Need to increase capital outlay in road sector by at least 15%, speed up asset monetisation process: ICRA
Need to increase capital outlay in road sector by at least 15%, speed up asset monetisation process: ICRA
Photo by BL Soni

Rating agency ICRA on Wednesday said there is a need to increase capital outlay in the road sector by at least 15 per cent besides expediting asset monetisation programme.

It also said that hybrid annuity mode of highways building presents huge refinancing opportunities and 70 such projects involving Rs 35,800 crore of debt are expected to become operational in the next two years.

"FY2022 remains a crucial year for two reasons: a) Importance of government spending to revive economy and b) Significant catch up to do in the ongoing Bharatmala and allied programmes. As a result, the capital outlay is required to be increased by at least 15 per cent," ICRA said in a statement.

Shubham Jain, Senior Vice President, Corporate Ratings, ICRA, said increase in capital outlay needs to be supported by increase in budgetary allocation to the sector at least by 20 per cent to around Rs 0.98 lakh crore to make up for shortfall in the last three years and slow progress on asset monetisation.

"Investors also expect funding road map for the ambitious NIP (National Infrastructure Pipeline). Given the limited fiscal headroom, the government could consider relaxation of fiscal deficit targets to meet the huge funding requirements for productive asset creation, failing which both the Bharatmala and the NIP could get jeopardized," Jain said.

The NIP involves outlay of around Rs 20.3 lakh crore in road sector over next five years. However, the budgetary allocations in the past have not kept pace with these plans.

"Consequently, the dependence on debt funding remained elevated. The total debt for the NHAI has increased by more than three times to Rs 2.49 lakh crore as on March 31, 2020 from Rs 75,385 crore as on March 31, 2017. The borrowings are expected to surpass Rs 3.5 lakh crore by FY2023 to fund the Bharatmala Pariyojana programme (subset of NIP)," the statement said.

Liquidity boosting measures for highways sector have helped in reducing the cash conversion cycle, while also getting the performance guarantees and associated margin monies released for the executed portion of the projects, it said.

"The execution during 8M FY2021 stood at 6,207 km, 4 per cent higher than 5,958 km in 8M FY2020. Adjusting for the first 20 days of April 2020 wherein no construction activity was allowed, the execution per day saw a growth of 13 per cent to 27.7 km/day in 8M FY2021 from 24.4 km/day in 8M FY2021. The execution for FY2021 could surpass the 10,500 km," it said.

Project awards also saw a massive jump of 111 per cent to 6,764 km in 8M FY2021 from 3,211 km in 8M FY2020, given the thrust laid on Bharatmala Pariyojana, the statement said adding that Bharatmala awarding process is likely to get completed by FY2023 and execution by FY2026.

On the recent changes to hybrid annuity model and refinancing opportunities, Rajeshwar Burla, Vice President said that HAM garnered favourable response from developers as reflected in the increase in the mix of HAM awards from 10 per cent in FY2016 to 48 per cent in H1FY2021.

"Around 70 HAM projects involving Rs 35,800 crore of debt is expected to become operational in next two years and are ideal candidates for refinancing where investors prefer revenue generating assets," it said.

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