Just as Anil Swarup acted as a catalyst and broke the infra project logjam, our FM needs to appoint a point-man to help catalyse non-performing assets in the construction sector. During the dinner conversation at the event, one awardee narrated that a few years ago, when Uday Kotak visited Hyderabad, he had remarked that Hyderabad was the infrastructure capital of India. ´Now, it is the CDR capital of India,´ he remarked sardonically. Indeed, debt-ridden companies are furiously flailing their arms and legs to stay afloat. Most companies got into project development buoyed by the infrastructure boom, but the delay in projects, issues related to land acquisitions, lack of fuel for power and environment clearances among others have bled the companies dry. A huge infusion of capital is needed just to reach a stage of sustainability.
HCC is using the Lavasa IPO to bring debt into control; Gammon India plans to sell 58.67 per cent of its holdings in Gammon Infrastructure; Jaiprakash is selling its power and cement plants and has raised nearly Rs 15,000 crore from the sale of assets until March and Rs 1,500 crore via qualified institutional placements; GMR Group sold 40 per cent stake in Istanbul´s international airport and another firm providing airline services for $305 million and Welspun sold its stake in a construction JV for $99 million. More than $10 billion worth of assets have already been sold and another $5-7 billion are in the pipeline as per CLSA brokerage research.
The FM recently urged bankers to ´take calls´ without fear on extending credit. I think he needs to extend ´easier´ terms for easing corporate debt burden by redefining NPA guidelines. Infrastructure by its very definition has a longer gestation period and debt extended to such a sector must be addressed with easier guidelines, especially as our debt market does not offer long-term credit instruments defeating the basic tenet and creating a mismatch right from the inception of the debt. The power sector is staring at a huge debt hole for both power companies and banks. A committee should analyse all such beleaguered companies within a timeline and offer assistance to all genuine cases by offering relief and extensions.