Millennium Post

Substantial interest for Pawan Hans sale, claims Govt

Mumbai: A senior government official on Monday said that the Centre has received "substantial" interest for Pawan Hans stake sale and plans for Air India disinvestment also continues. The government owns 51 per cent in Pawan Hans, which has a fleet of 46 choppers. The remaining 49 per cent is with state-run ONGC. If the sale goes through, government will exit the chopper-maker.

The disinvestment process is on, as ONGC refused to buy out the government's stake when it was proposed last year. "Pawan Hans (PHL) for which an RFP (request for proposal) has been invited, has got substantial competitive interest," said department of investment and public asset management (Dipam) secretary Atanu Chakraborty.

SBI Capital is advising the government on the bidding process. In April, the government had issued the information memorandum for the 51 per cent strategic stake sale in Pawan Hans and had sought expressions of interest (EoI) from interested bidders by June 18. Chakraborty denied that Air India's disinvestment plans were put on the back burner saying the process is a continuing exercise. "As a part of that, an expression of interest have been invited for Air India Air Transport Services (AIATSL). And, certain other assets of Air India are in the process of being sold," he added.

AIATSL is the profit-making ground handling arm of the national carrier. In 2016-17, AIATSL raked in a profit of Rs 61.66 crore. The government had in June 2017 unsuccessfully tried to offload 76 per cent stake in the national carrier.

As part of the disinvestment, the government was planning to transfer most of the debt to a special purpose vehicle. "There are practical problem in selling a company at a particular time. First set of interest didn't come because of that back burners takes will takes six more months... That is more to do with the mechanics of doing a thing, not with the intent of the government. Everything is on a front burner," he said.

Chakraborty expressed confidence that the government will be able to reach its disinvestment target of over Rs 80,000 crore though it has so far been able to mop up only about Rs 10,000 crore. He said the government will continue to use ETFs as one of its preferred modes for disinvestment.

On the ongoing CPSE ETF, he said, against the Rs 8,000 crore offering, a subscription of Rs 30,000 crore has been received, but the government will retain only Rs 17,000 crore. He said the retail portion was fully subscribed, and there was a big interest shown by FPIs who offered almost Rs 13,000 crore, both in anchor and non-anchor categories.

He said the work on debt ETF is also on progress. Speaking on the same event, NSE managing director Vikram Limaye said despite ETFs being in existence for a long time, the assets linked to equity, debt and commodity ETFs aggregate to around Rs 94,100 crores (with equity ETFs alone having a share of close to 93 per cent in the domestic ETF market) which is just 4 per cent of mutual fund AUM.

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