Dhaka, Bangladesh (BBN)– The Ministry of Finance (MoF) has dismissed the fear of the Ministry of Industries (MoI) that offloading of the shares of state-owned enterprises (SoEs) would spark labour unrest terming it as a ‘lame excuse’ and urged the ministry to offload the shares of some of the SoEs by December this year.

Finance Minister AMA Muhith wrote a demi-official (DO) letter to Industries Minister Dilip Barua. The DO letter elaborated the very urgencies of such offloading latest by next December, the Financial Express (FE), a local newspaper, reported on Saturday quoting a top MoF official.

The offloading of SoEs must be completed to uphold the interest of capital market and ensure more accountability in the public sector, the letter said.

The issue will be placed to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina by finance ministry for her intervention if significant development in offloading the considerable shares of SOEs is not made by the industries ministry within the set deadline, the MoF official added.

Earlier, the MoI in May this year declined to offload the shares of its profit making SoEs under its control in the capital market fearing labour trouble and backlash in these enterprises. It also feared that the popularity of the incumbent government might be affected by the move of share offloading.

The MoF also asked the MoI repeatedly to offload 49 per cent shares of each of the four SoEs, namely, Pragati Industries ltd, Chittagong Dry Dock Ltd, GEM Company Ltd and Bangladesh Blade Factory Ltd latest by December, 2010, the newspaper reported.

Furthermore, it asked the MoI to take appropriate measures to offload 25 per cent government-held shares of its four listed companies within the extended time.

The listed companies are Atlas Bangladesh, National Tubes, Eastern Cables and Usmania Glass Industries Ltd, a finance ministry official said.

Presently, government owns 51 per cent share of Atlas, Eastern Cables, Usmania Glass and 52.54 per cent of National Tubes. The remaining shares of these companies belong to general and institutional investors.

The investors are now facing shortage of securities. Only 461securities are listed on the two bourses.

BBN/SI/AD-02Oct10-1:24 am (BST)