35 per cent min shareholding norm for listed firms may be put on hold

Mumbai: Amid rising concerns post Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman's proposal to increase the minimum level of public shareholding in listed companies to 35%, the government may put on hold the plan, a source with the know-how in the matter said, according to Reuters reports.

The move could otherwise force the issuance of billions of dollars worth of shares, the report said. Stock markets had reacted negatively, ending in red post the announcement to raise the minimum public shareholding in companies to 35% from 25% in Sitharaman's budget speech last month.

"We may not notify this year the 35 per cent minimum shareholding norm as we have got some representation on the issue and we will look into it in detail and understand the viability of such a proposal," the source, who is dealing with the matter, told Reuters.

The source could not be named because of the sensitivity of the matter. The rule if implemented could result in companies having to offer approximately 1 trillion rupees ($15 billion) in shares currently owned by controlling shareholders to the public, analysts have said.

The government is also looking at a number of other issues such as foreign portfolio investors' tax concerns, the source added. The government's proposal to increase taxes on those with annual incomes of more than 20 million rupees has rattled many foreign portfolio investors (FPIs).

Foreign investors have been urging the government to reconsider its decision, arguing the move will hit the competitiveness of Indian capital markets. "(On) the FPI tax issue we are putting our heads together," the source said, adding that the Prime Minister's Office, his Economic Advisory Council and the government's think-tank Niti Aayog are looking at the issue.

"The economic affairs department has been asked to do a study on the issue," the source added. "We are also mulling an investment advisory council with representations from government and businesses for early resolution of issues faced by investor and business community in the country."

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