LIC, SBI bail out failing, chaotic ONGC issue

The government's sale of five per cent of its stake in Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Ltd (ONGC) on Thursday turned out to be a chaotic affair, and came close to being a failure before public sector banks and the state-owned Life Insurance Corporation of India moved in at the last minute with sizeable purchases to save the issue.

The auction opened to lukewarm response at 9.15 am on both the Bombay Stock Exchange and the National Stock Exchange. In the first two hours, only 35,000-odd shares of the total of 42.77 crore shares on the block were bid for.

Hectic parleys ensued for more than four hours after the end of the auction process at 3.30 pm and the final count of the bids remained a mystery even five hours after the close, as the government said it was trying to ''reconcile'' the bids.

It was only around 9 pm that finance ministry officials confirmed that the all the shares on offer had been sold and the government had raised the targeted Rs12,000 crore from the market.

By the end of the scheduled time, stock exchanges said that 1.43 crore shares were bid for. A BSE spokesperson said that figures were reconciled for bids received towards the close of the trading session and the final data would be put out later.

After putting the final bid count at the end of the auction at 22.9 crore shares for the total offer size of 42.77 crore shares, the stock exchanges later said that the issue had got fully subscribed in the auction, where the floor price was fixed at Rs290 per share.