Business Today

Government to raise Rs 5,000 crore via ETF sale before March

The move is aimed at bringing down the fiscal deficit to a seven-year low by the end of March.

Himank Sharma and Rajesh Kumar Singh    Mumbai/New Delhi     Last Updated: February 3, 2015  | 13:09 IST
Govt to raise Rs 5,000 crore via ETF sale before March
Photo: Reuters

Government plans to raise Rs 5,000 crore ($809 million) by selling additional units of a fund made up of shares in public sector companies, a source involved in the discussions told Reuters, a move which would boost government efforts to trim its deficit.

The previous government had set up the exchange traded fund (ETF) last year as a way of selling shares in 10 state-owned companies.

It raised Rs 3,000 crore in an oversubscribed offering as investors welcomed access to a basket of firms.

The Narendra Modi-led government, elected last May, hopes to again tap appetite for a fund that has outperformed the Indian market, already one of Asia's strongest performers.

Goldman Sachs, which is the asset manager of the fund, is set to issue the new ETF units before the end of the fiscal year on March 31, the source said.

"We have the finance ministry's go-ahead and are working out the final details," the source, who is directly involved in proceedings said. The source cannot be named as discussions are confidential.

The government has set a target of $10 billion to be raised by selling government-held shares, in order to trim the fiscal deficit to a seven-year low by the end of March.

Expanding the Central Public Sector Enterprise (CPSE) ETF would be a welcome lift.

The ETF comprises 10 stocks, mixing heavyweights such as Coal India (CIL) and Oil & Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) with laggards such as Bharat Electronics and Engineers India.

The unit value of the fund has increased 38.8 per cent since its launch last March, outperforming a strong 30.6 per cent rise in the NSE index during the same period.

To date, the current government has raised $3.9 billion of its $10 billion target, most of it coming from last week's record offering of a 10 per cent equity stake in state-run Coal India.

However, plans for a second exchange traded fund announced last year have been put on hold, the source added. The fund was to have been made up of government-held minority shares in non-state firms including ITC, Larsen & Toubro and Axis Bank.

Finance ministry officials declined to comment but said that the government was considering all options to meet its target.

"We are working on many issues," Aradhana Johri, secretary in-charge of the government's disinvestment programme, had said on Friday after the sale of Coal India shares.

A Goldman Sachs spokesman declined to comment. ICICI Securities was not immediately available for comment.


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