Eight of 10 government firms listed since 2017 have sunk investors

IPO ke saath bhi, IPO ke baad bhi.
IPO ke saath bhi, IPO ke baad bhi.
Image: REUTERS/Ajay Verma
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The Indian government has been raising money, time and again, by listing state-owned enterprises on the bourses. But initial investors in most of these firms are yet to recover their money.

Since the beginning of 2017, up to 11 initial public offerings (IPOs) of public sector units have hit the stock market. Joining the stable today (March 29), is the New Delhi-based Rail Vikas Nigam (RVNL) Limited.

The Miniratna company is responsible for setting up new routes for Indian Railways, upgrading existing routes, and it also builds subway lines for the Kolkata Metro. The firm has been profitable for the past 13 financial years.

The government plans to raise up to Rs481.6 crore ($70 million) by offloading 12% of its stake in RVNL.

Disinvestments like these are an important channel to meet the government’s fiscal deficit targets. Last week, finance minister Arun Jaitley announced that divestment goals for the financial year ending March 31 have already been exceeded.

Earlier, analysts were expecting India’s fiscal deficit to widen, partly due to insufficient disinvestment.

Market risks

However, investors who subscribed to state-run firms’ IPOs seem to have backed the wrong horse.

Shares of listed PSU firms have lost most of their value since listing:


This has even resulted in a tepid response for such IPOs in the recent past. State-owned e-commerce firm MSTC had to extend its public offering issue earlier this month. It finally attracted some interest after the lowering of its price band.

RVNL’s IPO, though, has been attractively priced in the Rs17-Rs19 band, NV Reddy, joint secretary of the government’s department of investment and public asset management, recently told reporters. The government does not want to depend “beyond a point” on firms such as the Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) to salvage the IPO, he said.

In the past, the state insurer has dipped into its deep pockets to buy shares during IPOs and meet the government’s fund-raising plans. Along with public sector banks, it invested Rs25,000 crore in the IPOs of government firms in financial year 2017-18. This was a quarter of the total proceeds of Rs1,00,000 crore that year. However, in this financial year, only Rs5,000 crore has come from state-run insurers and PSBs, said Reddy.

LIC holds a substantial portion of the shares of many of the PSUs that have gone public over the past two years. It had rescued the ambitious IPOs of New India Assurance in 2017 and the defence major Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) last year.

A train of IPOs

RVNL’s is the third IPO of a firm that operates under India’s ministry of railways.

Bucking the trend of plummeting PSU shares, RITES and IRCON, the other two Indian Railways companies that listed recently, have been fair performers. While RITES’s share has gained over a third since listing, IRCON’s has lost, though a mere 3%.

RVNL may soon be followed by two other railway firms: the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) and the Indian Railway Finance Corporation.