on date," Economic Affairs Secretary R Gopalan told reporters here.

Under the current regulations, market regulator Sebi allows companies, which want to reduce share capital, to buy back their own equity from shareholders.

Gopalan, however, did not disclose the names of the state-owned companies that would come up with public offers.


The government has so far been able to raise only Rs 1,100 crore by offloading its stake in the Power Finance Co and in the backdrop of volatility in the stock markets, doubts are being expressed whether the Rs 40,000-crore disinvestment target for the fiscal would be achieved.

The stock markets all over the world, including India, have been going through a rough patch on account of the global economic downturn.

In the last financial year, the government raised Rs 22,763 crore from sale of equity in public sector enterprises, as against the target of Rs 40,000 crore.

The government has already approved disinvestment in several PSUs, including ONGC, SAIL, Hindustan Copper (HCL) and National Building and Construction Corporation (NBCC).

However, volatile stock markets have forced it to delay the formal process of selling stake in the PSUs, even as almost six months of the current fiscal are over.

Replying to queries on fiscal deficit, Gopalan said, the "political executive" is extremely committed to achieving the target during 2011-12.

"There is a political commitment to maintain fiscal deficit at this level. We will try and see to how maintain it at 4.6%....Some expenditure will go up, some will go down," he added.

The government aims to restrict the fiscal deficit to 4.6% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) or Rs 4.12 lakh crore.

On subsidies, he said, the total outlay would depend on prices of crude oil in the international market.

As regards additional market borrowings to meet growing government expenditure, Gopalan said that the finance ministry would "look at numbers" and take a view tomorrow.

First Published: Wed, September 28 2011. 14:01 IST
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