Banks stare at $38 bn new bad loans from power sector: Bank of America-Merrill Lynch report
Mumbai: The banking sector, which is already reeling under a mammoth pile of bad loans, is looking at potential dud assets of $38 billion from the power sector, as $53 billion of the $178 billion bank loans to the sector are already stressed, said a report.
“Of the $178 billion (around Rs 11.7 trillion) of debt of the power sector, $53 billion (around Rs 3.5 trillion) are already under stress (primarily to the
generation sector) and of this, as much as $38 billion (around Rs 2.5 trillion) have the potential of being written-off as bad loans,” the Bank of America-Merrill Lynch report said on Wednesday.
The report is based on the fact that as much as 71 gigawatt (gw) of private sector coal-based projects are facing bankruptcy filings at various NCLTs, implying probable
resolution from June 2019 and it expects an average 75 percent write-off in these loans.
Of the $178 billion loan, the distribution companies have $65 billion, generation companies have $77 billion, and transmission firms have a debt burden of $36 billion, says the report penned by BofA-ML research analysts Amish Shah and Sriharsh Singh.
Of the $53 billion of stressed loans, as much as $50 billion are to the generation sector alone, says the report, adding loans to the distribution sector, which were earlier stressed, are now better off given quasi-state guarantees and restructuring under the government’s Ujwal Discom Assurance Yojana (Uday) scheme.
Of this $178 billion debt mountain, banks have the largest at 53 percent of the total loans, followed by non-banking finance companies (NBFCs) at 35 percent and the balance from the states.
About 43 percent of loans are extended to the power generation sector, followed by distribution at 37 percent and transmission at 20 percent, the report said.
It can be noted that the power, steel, roads, mining and telecom sectors are the most stressed accounts for banks whose bad loan burden has crossed Rs 11 trillion or 10.5 percent of the system as of December 2017.
The report further notes that the $116-billion national power utilities lose around $9 billion annually but can turnaround without hiking consumer tariffs and also continue to offer the present average subsidy of 2 percent if the many of its cost-inefficiencies are resolved.
It also states that tariff hikes are not the way forward for the sector to turnaround as already tariffs for industrial and commercial consumers, who constitute 37 percent of demand, are very high compared to its regional peers.
But the report is critical of the reforms introduced to address inefficiencies saying they expect limited progress.
As per the report, of the $116 billion expenditure incurred by power distributors annually (as of March 2016 – the latest available data for national distributors), 54 percent is related to operations and maintenance/other expenses across the value chain (administration costs, employee expenses, taxes, marginal profits etc), fuel comprises only 20 percent of the cost, borrowing cost is only 19 percent and freight charges are at a low 7 percent.
And surprisingly subsidies to farmers constitute only 2 percent of the cost of the states on a national level barring for Punjab and Haryana where its 7-8 percent.
Farmers are the second biggest consumer segment for the discoms with 22 percent of total power consumption as agricultural power tariff is only Rs 1.7 per kilowatt hour (kWh) against the cost of Rs 6.3 per kwh.
Though some states provide free power to farmers, the expenses are paid by the respective states to distributors from their annual budgets.
“Our analysis suggests, while at the national level, power subsidy comprises 2 percent of all states’ annual expenditure, but for Punjab and Haryana, it 7-8 percent,”
says the report.
The sector has a $5 billion import bill as one-sixth of the fuel needs are met by imports. For power generation companies, this comprises $24 billion in annual
costs, while coal accounts for 87 percent of this cost.
Besides,$4 billion of such fuel is imported which is around 5 percent the country’s non-oil and non-gold imports), comprising $3 billion of coal and $1 billion of LNG.