The Indian government has announced plans for stake sales in seven companies seeking proceeds of $5.4 billion in a bid to plug a budget hole opened by higher expenditure on infrastructural and rural projects. The value of the divestment was estimated by Reuters on the basis of the last closing price of the stocks to be sold. Among the companies that will be put up for partial sale is the country’s largest state oil refiner, Indian Oil Corporation, along with utility NTPC, miner NLC India, and Steel Authority of India Ltd. (SAIL). The stakes, according to documents posted on the website of the Department of Investment and Public Asset Management, will be sold via stock exchanges.
The government will auction 3 percent in Indian Oil Corp, 10 percent in NTPC, SAIL, Power Finance Corp Ltd, and hydro utility NHPC, as well as 15 percent of miner NLC India and 5 percent of Rural Electrification Corp Ltd. Last month, Bloomberg reported that the effects of the demonetization undertaken by the government last year – a move without precedent – are starting to subside and foreign investment is improving, helping New Delhi manage its current account deficit.
During the first nine months of the 2016/17 fiscal year that ended on March 31, foreign direct investment hit $37.4 billion, likely to exceed the 2015/16 level of $45 billion, according to estimates from Deutsche Bank. Local private investment, however, is declining as a result of a more neutral policy on the part of the country’s central bank as well as immigration-tightening from the U.S., which would curb service exports and remittances – both major contributors to budget revenues.
At the same time, Asia’s third-largest economy is on track to continue growing at the fastest pace in the region. This growth needs fuel and crude oil imports are rising. In March, India imported 4.7 percent more oil than in February and 4.9 percent more than in March 2016 – a trend set to continue in the observable future.