anil agarwal: Govt can earn more money by share sales, incremental profit if it corporatises its companies: Anil Agarwal

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group chairman Anil Agarwal on Thursday suggested that the government can earn more money by share sales and incremental profit if it corporatises its companies instead of privatising them. The comments from Agarwal, who has taken over a few central units through the divestment process in the past, assume importance as the government has been falling short of its divestment targets.

Barring a few exceptions, successive governments have failed to mop up the budgeted privatisation targets and the worst shortfall was in FY22 — when it budgeted for a massive Rs 1.75 lakh crore from such proceeds — as it failed to get its largest asset LIC listed through an IPO and ended up getting not even a fourth of the target.

The government has pegged disinvestment receipts at Rs 65,000 crore for 2022-23, up from Rs 13,531 crore mopped up last fiscal.

Why shouldn’t the government at least stop privatising its listed companies instead corporatise them? By corporatising the 200-odd listed central PSUs, it can earn much more at one go and then keep on earning more in annual profits. This has happened in many countries and we can also follow suit, Agarwal said and wondered why it has sold some of its key assets — and being the best cases — to his own group.

Addressing a Times Group’s India Economic Conclave here, he further said such a policy shift can ensure that our national assets do not go into foreign hands.

Our fund houses have enough money to absorb such large share sales, he added.

Agarwal also said this can also deflect criticism that the government is selling out apart from blunting workers’ unions’ opposition to privatisation, fearing job losses as a portion of the shares being sold can be given to employees as stock options and such companies can be run by professional boards like L&T or the HDFC group.

If some of the world’s most successful and largest companies can be run by Indians or Indian origin men and women, why can’t the government allow its own people to run its companies more efficiently, he wondered.

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