Well, it seems to have happened earlier than expected. BSNL’s board has reportedly cleared the $10 billion listing. BSNL’s employee union has threatened to go on an indefinite strike if the state owned telco goes ahead with the IPO.
The unions are apparently raging against the privatisation machine, stating BSNL can get a navaratna status without listing for an IPO. As an aside, under a navaratna status, PSU’s have delegated powers by the government to incur fresh expenditure and enter into technical joint venture and strategic alliances. It also allows them to effect organisational restructuring and create or eliminate non-board level posts, in addition to raising debts and setting up JV’s. To sum it up, it allows a PSU to function like a privatized firm. The coveted status has eluded BSNL inspite of being the largest PSU with an authorised capital of Rs 10,000 crore and a net worth of Rs 63,000 crore.
The opposition has caused BSNL to shelve its IPO plans twice but it seems to have gone in for ESOP’s and other HR initiatives to win employee support.
BSNL plans to raise Rs 40,000 crore by selling its 10% stake, giving it a $100 billion (approx Rs 4,00,00 crore) valuation. Besides becoming one of the top telcos worldwide, as ET notes, it would also make it the most valuable Indian telco, pushing it beyond Airtel’s reported $37 billion value. Hopefully a listing will also give it the opportunity to explore other potent commecial opportunities, like, maybe…hmm…unbundling the last mile?