Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman Wednesday said the Cabinet had approved strategic disinvestment in five PSUs— Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited, Shipping Corp of India, Container Corporation of India (Concor), THDCIL and NEEPCO — while retaining management control. The strategic sales will play a pivotal role in achieving the Rs 1.05 lakh crore-disinvestment revenue target of the government in FY20, she said.
"The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) approved the sale of government's entire 53.29 per cent stake along with transfer of management control in the country's second-biggest state-owned refiner Bharat Petroleum Corp Ltd (BPCL) after removing Numaligarh refinery from its fold," Sitharaman said.
The announcement comes a month after Moody's Investors Service had said that if a non-government firm takes over the entire government stake in BPCL, it would downgrade the state-run oil marketing company by two notches to Ba1, which denotes medium-grade and is subject to moderate credit risk.
Besides, the government will sell its entire holding in THDC India and North Eastern Electric Power Corp Ltd (NEEPCO) to state power generator NTPC Ltd. The Cabinet also approved the sale of 53.75 per cent out of the government holding of 63.75 per cent stake in Shipping Corporation of India and 30.9 per cent stake in Container Corp of India (Concor).
At the same time, the Cabinet has approved reducing the government's stake in select PSUs such as Indian Oil Corp (IOC) to below 51 per cent while continuing to retain management control, Sitharam announced.
Relief for telecos as Cabinet relaxes spectrum dues
In view of financial stress faced by telecom companies, Sitharaman said Cabinet had approved deferring the receipt of spectrum auction instalments for two years. The move to defer payments for 2020-21 and 2021-22 will give Rs 42,000 crore relief to Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Reliance Jio, PTI reported.
"Deferred spectrum payment to be equally spread over the remaining instalments without any increase in the existing time period," she said. Telecom companies will have to pay applicable interest on deferred spectrum payments.
The Cabinet decision comes close on the heels of Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel announcing plans for a tariff hike, with Reliance Jio also hinting that it would increase mobile phone call and data charges in the next few weeks in compliance with rules.
On Monday, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea — reeling under huge losses — announced plans to increase tariffs for customers from December 1. Both players reported massive losses in the quarter ending September 2019, with combined losses standing at 74,000 crore.
Cabinet approves import of 1.2 lakh tonnes onion
Moreover, in a bid to tackle the onion shortage gripping the nation, the Cabinet gave its approval to the Food Ministry's recent decision to import 1.2 lakh tonnes of the kitchen staple.
On November 16, Food and Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan had announced that the government would import 1,00,000 tonnes of onions through state-run MMTC, which has already floated a tender for buying 4,000 tonnes of the commodity from the global market.
The move comes after the government's various efforts to boost the domestic availability failed to cool down the retail prices significantly. Retail prices of onions are continuing to rule above Rs 60/kg in the national capital and other consuming centres.
Prices have risen sharply since May this year, caused by the delayed arrival of the new crop and damage to the harvested crop in the main onion-growing states of Maharashtra, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh.