With government attempt to get a buyer for Pawan Hans reportedly coming a cropper and forcing it to rework the bids, the chopper operator’s union has urged the management to reconsider the privatisation move. In a letter to the Prime Minister last week, Pawan Hans Helicopters union All-India Civil Aviation Employees Union, has suggested to the government to first increase ONGC’s stake from the present 49 per cent and then go for a public issue as per the earlier five-year business plan instead of an outright sale, according to sources. At the same time, the union also met civil aviation minister Suresh Prabhu and submitted a memorandum, opposing the decision to hand over a profit-making entity to private players “against its own disinvestment guidelines”. Government had last October invited bids from private companies, including foreign ones, to buy out its entire 51 per cent stake along with management control in Pawan Hans, a Miniratna under the administrative control of the civil aviation ministry. The remaining 49 per cent stake is held by oil behemoth ONGC.
However, it reportedly failed to attract enough bidders and now the whole process is being revisited. “We came to know from various newspaper reports that government had received very poor response for Pawan Hans. Considering this, we’d request that the government consider as a second option which was suggested by the employees union in various letters to civil aviation and finance ministries and the PMO,” the union letter said. Stating that the Pawan Hans is a profit-making entity since its inception and has been paying dividend each year, the union said “as per existing disinvestment policy, those units having a positive net worth, no accumulated losses and having earned net profit for three preceding consecutive years be required to achieve the mandatory listing norms of 25 per cent public holding for listing on the stock exchange…”
Pawan Hans has been paying dividends to both government and ONGC, it said, adding, “total dividend it has paid out till date is Rs 2,345 crore from 1995-96 to 2015-2016 while the total taxes paid stand Rs 480 crore during this period.” “The management control of Pawan Hans can be given to ONGC by allowing it increase its stake and subsequently go in for a public issue to get government a much higher price from the sale of shares in stretches in the next five years with expansion and improved performance,” the letter said.
As government has considered and allowed similar units to participate in the process of strategic sale, it should allow Airport Authority, ONGC and HAL to participate in this process, it added. “It is humbly submitted that it may not be the right time for strategic sale in the company as it is on growth path as well,” the union said.