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Coal India Stake Sale to Raise $1.65 Billion, Half of Plan

The government plans to raise 100 billion rupees ($1.65 billion) selling shares in Coal India Ltd., trimming by half an initial plan to divest a 10 percent stake in the world’s largest producer of the fuel.

A public offer may be made as early as this month, Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal said today in New Delhi, without giving a price. The process for the sale, which was blocked by workers for more than six months, has started, he said.

“We’ve taken the decision after taking the trade unions into confidence,” Jaiswal said.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is selling assets to narrow the widest budget deficit among major emerging nations, pay for subsidies and boost spending on public works. The government, coping with the weakest economic growth in 10 years, plans to sell stake in companies including Neyveli Lignite Corp. and Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Ltd. to raise 400 billion rupees in the year ending March 31.

Coal India shares fell 4.1 percent to 270.10 rupees in Mumbai, giving the 5 percent stake a market value of 85.3 billion rupees.

The government, which owns 90 percent of the Kolkata-based monopoly coal miner, had earlier wanted to sell a 5 percent stake to the public and a similar holding to the company, a plan the workers resisted.

“We’ll consider the 5 percent share sale proposal provided Coal India meets our demands,” said Rajendra Prasad Singh, general secretary at Indian National Trade Union Congress, the biggest among the five unions opposing the sale.

The unions have demanded Coal India provide a voluntary retirement policy for female workers and employ the child of physically disabled workers, Singh said.

“I’ve asked Coal India to consider any legitimate demand,” Jaiswal said.

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