India Inc shuns govt road projects

December 24, 2012

MUMBAI: The infra growth story at least in the road sector appears to be over as the private sector is now shunning government’s road projects. The government which announced an ambitious target of $1 trillion of infrastructure spending is finding no takers for the 8,000 km of road projects to be awarded under the built, operate & transfer (BOT) mechanism this fiscal.

Interestingly, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), the nodal agency for awarding these road projects, witnessed phenomenal success in awarding over 8,000 km of road projects last year as 31 of the 51 road project were bagged at premium. Based on last year’s success, the government increased the target to award 8,800 kms of road projects this year; however, NHAI so far was able to award only 700 kms with less than four months remaining in the current fiscal.

Two projects, worth about Rs 2,450 crore, awarded last year to DSC Ltd and Gannon-Dunkerley Co Ltd were terminated after failure to achieve financial closure. This was the first time that such termination had to be done due to failure of companies to achieve financial closure (tie up debt).

At current pace of less than 5 km of road construction per day, the government is way behind its ambitious target of achieving 20 km of road construction per day for which it needs to award over 7,000 km of road projects each year. The reason: Availability of 50 road projects worth Rs 50,000 crore totaling 5,000 km are on the block in the secondary market as the debt-laden infrastructure firms wants to get rid of these road projects that they bagged by aggressive bidding and are now finding it difficult to execute due to the depressed returns. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reviewed the performance of the transport sector in a series of meetings recently and a recent PMO statement on targets for awarding road transport and highways project last week said, “The ministry will try its best to award road projects as per the original targets for FY 12-13 and will certainly cross 8,000 kms of awards this year by March, 2013. Road projects of at least 3,000 kms length will be awarded under OMT by March, 2013.”

This means that in the absence of takers for road projects under BOT basis, which requires companies to raise funds from the market, the government is planning to award 3,000 km of road projects on engineering procurement contract (EPC) basis, where government spends the entire money required to build roads. However a government statement on Wednesday said, “As against the target for awarding works for a total length of 8,800 km during 2012-13, it has been possible to award projects for a length of 705 km upto October, 2012. Some projects have not received good response from bidders. Apart from general slowdown of economy, viability of some of the projects, sectoral lending caps of the banks, limitations of the concessionaires like availability of equity and other resources to execute the projects appear to be the main factors for poor response.”

“I have my doubts on the PMO statement. If they awarded just 700 kms in the first nine months, then how can they award 9000 km in the next three months. The constraints like land acquisition, funding from banks and remain the same. The government first needs to address these issues before awarding further road projects,” Bajrang Choudhary, CEO, Infrastructure Project Development at SREI Infra told ToI. Leading infrastructure firms like L&T, GVK, GMR, IVRCL, Gammon Infrastructure, SREI Infrastructure, Gayatri Projects, Madhucon Projects, Ashoka Buildcon amongst others have meanwhile reportedly put their road assets on the block.

Infra firms meanwhile are being chased by their lenders to sell assets any which way they can as the banks have stopped lending to the road sector with stringent lending norms scaring away private developers from investing in the highway projects. Over three dozen highway projects are awaiting financial closure.


One comment on “India Inc shuns govt road projects” Post your comment

  1. sitaram kumar on April 10th, 2013 7:55 pm

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