National Highways Authority of India’s first Masala Bond was today launched at the London Stock Exchange with Union Minister Nitin Gadkari ringing the opening bell. The rupee-denominated offshore bond offered by National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) on the exchange is targeted at raising capital for India’s infrastructure projects.
“India gives the highest priority for infrastructure development. Our economy is the fastest growing in the world. NHAI is a flagship organisation, with AAA rating and we have many big projects to offer,” Gadkari said at the London Stock Exchange market opening ceremony.
“The NHAI is financially a very strong organisation. This is the first time we have entered the Masala Bond market and I am confident that we will get a good response,” said the road transport, highways and shipping minister.
“The total infrastructure picture in India is changing very rapidly and we need financial support from international investors. We can guarantee that all our projects are economically viable, with good rate of return,” he said.
In reference to the progress already made, Gadkari pointed to a hike in road construction figures, from just 2 kilometres per day when he took charge of the transport ministry to 23 kilometres a day at the end of March this year.
Elaborating on road construction facts and figures, he said that India had 52 lakh kilometres of road length out of which only 96,000 kilometres is the national highway, meaning that 40 per cent of the country’s traffic is concentrated on just 2 per cent of the roads.
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The government’s target is to increase this length from 96,000 kilometres to 2 lakh kilometres, he said.
“The minister is someone who is a visionary, who gets things done. We are now on a roll with Masala Bonds. London is the financial centre of the world and the right place for more Masala Bond issuances,” said Alok Sharma, the Minister for Asia in the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), at the ceremony.
It was attended by Indian High Commissioner to the UK Yashvardhan Kumar Singh, deputy High Commissioner Dinesh K Patnaik and the NHAI chairman Yudhvir Singh Malik, among others.
“This is a symbolic transaction for a number of reasons. We are hoping it would be the world’s largest-ever Masala Bond. This bond will support the largest road building and transport infrastructure programme in the world. There is a huge appetite for investments in Indian infrastructure and confidence in the Indian economy,” said Nikhil Rathi, CEO of London Stock Exchange plc, who described Gadkari as a “reformer and innovator.”
According to the London Stock Exchange, there are 38 Masala Bonds currently in the market, raising around 5 billion dollars.
During his visit to the UK this week, Gadkari has meetings scheduled with Transport for London (TfL) authorities on road safety and other issues and will also be addressing a UK India Conclave on the theme of ‘A New Era in UK-India Relations’ before he leaves for India on Saturday.