The government on Thursday formally conferred the new status of 'maharatna' on four of the most profitable state-run companies - Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL), National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC), Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) and Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) giving them a higher level of financial and managerial autonomy.
The new maharatna status allows those company that qualify to make investment decisions to the tune of Rs5,000 crore without requirement of government approval.
These companies qualified for the status according to the criteria laid down by the cabinet in December last year.
More prestigious than the 'navratna' status they enjoyed so far along with 14 other state-owned companies, it empowers them to make foreign investments of up to Rs5,000 crore without taking the government's permission.
For navratnas, the ceiling for investment without the promoters' permission is Rs1,000 crore.
The exercise of maharatna powers would be subject to the same conditions and guidelines as laid down by the government in respect of navratnas from time to time, a government official said. ''The main objective of the maharatna scheme is to empower mega public sector companies to expand their operations and emerge as global giants'', he added.