Companies owned by state governments persisted with their relentless draining of the exchequer in FY17, an analysis of some 400 of them — nearly half of the total — by FE showed. On the face of it, the aggregate net losses of the companies reviewed declined 30% to Rs 19,720 crore in FY17, the latest year for which data is available, but that was almost entirely because electricity distribution companies in the states could save a lot on their interest outgo under the UDAY scheme. The interest savings of discoms of all 16 states that signed up for the UDAY scheme were to the tune of Rs 13,000 crore (thanks to the respective state governments taking over the discom debts); absent these savings, the state PSUs studied by FE would have only increased their losses in FY17.
The 400 state PSUs had seen a near-doubling of the budgetary support to Rs 1,23,207 crore in FY16. The figure stood at Rs 1,09,943 crore in FY17. Although a large number of moribund, perennially loss-making companies are owned by the Union government also, on an aggregate basis, the central PSUs or CPSEs make profits — 257 CPSEs’ net profit grew 11.7% in FY17 to Rs 1.28 lakh crore. The Rajasthan government, which was the top issuer of UDAY bonds (Rs 72,090 crore), is incurring an annual interest outgo of about Rs 6,000 crore on these bonds.
The aggregate turnover of the 400 state PSUs in FY17 was 37% lower than the investments made in them since inception. In comparison, the turnover of CPSEs in FY17 was Rs 19.55 lakh crore, 56% more than the total investments in them over the years. Among the state PSUs reviewed, those in Punjab bled the most in FY17 with losses of Rs 8,852 crore, followed by Telangana’s units at Rs 5,165 crore and Andhra Pradesh’s at Rs 2,913 crore. States that gave the highest amounts as budgetary support to these companies, most of them sick, in FY17 include Rajasthan with Rs 31,116 crore, Karnataka (Rs 23,115 crore) and Haryana (Rs 14,852 crore).
The budget support received by these companies, most of which are providing infrastructure services such as power supply, road transportation and irrigation at far below remunerative prices, was 30% of their combined turnover in FY17. Out of 400 state PSUs, 192 earned modest profits in FY17. Top loss-making state PSUs in FY17 included the Southern Power Distribution Company of Telangana with losses of Rs 4,700 crore and Delhi Transport Corporation which incurred a loss of Rs 3,411 crore.