New road revival scheme unlikely to cut ice with banks, firms

Developers and lenders to languishing national highway projects, for which the government has announced financial assistance, may not accept the proposal on the claim of the National Highway Authority (NHAI) on toll receivables, says a report.

Last week, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) had approved a one-time fund infusion to revive and physically complete the 50 languishing national highway projects worth Rs 45,000 across the country.

"Developers and lenders to the projects, however, may be hesitant for such a funding by the National Highway Authority, due to the clause of first charge by the authority on the toll or annuity receivables of these projects (structural subordination) over the senior lenders' debt service," India Ratings said in a report.

Under the structural subordination, the toll/annuity receivables of the project would be ensured for NHAI through execution of the tripartite agreements between the senior lender, concessionaire and the NHAI.

The report said lenders already with high exposure to these languishing projects may be unwilling to commit more resources without the help from external resources.

Funding shortfall may not be the only reason for languishing projects, but also delays in getting the appropriate approvals and clearances from various government agencies. While this has resulted in project deferrals and cost overruns, the same has further increased the stressed loans in the banking system. "Therefore the one-time funding may not help all stranded projects, but only those that needed financing," the report said.

It, however, said the successful implementation of recent measures by the government for bringing stalled projects back on track may give a fillip to the road sector, as this may push up average daily road construction, which has dropped to 4.1 kms in FY15 from an all-time high of 7.4 kms in FY13.

Bank credit to the infrastructure sector grew at a compound annual growth rate of 39.5 per cent in the last 14 years.

Outstanding bank credit to the infrastructure sector stood at Rs 10.07 trillion as of March, 2015 up from Rs 95 billion in March, 2001.

According to the June, 2015 Financial Stability Report of the Reserve Bank, infrastructure constituted 15 per cent of total advances of the scheduled commercial banks, but had a much larger share at around 30 per cent in total stressed advances.

After the steel sector, roads account for the second largest amount of bad loans for banks.

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