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New Delhi (AP): A much-awaited initial public offering for India’s state-run Life Insurance Corp. began this week with retail investors allowed to subscribe for its shares starting Wednesday.
The IPO, expected to raise up to $2.74 billion, is India’s largest ever. Its partial listing is part of plans by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to privatize some industries and boost state coffers, and analysts expect massive interest, especially from first-time investors.
The offering was scaled back to 3.5% of the company’s equity from 5% given uncertainties prevailing in global markets such as the war in Ukraine and the trend toward raising interest rates to combat inflation, which has pulled share prices lower in many markets.
The Indian government also pushed back the stock offering from March to May, taking market conditions into consideration.
A household name in India, Life Insurance Corp. is the fifth largest global insurer in terms of business and premium income and was formed by the merger in 1956 of 245 private insurance companies.
S. R. Srinivasan, an investment adviser, said the company is one of India’s most trusted brands. “So it’s got a more than 60% market share _ that is rare. There are very few places in the world where you find a 60% market share player,’’ he said.
The insurance giant said it raised 56 billion rupees ($731 million) in an offering to anchor investors earlier this week, the Press Trust of India news agency
The wider public offering ends Monday and the company’s shares are expected to begin trading on May 17.
The government earlier hoped to raise around $8 billion by selling the bigger 5% stake in the company at a higher price.
But Tuhin Kanta Pandey, secretary in the Finance Ministry’s Department of Investment and Public Assets Management, said the IPO’s current size is right, given current market conditions.
“While global sentiments are weak, Indian markets are strong due to domestic flows,’’ Pandey said.
Shashank Agarwal, founder of wealth management company Addwise Capital, said the reduced size of the IPO raises the chances it will be oversubscribed.
According to the offering’s prospectus, the government will sell up to 221 million equity shares for 902 rupees to 949 rupees ($11.78-$12.40) a share, with a 60 rupee discount for policyholders and 45 rupees off for retail investors and employees.

By Krutika Pathi
and Ashok Sharma