NHAI nudges IDFC off Gurgaon expressway

Written by Timsy Jaipuria | New Delhi | Updated: Sep 6 2013, 10:30am hrs
The IDFC-led consortiums R1,600-crore loan to the Delhi-Gurgaon expressway project could be in jeopardy as its loan agreement does not allow it to substitute DS Construction, the concessionaire for the project. National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), which has been fighting a running battle with DS Construction over the poor management of the expressway, had served a termination notice to DS Construction last year in case NHAI wins the case, currently in court, the IDFC-led consortium will find it difficult to enforce its rights and bring in another concessionaire. This is vital since the consortiums loan has been based on the future revenue stream of the expressway project.

IDFC refused to comment on the matter.

NHAI which had, in January this year, backed a proposal to allow IDFC to buy out 74% of the projects equity IDFC was to take on the projects entire debt and buy 74% of DS Constructions equity for a token R1 has now done a U-turn, and said it does not even recognise IDFC as a bona fide lender to the project.

The other four in the lenders consortium are Bank of India, PNB, Oriental Bank of Commerce and State Bank of Bikaner and Jaipur.

The project has an interesting history, with an initial loan of R383 crore given by a Hudco-led consortium. In January 2009, however, DS Construction had approached NHAI to substitute this consortium with one led by SBI the loan component was then raised to R1,275 crore. NHAIs consent was required, since under such concessions, NHAI agrees to pay most of the debt in case a project is terminated.

NHAI agreed to the change in lenders in September 2009 subject to certain conditions being fulfilled.

It is after this that the problem started. A year later, in October 2010, DS Construction proposed to change the consortium from an SBI-led one to an IDFC-led one given the growing traffic on the expressway, the consortium felt the receivables could service a much larger loan.

NHAI had reservations about the changeover and did not sign on to the change in lenders. It said the loan amount had to be related to the size of the project. NHAI was reluctant to let the projects revenues be used to service the larger loan since, under the agreement it had with DS Construction, were the traffic to exceed 1.3 lakh passenger car units per day, part of the additional revenues were to accrue to NHAI. In which case, even if the project has a high income stream, the IDFC-led consortium will not have access to it after it is terminated.

In September 2012 two years after the IDFC loan had been given when negotiations were going on between DS Construction, NHAI and IDFC, NHAI said that DS had given Rs 676 crore of loans to its parent company and this needed to be brought back into the project. Were this to be done, NHAI would have, in all probability, signed on to the tripartite agreement, but DS failed to bring back this money and NHAI did not sign the tripartite agreement.

At a meeting on Tuesday, attended by road minister Oscar Fernandes and Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, the government decided to take the service of the attorney general in the matter.