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Privatisation of LIC

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced in her Budget 2020 speech that the government will sell a part of its holding in Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) through an initial public offering (IPO).

– The Parliament of India passed
the Life Insurance of India Act on 19 June 1956 creating the Life Insurance Corporation of India, which started operating in September of that year.
– It consolidated the business of 245 private life insurers and other entities offering life insurance services

India’s largest financial institution
– LIC has total assets of 31 trillion rupees (~31 lakh crore OR $434 billion)
– LIC has 1,11,979 employees and ~12 lakh agents
– Profit of Rs 48,444 crore for FY2018
– 76% market share in Insurance sector.
– Monopoly till 2000.

What sets the LIC apart from other insurers?
– The government owns 100% of LIC.
– It is the only insurer offering sovereign guarantee meaning that the policyholders funds are completely secure.
– This is the reason that LIC policy premiums are higher than private sector counterparts.

What is an IPO?
– An initial public offering (IPO) refers to the process of offering shares of a private* corporation to the public in a new stock issuance.
– Public share issuance allows a company to raise capital from public investors.
– LIC’s stake sale is likely to be under 10%.

Possible delays
– LIC was set up under a special act in 1956.
– Hence the government will have to amend the law, a process that may delay the sale beyond March 2021
– An inter-ministerial committee will be set up to decide on the roadmap and extent of disinvestment.
– Target is to bring the IPO by second half of FY 2020-21

Aggressive disinvestment
– The govt has targeted an aggressive disinvestment programme.
– The government has set an ambitious target of ₹2.1 trillion(2.1 lakh crore) for the sale of government holding state-run
companies .
– It includes ₹90,000 crore to be raised from an IPO in LIC and a stake sale in IDBI Bank.
– The aggressive stake sale plan comes against the backdrop of declining tax collections and a sharp deceleration in the economy

Why haven’t the earlier governments done so (sold stake in LIC)?
– LIC has been used as an investor of last resort in the past to support the markets by buying shares of state-run companies.
– It also bought shares of state-owned companies during divestment and when investor participation was weak.($1.4 billion in ONGC IPO)
– It was also called in to bail out IDBI Bank, which had been severely hit because of bad loans in 2018.(~10,000 crore)

– LIC invests Rs 55,000 crore to Rs 65,000 crore in stock markets every year and emerges as the largest investor in Indian
– In FY19, LIC invested around Rs 68,620 crore into the equity market.
– It also provides funding for many infrastructure projects – Rs 3,76,097 crore as of March 2018.

Largest Indian Company?
-;LIC owns double-digit stakes in several publicly traded firms, including Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd. and Larsen & Toubro Ltd., that are collectively worth more than $80 billion
– If LIC shares are listed on stock exchanges, it could easily emerge
as the country’s top listed company in terms of market valuation.

World’s largest company
Saudi Aramco, Saudi Arabia’s state owned oil company brought its IPO in December 019. It raised about $30 billion in the world’s biggest-ever initial public offering. It soon overtook Microsoft Corp. and Apple Inc. as the most valuable listed company.

Benefits of LIC going public
– The government is expecting over ₹70,000 crore from the sale of an undisclosed stake in LIC.
– Listing of companies on stock exchanges disciplines a company and provides access to financial markets and unlocks its value.
– It also gives opportunity for retail investors to participate in
the wealth so created.

– Unlike unit-linked insurance plan (Ulip) investors, who have a clear visibility on the daily performance of underlying funds, the endowment policyholders’ visibility is limited to annually declared bonuses.
– Public listing of LIC will lead to more disclosures of investment and loan portfolios and better governance, with greater transparency and accountability.
– Listing will allow analysts to monitor LIC’s governance.

– LIC will come under Sebi’s direct watch and will have to comply with the requirements meant for other listed firms.
– Such compliance is likely to strengthen its overall corporate governance, financial and investment discipline.
– Over time, this will increase its efficiency and it may deliver higher returns to policyholders.
– Government’s influence on its asset management will reduce.

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