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Business News/ Politics / Policy/  Govt plans to raise $880 mn via divestment in March

Mumbai: India plans to raise about $880 million next month cutting its stakes in two state companies, sources with direct knowledge of the matter said, a move that will help the government tackle the budget deficit.

Asset sales are a key part of the government’s plan to cut the deficit to 5.3% of gross domestic product for the fiscal year to end-March, from 5.8% in 2011/12, to avoid a credit downgrade.

The government was expected to sell a 10.82% stake in steelmaker Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL) via a share auction in the third week of March, three people with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters on Thursday.

The SAIL stake is worth about $620 million at current prices and its sale would leave the government with a 75% stake.

The government also plans to sell a 12.15% stake worth about $260 million in National Aluminium Co. Ltd (Nalco) early next month, two other people said.

All declined to be named because they are not authorised to speak to the media before a public announcement.

Neither Nalco nor SAIL was available to comment.

Investor roadshows in overseas markets for the Nalco share sale started this week, while those for SAIL were expected to start in the first week of March to test investor appetite, the sources said.

“The pricing of the two offerings will be decided after getting the responses from the potential investors. There will be a discount to the current market price and will be in line with the current issues," one of them said.

The government raised $2.2 billion selling shares in state-run power utility NTPC Ltd on 7 February, following sales of shares in Oil India Ltd this month and miner NMDC Ltd in December.

The government, which aims to raise $5.1 billion through stake sales by 31 March, has raised nearly $4 billion. The Nalco and SAIL share sales will leave it close to the target.

The government will likely target 40,000 crore ($7.4 billion) proceeds from stake sales in state-run companies in 2013/14, a finance ministry official told Reuters last week.

SAIL shares ended down 3.7% at 75.95 on Thursday, while Nalco fell 1.3% to 45.70. The Sensex lost 1.5%.

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Updated: 22 Feb 2013, 12:03 AM IST
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