Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman
The government is pushing to get the initial public offering of state-backed Life Insurance Corp. of India across the line by next March and any delay won’t be due to a lack of political will, according to Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.
“We are pushing to have it done,” Sitharaman said in an interview with Bloomberg when asked if it will manage to complete within the current financial year. “The problem is not that we don’t want it or we are pussyfooting on it now, it is more a question of doing the due process.”
The internal valuation that’s needed “almost annually” for a company of LIC’s size, “hasn’t been done,” Sitharaman said. Given that the 65-year old insurer hasn’t ever been valued, the process will take time, she said.
“So the delay or the time that is being consumed is not due to the lack of political will to go ahead with the stated policy,” she said.
Sitharaman announced plans to sell shares in the insurer in February 2020, but pandemic slowed the process. The minister revived the offering in February this year, but the valuation report -- which is key for investors and bankers -- is yet to be finalized. The government has appointed bankers and legal advisers for the sale and held meetings with stakeholders.
Valuing the giant insurer that holds more than $511 billion of assets, equivalent to the size of India’s mutual fund industry, and controls two-thirds of the nation’s market, has been going on for months. The government is seeking to raise as much as Rs 10 trillion ($133 billion) by selling up to a 10% stake. The sale of a 5% stake would make it India’s largest IPO, while a 10% dilution would make it the second-biggest of an insurer globally.
“I can’t go to the market without doing my own internal valuation,” Sitharaman said. “I will have to go through the necessary and due path before I go to the market and say yes, I am fulfilling my commitment.”
The IPO is crucial for the government because it would make up the bulk of its plans to raise Rs 1.75 trillion through asset sales in the current fiscal year.
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