In an effort to narrow India’s budget deficit, one of the widest in Asia, without cutting stimulus spending, the government asked state-run companies to buy back shares, people with knowledge of the matter told Bloomberg.
The private talks were aimed at the boards of Coal India, MOIL, NMDC, National Aluminium Co., and the India Renewable Energy Development Agency, said the people, asking not to be identified.
According to Bloomberg data, these companies had about 784.5 billion rupees ($11.6 billion) in cash and marketable securities last year, more than double the social welfare budget of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The global slowdown and other fiscal concerns caused the rupee, sovereign bonds and stocks to have their worst January since 2011. While weak global demand prevents companies from getting an adequate return on their investments, falling share prices give them the opportunity to consolidate ownership, the people said. About 50 listed state-run companies had a total 2 trillion rupees in cash and marketable securities in 2015.
“The Finance Ministry has written to us about a 25% share buyback by Nalco,” Mines Secretary Balvinder Kumar said last week, referring to National Aluminium
IREDA Chairman KS Popli said the government’s decision is a “good move” that will improve companies’ valuations and earnings per share.
India had earlier asked state companies to invest their surplus cash or pay dividends of at least 30% on net profits.