The government has kickstarted the process of listing three rail PSUs IRCTC, Ircon and IRFC by seeking initial bids from merchant bankers for their respective IPOs (initial public offer) in just less than three weeks of Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s announcement regarding the disinvestment of these companies. The government has sought expression of interest (EoI) from merchant bankers by March 16 for managing the IPOs.
Earlier this month, the Ministry of Finance issued a draft Cabinet note proposing disinvestment of equity stake in IRCTC, Ircon and IRFC, seeking to divest 10% equity stake in each via an IPO in the next financial year 2017-18.
Jaitley said in his Union Budget speech on February 1 that the government is considering listing railway PSUs in the next financial year 2017-18, giving a glimpse into the plans for meeting its disinvestment target of Rs 72,500 crore — its most ambitious to date. [Check the details here: IRCTC, IRFC, Ircon listing to help next fiscal year’s divestment target; 5 things to know]
Indian government has undertaken strategic sale of stake in profitable PSUs to help boost state revenue and bridge the fiscal deficit, but has repeatedly fallen short of its disinvestment targets in the past. Its target of Rs 72,500 crore for the next fiscal is even more ambitious, which it will hope to meet with the proposed listing of these three PSUs, among others.
The prime candidate, IRCTC is the rail ticket booking and food and water catering company. IRCTC is India’s most-visited website, Jaitley said in post-budget panel discussion. The company is a profitable operation with growing cash flows as more and more Indians take to online booking and e-ticketing. Online booking of railway tickets is at about 60% of the total rail ticket bookings in India.
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However, Jaitly, in his budget proposals, has also abolished the service charge on tickets booked on IRCTC, cutting a major revenue stream for the company. IRCTC sold tickets worth Rs 24,022 crore in the last financial year 2015-16, earning a revenue of Rs 1,506 crore. Service charge accounted for over one-third of IRCTC’s total earning in the year at Rs 551 crore.
The other two railway PSU listing candidates are IRFC (Indian Railway Finance Corp) and Ircon International.
IRFC is the Ministry of Railways’ dedicated financing arm, which raises money from the market to help finance the railways plan outlay.
Ircon is an engineering and construction company, which specialises in transport infrastructure, offering construction work for airport terminal buildings, railway lines, roads and highways, bridges and flyovers, tunnels, station buildings, and signalling, among others.