Friday, December 06, 2013
Power companies like Tata Power, Adani Power, Reliance Power and others breathe easy as government plans loan recast
NEW DELHI, Dec 2, 2013: A big relief is on the cards for power companies such as Tata Power, Adani Power, Reliance Power and Essar Power whose plants are in trouble, and their lenders who are worried about loans worth Rs 2 lakh crore to the sector. The government is working out a plan to restructure the loans, extend repayment deadlines by three years and waive penalties, officials said.
The private sector, which has invested heavily in recent years and accelerated capacity addition, is struggling with fuel scarcity and distribution bottlenecks. Large capacities of plants based on coal or gas are stranded because of fuel scarcity while many are facing delays in clearances.
The proposal aims to help plants with 65,000-70000 mw capacity that have suffered in the last four years due to reasons like shortage of fuel, lack of regulatory clearances and rupee depreciation. The rejig was necessary to prevent the loans from becoming non performing assets (NPAs) till the plants generate regular cash flow, officials said.
Power minister Jyotiraditya Scindia is likely to meet finance minister P Chidambaram next week to discuss the proposal. "Private power generating companies have come under severe stress over the past four years due to conditions outside their control. Domestic coal and gas shortage, price volatility in imported coal, weak distribution utilities, problems in land acquisition and regulatory clearances, higher interest burden and forex exposure have adversely affected thermal plants. There is a need to restructure loans of these companies to prevent the plants from becoming NPAs," the official said.
The proposal includes shifting commissioning deadlines of projects, particularly gas-based plants, whose debt has already been restructured. Power secretary PK Sinha confirmed the development. "We are working one such proposal along with banks, the finance ministry and other ministries," he told ET.
Thermal plants in the country have been operating at record low level at about 63%. Gas-based power plants are running at less than 25% capacity and around 8,000 mw is idling for want of gas allocation.
Sinha, however, said the country's power deficit has come down to record 3.5% in October as against 8.9% in the same month previous year. He said this was because of improved hydropower generation, less demand due to favourable weather conditions, high capacity addition and policy initiatives taken by the government.
Over the past few months, the government has taken many decisions in favour of power companies like directing Coal India to supply coal to power firms for 20 year, and passing cost of imported coal to consumers, approving compensatory tariff to Tata Power and Adani Power and bailing out state distribution companies.
The measures are expected to benefit power companies in the next 18-20 months.