Finance Ministry floats Cabinet draft proposing IRCTC, other two rail PSUs listing

Finance Ministry floats Cabinet draft proposing IRCTC, other two rail PSUs listing

The Ministry of Finance is learned to have issued a draft Cabinet note proposing disinvestment of equity stake in three railway PSUs (public sector undertakings) IRCTC, Ircon and IRFC, ET Now reported quoting a wire agency which cited an unidentified ministry official.

The government seeks to disinvest 10% equity stake each in the three state-run railway companies via an IPO (initial public offer) in the next financial year 2017-18, the news report said.

Earlier Wednesday, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said in his Union Budget speech 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.

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.

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.