In its maiden attempt to raise funds from overseas, National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) will raise Rs 5,000-10,000 crore via rupee-denominated (masala) bonds sold in offshore market in the current fiscal year. The funds will come “way cheaper” than its average cost of borrowing of 7.44% from the domestic market. an official said. The highway development authority, which conducted a roadshow in Singapore on Monday to woo investors to subscribe to the masala bond, has got tremendous response, including from the likes of GIC and Temasek, Rohit Kumar Singh, member (finance), NHAI, said.
NHAI would also conduct roadshows in Hong Kong and London to lure investors for India’s highway story that has grown at an average pace of 23 km a day during the last fiscal. India targets to build 15,000-km highways in the current fiscal which translates into 41km/day.
The authority raised around Rs 40,000 crore through both taxable and tax-free bonds in 2016-17, a quantum jump from the previous three years average of Rs 24,000 crore. However, in 2016-17 too, it could not exhaust the permissible limit of Rs 59,297 crore.
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Though the limit has been kept unchanged for the current fiscal, the borrowings could be around Rs 60,000 crore this fiscal, Singh said.
NHAI needs to raise more funds as it targets to award and construct more than double of what it could achieve in the last fiscal.
NHAI awarded 4,335 km and constructed 2,628 km highways in 2016-17 and it targets to construct 8,000 km and 10,000-km highway length in the current fiscal.
The cost of borrowing for NHAI comes around 7.44%. It borrowed Rs 8,500 crore from LIC for 30 years at an interest rate of 7.2% towards the end of the fiscal. In the year before last, it had raised Rs 9,000 crore through taxable bond and Rs 5,000 crore through tax-free bonds.
Borrowings apart, NHAI’s major source of funds is the highway cess, the proceeds from which would go up from Rs 9,566 crore in 2014-15 to Rs 25,356 crore in 2017-18. It also hopes to plough back tolls collected from projects to the tune of Rs 8,596 crore in 2017-18 for building new highways.
A relatively new fund-raising tool masala bonds are being more and more used by Indian companies.
Foreign funds also find these lucrative as it gives them an opportunity to invest in rupee-denominated notes without seeking investment quota or requiring licences.
HDFC raised the biggest masala bond ($2.1 billion) last month, according to a Bloomberg report.