India’s government is likely to sell part of the stakes it holds in Axis Bank Ltd., ITC Ltd. and Larsen & Toubro Ltd. through an exchange-traded fund this year, people familiar with the matter said. Shares of the three companies fell. The new ETF would be larger than the Central Public Sector Enterprises ETF, a fund unveiled in 2014 that’s made up of the government’s shares in state-owned companies, the people said, asking not to be identified as a final decision regarding size and timing of the latest sales hasn’t been made yet.
While it’s the fourth occasion India will be using an ETF to sell shares it holds to maintain public spending without increasing the fiscal deficit, it’s the first time that a fund will house equity in private-sector companies, rather than state-controlled enterprises. DS Malik, a spokesman for India’s finance ministry, wasn’t available for a comment when contacted by phone Wednesday.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration has budgeted to raise 725 billion rupees ($11 billion) from such share sales in the fiscal year beginning April 1 as it aims to shrink Asia’s widest budget deficit. India has met or beaten its so-called disinvestment target only five times since 1998, data show. Axis Bank shares lost 0.5 percent as of 3:09 p.m. in Mumbai on Wednesday, erasing gains after rising as much as 2.9 percent earlier. ITC, a hotels-to-tobacco conglomerate, fell 2.9 percent, the biggest intraday drop in almost a month. Larsen & Toubro, the largest Indian engineering firm, lost 1.4 percent.
The Indian government holds about 11.5 percent of Axis Bank, 11.1 percent of ITC and 6.6 percent of Larsen through Specified Undertaking of the Unit Trust of India, data compiled by Bloomberg shows. The government’s first share sale through the CPSE ETF in March 2014 generated 43 billion rupees, while a second tranche in January raised at least 45 billion rupees. It garnered 92 billion rupees in its third offering.