There are primarily three different approaches to disinvestments (from the sellers’ i.e. Government’s perspective)
A minority disinvestment is one such that, at the end of it, the government retains a majority stake in the company, typically greater than 51%, thus ensuring management control.
Historically, minority stakes have been either auctioned off to institutions (financial) or offloaded to the public by way of an Offer for Sale. The present government has made a policy statement that all disinvestments would only be minority disinvestments via Public Offers.
Examples of minority sales via auctioning to institutions go back into the early and mid 90s. Some of them were Andrew Yule & Co. Ltd., CMC Ltd. etc. Examples of minority sales via Offer for Sale include recent issues of Power Grid Corp. of India Ltd., Rural Electrification Corp. Ltd., NTPC Ltd., NHPC Ltd. etc.
A majority disinvestment is one in which the government, post disinvestment, retains a minority stake in the company i.e. it sells off a majority stake.
Historically, majority disinvestments have been typically made to strategic partners. These partners could be other CPSEs themselves, a few examples being BRPL to IOC, MRL to IOC, and KRL to BPCL. Alternatively, these can be private entities, like the sale of Modern Foods to Hindustan Lever, BALCO to Sterlite, CMC to TCS etc.
Again, like in the case of minority disinvestment, the stake can also be offloaded by way of an Offer for Sale, separately or in conjunction with a sale to a strategic partner.
Complete privatisation is a form of majority disinvestment wherein 100% control of the company is passed on to a buyer. Examples of this include 18 hotel properties of ITDC and 3 hotel properties of HCI.
Disinvestment and Privatisation are often loosely used interchangeably. There is, however, a vital difference between the two. Disinvestment may or may not result in Privatisation. When the Government retains 26% of the shares carrying voting powers while selling the remaining to a strategic buyer, it would have disinvested, but would not have ‘privatised’, because with 26%, it can still stall vital decisions for which generally a special resolution (three-fourths majority) is required.