CIL may get Maharatna status by February end

Delhi: The central  government said that it will award the Maharatna status to the world`s biggest coal producer Coal India Limited before this month end, a tag which will give more financial autonomy to the state run firm.

Mr Bhaskar Chatterjee department of public enterprises secretary said that CIL will get the Maharatna status as early as by the end of this month. He added that "We have finished all the proceedings at our level. We are now sending the file to the Cabinet Secretary and I hope that in the next 2 to 3 days, we will have the clearance from the Cabinet Secretary."

He said that clearance from Cabinet Secretary Mr KM Chandrasekhar was awaited. Currently, CIL is one of the 16 Navratna PSUs.

Mr Chatterjee added that efforts are on to award CIL the highest status before its present CMD Mr P Bhattacharya retires later this month.

CIL, the world`s largest coal miner with a turnover of INR 52,000 crore in 2009-10, will be the fifth PSU to qualify for the categorization, which entitles a state owned firm to more financial freedom. At present, there are four PSUs with Maharatna status ONGC, NTPC, IOC and SAIL.

A PSU needs to have a three year track record of annual net profit of over INR 5,000 crore, a net worth of more than INR 15,000 crore and a turnover of more than INR 25,000 crore, besides being listed on stock exchanges, to be eligible for Maharatna status.

CIL has reported a profit of over INR 5,000 crore for the past three years in a row. The status would provide the PSU`s board financial authority to pursue plans for acquiring mining assets in South Africa, Indonesia, Australia and the US more aggressively.

A Maharatna PSU can invest up to INR 5,000 crore in a project independently, while the limit for Navratna companies is INR 1,000 crore.

When asked which other company is in line for a Maharatna tag, Mr Chatterjee said that the promising one is BHEL. Let`s hope that they come up. When asked whether BHEL has approached formally, he said, not yet. He added that "They have to formally fulfill the criterion from their audited accounts on the horizon I can only see BHEL at this point."

The government had decided in December, 2009 to give more operational freedom to the top performing PSUs through the Maharatna scheme.