Government may seek more time from market regulator SEBI for public sector enterprises and state-owned banks to comply with changes in the minimum public shareholding norms for listed companies proposed in the budget, Finance Secretary Subhash Chandra Garg said.
The Budget 2019-20 presented by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday proposed raising the current threshold of 25 per cent minimum public shareholding in the listed companies to 35 per cent.
The announcement, along with few other budget proposals, did not go down too well with the markets as benchmark Sensex closed 394.67 points, or 0.99 per cent, lower at 39,513.39, while the 50-share NSE Nifty falling 135.60 points, or 1.14 per cent, to settle at 11,811.15.
“It was more of a knee jerk reaction from the market. Probably someone thought this is a decision taken. This is not a decision at this stage. The FM has said that she is asking SEBI to examine minimum public shareholding norms as this seems to be right time to do so. It needs examination so consultation process will start. At the end of that process, if SEBI recommends changes, a roadmap will be finalised,” Garg told in a post-Budget interview.
He, however, said that the norms, when finalised, would be universally applicable for all companies — banks – non banks, PSUs – non PSUs. But, the government can exempt a few categories from complying with higher public shareholding norm as has been done in past.
“Government has the authority to exempt some companies. In the past too we have given PSUs and banks more time to comply with it,” Garg said.
What this would mean is that when timelines are decided for higher public shareholding, certain category of government companies may be offered more time to plan their share dilution. This is also necessary as few companies are yet to even comply with minimum 25 per cent public shareholding norm in operation now.
The changes in listing norms could also lead to the delisting of many MNC firms. Several MNCs and IT companies have high promoter shareholding. There are 1,174 listed companies where promoters holding are over 65 per cent stake.