Setting stiff target for itself of awarding 5,000 km highway projects annually over the next two financial years, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has drawn up a plan to borrow more than R1 lakh crore from the domestic markets during the period. The planned hike in borrowings is in line with the government’s plan to accelerate road construction and achieve the target of building 30 km a day.
Borrowings by the NHAI, which were just R3,340 crore in FY15, were stepped up this fiscal — R14,000 crore have been raised so far — including R10,000 crore through tax-free bonds issued in December. The tax-fee bonds, with an effective yield of about 10.7%, received good response from retail investors.
At the start of this year, a borrowing target of R34,000 crore was set, including R6,000 crore via rupee-denominated foreign bonds, but sources said the funds to be raised could be significantly lower at R24,000 crore. Foreign markets, sources said, won’t be tapped this fiscal.
Borrowings apart, NHAI’s major source of funds is the the highway cess, the proceeds from which would go up from R9,566 crore in 2014-15 to R22,920 crore in the current fiscal and further to R24,107 crore in 2016-17 and R25,356 crore in 2017-18.
It also hopes to plough back tolls collected from projects to the tune of R6,500 crore in the current fiscal, R7,475 crore in 2015-16 and R8,596 crore in 2017-18 for building new highways. During 2014-15, it had deployed R5,448 crore from toll revenue to fund new projects.
“We have a lot of work to do in the days to come. In the next two fiscal years, we plan to award 5,000 km road projects annually. There are many two-lane highways to be converted into four-lane ones. There are several works in the progress as well,” NHAI chairman Raghav Chandra told FE.
NHAI expects its land acquisition costs to be R31,090 crore in the current fiscal, up from R9,098 crore in the last fiscal. This is set to increase to R38,912 crore in 2016-17, but is projected to decline to R15,637 crore in 2017-18.
The civil construction cost is set to go up from R8,223 crore in 2014-15 to R26,285 crore in the current fiscal and further to R38,109 crore in 2016-17 and R40,017 crore in 2017-18.
In sync with the increase in borrowings, the NHAI has also estimated that its debt servicing and annuity payments obligations would escalate from R11,795 crore in the current fiscal to R17,203 crore in 2016-17 and R22,806 crore in 2017-18.
NHAI’s project awards had been at a lackadaisical pace in the past four years, mainly because of the poor response from developers for the BOT projects. Even though awards were higher in three years since 2009-10, most projects haven’t taken off.