Privatisation

Will LIC be the Saudi Aramco of India?

As India’s government is under pressure to shore up its ailing balance sheet, it has identified a handful of state assets to sell. The Life Insurance Corporation of India offers the most lucrative opportunity, but how international investors respond when they look under the hood is key.

The idea of listing LIC of India was never a government priority. When nominal economic growth exceeded double digits and market friendly reforms were improving India’s World of Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Ranking, there was little incentive for the government to share LIC’s stable dividend income, which paid over Rs 26 billion $360 million last year.

Times are tougher now and priorities change. In order to bridge the country’s widening fiscal deficit and allay broader economic concerns, Nirmala Sitharaman, India’s finance minister, identified $29 billion of state assets for sale in her budget on February 1. LIC accounted for a third of the potential capital raised.  Air...

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