India Steps Closer to Ending 40-Year-Old Monopoly on Coal – Businessweek

India stepped closer to ending a four-decade-old government monopoly on mining and selling coal as Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeks to tackle fuel shortages.

India Coal Mine

The government approved a decree enabling it to permit commercial mining in future, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said at a briefing in New Delhi yesterday, without giving a timeline. The ordinance also allows auctions of coal mines to private companies for their own use, he said.

Modi made curbing blackouts a priority after sweeping to office in May on a pledge to revive growth in Asia’s third-largest economy from near the slowest pace in a decade. State-owned Coal India Ltd. (COAL) has missed output targets in at least the past four years, and easing its grip may allow companies such as Sesa Sterlite Ltd. (SSTL) and NMDC Ltd. (NMDC) to profit from the world’s fifth-biggest reserves.

Enabling private companies to mine and sell coal would be “one of the key game-changing reforms,” said Sonal Varma, an economist at Nomura Holdings Inc. in Mumbai. “Fuel availability has been a big concern for the economy.”

Opening up the coal industry risks stoking protests by some of Coal India’s about 325,000 workers and executives, at the same time as the government prepares to sell a 10 percent stake in the company that would fetch about 228 billion rupees ($3.7 billion).

Coal India accounts for more than 80 percent of the country’s production. The government wants to spur competition in the industry, Jaitley told the NDTV 24×7 television channel today.

via India Steps Closer to Ending 40-Year-Old Monopoly on Coal – Businessweek.

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