Lenders to the Ratnagiri Gas and Power (RGPPL), which runs the Dabhol power plant, are barely managing to classify the account as standard although State Bank of India (SBI), chairman Arundhati Bhattacharya fears that the company “is on the verge of default” and might soon slip into the non-performing asset category, report Vishwanath Nair in Mumbai & Pranav Nambiar in New Delhi. Senior bankers confirmed to FE on Monday that RGPPL had paid its dues for August, in late November, thereby allowing banks not to put the asset in the non-performing asset portfolio. “We are hoping the company will pay its dues for September by end-December,” a senior banker said. RGPPL owes banks a fairly large R8,500 crore.
Meanwhile, Bhattacharya has dashed off a letter to the Union power secretary raising concerns the company's ability to service its loans given the acute shortage of the supply of gas to the power plant. “This would result in slippage of asset quality, which would be a setback for lenders despite their sacrifice through waivers and concessions in reviving the project,” Bhattacharya says. The letter, reviewed by FE, notes that the capacity utilisation of the plant is very low and that RGPPL has “no funds to meet repayment commitments and is on the verge of default due to stalled operations because of non-availability of fuel”.
This is not the first time that RGPPL, which took over the Dabhol assets in 2005, has paid installments at the last minute, bankers confirmed. Earlier this year, Chanda Kochhar, managing director and chief executive officer, ICICI Bank, had also written to the power ministry, raising concerns about the health of the power plant. “Lenders have sacrificed about R2,500 crore at the time of asset takeover and also addressed R1,220 crore as completion cost at the time of restructuring in 2009,” Kochhar had pointed out.
SBI has an exposure of Rs 1,752 crore to the Dabhol power plant. IDBI Bank has an exposure of nearly Rs 2,000 crore and Canara Bank is known to have an exposure of close to Rs 400 crore.
The company now needs to pay its