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Centre likely to relax some norms for BSNL, MTNL asset sale

The Centre is considering relaxing some norms that led to the failure in attracting bids for assets of Bharat Sanchar Nigam (BSNL) and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam (MTNL) as they look to restart the auction for their non-core assets.

The Department of Investment and Public Asset Management (DIPAM) had listed six properties of BSNL and MTNL for sale through its new e-bidding portal, developed by state-run MSTC, but the auction failed to garner an adequate interest.

DIPAM had asked government-appointed property consultants to identify issues in the bidding criteria for resolution.

Some of the conditions for monetising these assets will be relaxed, an official said. The inter-ministerial group, headed by the DIPAM secretary, would also identify and approve more assets of the two state-owned telecom companies as early as this week. They will be put up for sale as a part of their revival strategy for paring the debt.

The monetisation of six properties of the two telcos was part of the revival package announced by the Centre in 2019, and the Department of Telecom was expecting Rs 3,000 crore from sale. These include four land parcels of BSNL and land and residential flats owned by MTNL in Mumbai.

These properties, first to feature in DIPAM’s asset monetisation portal, included BSNL’s land in Hyderabad (around Rs 400 crore); land in Rajpura (nearly Rs 70 crore); a 5-acre land in Bhavnagar (Rs 41 crore) and an 11-acre land in Kolkata (Rs 161 crore). MTNL’s 1.36-acre property in Mumbai valued at Rs 270 crore, and 20 residential flats valued at around Rs 20 crore, were also put up for auctioning, but only a few residential flats invited an interest from buyers.

To bid for BSNL’s 11-acre land in Hyderabad, buyers were required to have a minimum net worth of Rs 100 crore. For BSNL’s 20-acre land in Rajpura, a net worth of Rs 17 crore was a must. Minimum net worth for interested buyers of Gujarat and Kolkata land was Rs 10.25 crore, and Rs 40.25 crore, respectively.

After the first failed attempt, the government-appointed consultants were asked to determine changes in terms and conditions that were needed to be relaxed. The same has been shared with the government. CBRE South

Asia, JLL Property Consultants (India), Cushman & Wakefield, and Knight Frank (India) are consultants to the government for the sale.

Besides this, more properties of the two state-owned telcos have been identified for monetisation, which will help the two companies in retiring debt, servicing bonds, upgrade network, expansion and meeting the operational fund requirements.

The sale was facilitated by DIPAM through its monetisation portal as the department has been mandated to assist public sector undertakings in monetising assets that exceed Rs 100 crore.

With regards to monetisation of core assets of BSNL and MTNL, NITI Aayog has identified 14,917 towers that will be monetised during financial years 2022 to 2025. The telecom companies are seeking to securitise earnings from tower rentals. Business Standard

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