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FM Nirmala Sitharaman says Air India, BPCL to be sold by March 2020

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New Delhi: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Saturday said that the central government is looking to wrap up the sale of state-run companies Air India and Bharat Petroleum Corporation (BPCL) by March next year.

Sitharaman said that the sale has been strategically decided upon after being aborted a year ago due to lukewarm responses. Many investors have shown interest to purchase the two loss-making companies and it could help meet the government’s disinvestment target of Rs 1 lakh crore in the current fiscal year, she said in an interview.

“We are moving on both with the expectation that we can complete them this year. The ground realities will play out,” Sitharaman stated while speaking to The Times of India.

Earlier this month, Air India chairman Ashwani Lohani, in an open letter to Air India employees, had said that the divestment may enable the airline’s sustainability.

For Air India, there is a “lot of interest” among investors, Ms Sitharaman said.

Recently, the cabinet approved changes in the process of disinvestment where the prospective bidders will be heard in roadshows before the expressions of interest (EoIs) are floated so that concerns of the prospective buyers are addressed.

Last year, the government had floated the Expression of Interest (EoI) for Air India to offload a 76 per cent stake and management control in the airline but it did not get a single bidder. The government currently owns 100 per cent equity of Air India.

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Forty Indians entered billionaires club in pandemic hit-2020

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Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, as many as 40 Indians registered themselves in the billionaires club  as per a survey.

Mukesh Ambani continued to be the wealthiest Indian with a networth of USD 83 billion. The head of Reliance Industries witnessed a 24 per cent jump in fortunes and climbed up one spot to be the eighth richest globally, as per the Hurun Global Rich List.

Gautam Adani from Gujarat, who has had a spectacular rise in fortunes in the last few years, saw his wealth almost doubling to USD 32 billion in 2020 and climbed 20 places to be the 48th richest person globally and the second wealthiest Indian. His brother Vinod’s wealth grew 128 per cent to USD 9.8 billion.

The report compiles individual or family wealth in the year to January 15. It can be noted that the Indian economy is set to contract by over 7 per cent because of the impact of the pandemic, which had forced governments to go for lockdowns that had a debilitating impact on the poor.

The report comes at a time when concerns are being raised about a ‘K-shaped’ recovery being underway, where a select few prosper.

Hurun India’s Managing Director and Chief Researcher Anas Rahman Junaid said Indian wealth creation is dominated by cyclical or traditional industries compared to tech-driven wealth creation in the US and China.

“When the tech-driven wealth creation reaches full potential, India could potentially beat USA in terms of the number of billionaires,” he added.

IT company HCL’s Shiv Nadar was the third wealthiest Indian with a fortune of USD 27 billion while some peers in the tech industry dominated the list of fastest growing wealth.

Jay Chaudhry of software company Zcaler saw a 274 per cent rise in networth to USD 13 billion during the year while Byju Raveendran and family saw a 100 per cent increase in its wealth to USD 2.8 billion, the report said.

Diversified corporate house Mahindra Group’s head Anand Mahindra and family also saw a 100 per cent increase in wealth to USD 2.4 billion, it said.

Among those who saw a decline in their networth during the year was Acharya Balkrishna of Patanjali Ayurved at USD3.6 billion, down 32 per cent.

The financial capital continues to lead in the country from a concentration perspective, being home to 60 of the 177 Indian billionaires, followed by New Delhi at 40 and Bengaluru at 22 billionaires, it said.

From a gender perspective, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw of Biocon leads with a networth of USD 4.8 billion (up 41 per cent), Smita V Crishna of Godrej at USD 4.7 billion and Lupin’s Manju Gupta at USD 3.3 billion.

A majority of 118 billionaires were classified as self-made ones in the ranking, as against 932 of the 1,058 billionaires in neighbouring China, which is home to the highest number of billionaires.

Globally, the list is led by Elon Musk of Tesla with a fortune of USD 197 billion followed by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos at USD 189 billion and Frenchman Bernard Arnault of fashion house LVMH at USD 114 billion.

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