An amount of up to Rs 2 lakh crore could be raised through a host of options, including masala bonds at much cheaper rates than bank lending, which could be utilised in building highways, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari today said.
“We raised Rs 5,000 crore yesterday at an interest of 7.6 per cent from EPFO. Earlier also, we raised Rs 5,000 crore below 8 per cent,” said Gadkari, who holds road transport and highways portfolio, here.
He spoke of offers for masala bonds where “we can get 5.5-6 per cent” and in total “we can easily raise up to Rs 2 lakh crore”. LIC is willing to give Rs 1 lakh crore.
He feels that banks are conservative in lending for highway projects due to their past experiences as Rs 3.8 lakh-crore projects are stuck.
Now, a majority of their issues have been addressed and bankers should come forward to fund the highways sector, the minister suggested.
As many as 21 Cabinet decisions, he added, were taken to streamline policy issues, besides steps like mandatory 80 per cent land acquisition before award of projects.
The Rs 10,000-crore bond sale to EPFO was part of the fund-raising plan of NHAI for highway projects. The authority has plans to raise at least Rs 50,000 crore in 2016-17 to meet its funds requirements for highway projects.
NHAI Chairman Raghav Chandra had earlier said LIC had agreed to invest in the bonds.
On NHAI’s plan to raise up to USD 750 million through green masala bonds to be listed on the London Stock Exchange soon, the chairman has said the strategy is being finalised.
Following a meeting with London Stock Exchange CEO Nikhi Rathi and Asia Head Jasmine Arora, Chandra had said, “We plan to float what we say green masala bond in a month and aim to raise between USD 500-750 million in the first tranche.”
The offering is named so as the stress is on greening of highways, besides other such programmes.
According to the NHAI chief, there is a huge appetite for masala bonds and the proceeds can be utilised for accelerating the pace of building highways.
Masala bonds are named after famous Indian spices and are instruments through which Indian entities can mop up funds by accessing overseas capital markets while bond investors hold the currency risk.
The road transport and highways ministry has set an ambitious target of building 15,000 km of roads and award projects for another 25,000 km in the current financial year, about two-and-a-half times higher than last year’s.
Masala bonds were issued initially by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank group, in 2014 to raise money for private sector infrastructure projects in India.
These bonds are listed on the international market and offered and settled in US dollars, providing easier access to foreign investors.