The Centre on Saturday invited bids for the strategic disinvestment of the government’s 53.29% stake in oil refiner Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited, PTI reported. All expressions of interest for the sale have been invited by May 2. This is reportedly the biggest ever privatisation drive by the government.

The announcement was made in a bid document released by the Department of Investment and Public Asset Management. “The Government of India is proposing strategic disinvestment of its entire shareholding in Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited comprising of 114.91 crore equity shares, which constitutes 52.98 per cent of BPCL’s equity share capital along with transfer of management control to a strategic buyer [except BPCL’s equity shareholding of 61.65 per cent in Numaligarh Refinery Limited in Assam],” it said.

Any private company that has a net worth of $10 billion or more will be eligible for bidding, the offer document said, adding that a consortium of more than four firms would not be allowed to bid. Public sector undertakings, however, are not eligible to participate in the privatisation, it said. The government said the lead member of the consortium must hold 40% stake, and others must have a minimum net worth of $1 billion each.

While changes in consortiums are allowed within 45 days, the lead member, however, cannot be changed, it added.

The decision to disinvest the government’s stake in Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited, along with four other state-run companies, was taken by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs in November. Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had said the decision to divest stake in the public sector companies was taken to help the Centre bridge the widening fiscal gap. Sitharaman said the strategic sale would help the government achieve its divestment revenue target of Rs 1.05 lakh crore for the current financial year.

Apart from Bharat Petroleum, the other public sector undertakings are Shipping Corporation of India, Container Corporation of India, THDC India Limited and North Eastern Electric Power Corporation Limited. The government holds 63.75% stake in Shipping Corporation of India, and 30.8% of the shares of Container Corporation of India.