The government has moved into the fast lane in resolving the vexed issue of large stressed assets in the power sector. Seizing the the opportunity presented by a recent order by the Allahabad High Court which gave temporary impunity to a clutch of power projects from the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) February 12 circular mandating early detection and resolution of stressed assets by banks, interim finance minister Piyush Goyal and power minister RK Singh on Monday confabulated on the immediate course of action in this regard.
While the central bank hasn’t yet indicated any relaxation of its circular, the finance ministry, sources said, would soon write to it and other stakeholders, including power producers, convening a meeting to find a resolution. Even as the meeting will be aimed at addressing power sector issues, it could potential help find a common resolution plan as well for other sensitive sectors, including steel and textiles, that are reeling under massive bad loans, the sources added.
“The secretary-financial services will be convening a meeting of officials (from RBI, banks, other relevant ministries) soon,” Goyal later told a TV channel, adding that the idea was to ascertain if a solution could be found without undermining the IBC (insolvency and bankruptcy code) process. Monday’s inter-ministerial meeting, also attended by finance secretary Hasmukh Adhia and power secretary AK Bhalla, was to ensure that the stakeholders in the government had a common view on how to comply with the HC order, the minister added.
Giving relief to the petitioner power projects which are facing the threat of being pushed into insolvency proceedings, the court had ordered that no action be taken in their cases under the RBI circular till the finance ministry called a meeting of relevant stakeholders in June to see if the issues could be resolved.
Meanwhile, independent power producers (IPPs) would make presentations to the ministries of finance, power and petroleum & natural gas this week where they are expected to demand permission to use coal allocated under long-term power purchase agreements to serve customers under short-term supply agreements and the setting up of a payment security mechanism, similar to what is now available to NTPC.
Bankers have already identified 11 stressed projects under the Samadhan scheme, wherein such projects would be assigned to rating agencies to determine their “sustainable debt” levels. Thereafter, banks would put up to 51% equity of these projects for auction to gauge the industry’s interest in the projects, while the remaining would be held back by banks and existing promoters so that they get a chance to redeem their stakes when demand revives. Rural Electrification Corporation has also come up with a ‘warehousing’ plan to revive stressed power assets and the finance ministry would consider this proposal as well, the sources added.
The RBI’s circular requires banks to finalise a resolution plan in case of a default on large accounts of `2,000 crore and above within 180 days (irrespective of sectors), failing which insolvency proceedings will have to be invoked against the defaulter. Since the deadline for the resolution of the first set of such cases is end-August, power producers have been seeking urgent relief.
The power ministry has been vocal against the RBI circular’s “impracticality” and a parliamentary panel too had concurred with it, saying, many power plants were “currently under SMA-1/2 stage or on the brink of becoming NPAs (non-performing assets)” due to “unforeseen circumstances” that hit their cash flows, credit rating, etc.
NPAs in the power generation sector have more than doubled to around Rs 70,000 crore from Rs 34,244 crore a year ago. About 10,000 MW power generation assets with debts of over Rs 34,600 crore are now before National Company Law Tribunal, constituting 18% of the sector’s exposure to lenders.
As of end-March 2018, receivables to IPPs stood at more than Rs 13,000 crore. Additionally, Rs 7,800 crore is stuck due to various delays in receiving orders from regulators. The IPPs are not compensated for the extra money they have to shell out to buy coal at higher prices due to insufficient supply (only 60% of requirement) by Coal India.