Infrastructure & Project Finance

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1 Credit Neutral but Downside Risks Exist Special Report Infrastructure Motive For Foreign Currency Borrowing: The near-zero LIBOR rate, the base rate for almost all external commercial borrowing (ECB)-funded India Ratings & Research s (Ind-Ra) projects, is the key driving factor for infrastructure projects to lean towards foreign borrowings. This is testified by the fact that the peak LIBOR rate observed since 21 is.81% while the peak base rate for an INR loan for the same period is 1.%. Among Ind-Ra rated projects, the all-in-cost of an ECB is in the range of 4.75%-9.55% while the range for an INR loan is 1.75%- 13.5%, the higher end of 9.55% for the former being due to the presence of a currency hedge contract which is a rarity for infrastructure projects in the agency s portfolio. Beneficial to Fund Capex Imports: Though revenue for infrastructure projects is invariably denominated in INR, some projects incur varying portions of their capex in foreign currency - the highway sector for maintenance and operations of toll systems and the power sector for buying the boiler turbine generator equipment. In such instances, the ECB acts as a natural hedging tool for payments to be made to vendors in foreign currency over a fairly long construction period. However, debt servicing remains exposed unless hedged, which is seldom the case. Savings Limited to Initial Years Only: Ind-Ra, based on its portfolio of rated projects, estimates that a project saves around 6%-15% of the total debt service obligations during the initial three to five years of debt amortisation on account of ECB funding. The potential savings are beneficial owing to the fact that the ECB funding aids cash flows during the project s initial ramp up stages - the main pain point for most infrastructure projects. Total Outflow Higher: If one considers the entire tenure of the loan (notwithstanding the potential savings in the initial years), the total outflow of an ECB funded facility is likely to be higher than that of a facility funded solely in the domestic currency. This is primarily due to two reasons: the heavily back-ended structure of the loan and the fact that its conversion to a rupee term loan is scheduled to occur at possibly much higher exchange rates prevailing five-six years subsequent to the commencement of loan amortisation which, in the case of a weakening rupee, would compound the problem further. Over 5% of Ind-Ra rated projects have a standard structure wherein the ECB facility, availed to take out part of the INR term debt used for financing project construction, is in place only for the initial five years (on door-to-door loan tenure of around 15 years). In such cases, where only about 5% of the ECB loan amortises; the balance loan amount is automatically swapped with a domestic loan and follows the amortisation schedule in line with the remainder INR term loan, leaving the project exposed to currency fluctuation risk at the conversion date. Analysts Chintan Lakhani Sriram Parthasarathy Risk on Unhedged Exposure Remains: Though there are a few material benefits expected to accrue from the ECB, the unhedged exposure of the loans to currency fluctuations and variable interest rate poses a threat to the potential savings envisaged over the term of the ECB loan. Almost all the projects are exposed to exchange rate fluctuations regardless of whether they are exposed to variable interest rate risk or not. While the projects may be availing loans at interest rates lower than those charged in the domestic market, their debt service commitments in rupee terms may rise sharply if the rupee depreciates more than initial expectations. This could neutralise the benefit of an interest rate differential June 213

2 Ind-Ra s estimates reveal that even a minimal 5% yoy fall in the Indian rupee (the rupee has depreciated by over 21% since June 21) would wipe out and/or minimise the benefits envisaged in the initial years of the project (Please refer Appendix 1 for comparison of debt service costs and coverage ratios under different scenarios (i) with ECB debt (ii) without ECB debt). The current depreciating trend of INR against USD is likely to erode the potential savings expected while availing the ECB facility. This is reflected by the currency rate which has, on an average, depreciated, depending on each project, by around % from the time the project had availed the ECB facility. Portfolio Composition: Around 12% of the total Ind-Ra rated projects have opted for an ECB facility. The agency observes that the number of projects availing an ECB facility has increased steadily over the years. Though the market offers a host of ECB funding options, the agency observes that a significantly large number of projects opt for funding through commercial bank loans. In Ind-Ra s portfolio, all the projects have ECB liabilities in the form of bank loans (mostly denominated in USD). Is ECB Indeed a Better Mode to Ease the Debt Burden? ECB s main purpose is to take advantage of the relatively lower interest rates in the projects initial years of project stabilisation. Given Ind-Ra s experience, in relation to the performance observed, the project should face minimal problems in accomplishing this objective. That said, benefits in the initial years are likely to come at the expense of higher cash outflows, thanks to the unhedged exposure and heavily back-ended amortisation in the later years of the project life cycle. In Ind-Ra s view, the inclusion of an ECB facility in the funding structure or substitution of the existing domestic debt with an ECB facility will not, automatically, improve the overall credit profile of the project. Although the foreign currency debt exposes the project to currency risks by being un-hedged, only around 5% of the total debt is to be repaid in USD, with the balance to be converted automatically into an INR facility in around FY19 and repaid along with the remainder of the INR term loan. Also, although cash flows will be vulnerable to currency depreciation as the conversion will take place at exchanges rates prevailing in FY19, Ind-Ra s analysis shows that most transactions can withstand a reasonable depreciation of INR against USD. So, downward pressure on ratings is not immediately likely. June 213 2

3 Appendix 1 Figure 1 Project A 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, FY16 FY17 FY18 FY19 FY2 FY21 FY22 FY23 FY24 FY25 FY26 FY27 FY28 FY29 FY Figure 2 Project B 2,5 2, 1,5 1, 5 FY14 FY15 FY16 FY17 FY18 FY19 FY2 FY21 FY22 FY23 FY24 FY25 FY Figure 3 Project C 4,5 4, 3,5 3, 2,5 2, 1,5 1, 5 FY13 FY14 FY15 FY16 FY17 FY18 FY19 FY2 FY21 FY22 FY23 FY24 FY June 213 3

4 Figure 4 Project D 2,5 2, 1,5 1, 5 FY14 FY15 FY16 FY17 FY18 FY19 FY2 FY21 FY22 FY Figure 5 Project E 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, FY14 FY15 FY16 FY17 FY18 FY19 FY2 FY21 FY22 FY23 FY Figure 6 Project F 14, 12, 1, 8, 6, 4, 2, FY14 FY15 FY16 FY17 FY18 FY19 FY2 FY21 FY22 FY June 213 4

5 ALL CREDIT RATINGS ASSIGNED BY INDIA RATINGS ARE SUBJECT TO CERTAIN LIMITATIONS AND DISCLAIMERS. PLEASE READ THESE LIMITATIONS AND DISCLAIMERS BY FOLLOWING THIS LINK: IN ADDITION, RATING DEFINITIONS AND THE TERMS OF USE OF SUCH RATINGS ARE AVAILABLE ON THE AGENCY'S PUBLIC WEBSITE PUBLISHED RATINGS, CRITERIA, AND METHODOLOGIES ARE AVAILABLE FROM THIS SITE AT ALL TIMES. INDIA RATINGS CODE OF CONDUCT, CONFIDENTIALITY, CONFLICTS OF INTEREST, AFFILIATE FIREWALL, COMPLIANCE, AND OTHER RELEVANT POLICIES AND PROCEDURES ARE ALSO AVAILABLE FROM THE CODE OF CONDUCT SECTION OF THIS SITE. Copyright 213 by Fitch, Inc., Fitch Ratings Ltd. and its subsidiaries. One State Street Plaza, NY, NY 14.Telephone: , (212) Fax: (212) Reproduction or retransmission in whole or in part is prohibited except by permission. All rights reserved. In issuing and maintaining its ratings, India Ratings & Research (India Ratings) relies on factual information it receives from issuers and underwriters and from other sources India Ratings believes to be credible. India Ratings conducts a reasonable investigation of the factual information relied upon by it in accordance with its ratings methodology, and obtains reasonable verification of that information from independent sources, to the extent such sources are available for a given security or in a given jurisdiction. The manner of India Ratings factual investigation and the scope of the third-party verification it obtains will vary depending on the nature of the rated security and its issuer, the requirements and practices in the jurisdiction in which the rated security is offered and sold and/or the issuer is located, the availability and nature of relevant public information, access to the management of the issuer and its advisers, the availability of pre-existing third-party verifications such as audit reports, agreed-upon procedures letters, appraisals, actuarial reports, engineering reports, legal opinions and other reports provided by third parties, the availability of independent and competent third-party verification sources with respect to the particular security or in the particular jurisdiction of the issuer, and a variety of other factors. Users of India Ratings ratings should understand that neither an enhanced factual investigation nor any third-party verification can ensure that all of the information India Ratings relies on in connection with a rating will be accurate and complete. Ultimately, the issuer and its advisers are responsible for the accuracy of the information they provide to India Ratings and to the market in offering documents and other reports. In issuing its ratings India Ratings must rely on the work of experts, including independent auditors with respect to financial statements and attorneys with respect to legal and tax matters. Further, ratings are inherently forward-looking and embody assumptions and predictions about future events that by their nature cannot be verified as facts. As a result, despite any verification of current facts, ratings can be affected by future events or conditions that were not anticipated at the time a rating was issued or affirmed. The information in this report is provided "as is" without any representation or warranty of any kind. A rating provided by India Ratings is an opinion as to the creditworthiness of a security. This opinion is based on established criteria and methodologies that India Ratings is continuously evaluating and updating. Therefore, ratings are the collective work product of India Ratings and no individual, or group of individuals, is solely responsible for a rating. The rating does not address the risk of loss due to risks other than credit risk, unless such risk is specifically mentioned. India Ratings is not engaged in the offer or sale of any security. All India Ratings reports have shared authorship. Individuals identified in a India ratings report were involved in, but are not solely responsible for, the opinions stated therein. The individuals are named for contact purposes only. A report providing a rating by India Ratings is neither a prospectus nor a substitute for the information assembled, verified and presented to investors by the issuer and its agents in connection with the sale of the securities. Ratings may be changed or withdrawn at any time for any reason in the sole discretion of India Ratings. India Ratings does not provide investment advice of any sort. Ratings are not a recommendation to buy, sell, or hold any security. Ratings do not comment on the adequacy of market price, the suitability of any security for a particular investor, or the tax-exempt nature or taxability of payments made in respect to any security. India Ratings receives fees from issuers, insurers, guarantors, other obligors, and underwriters for rating securities. The assignment, publication, or dissemination of a rating by India Ratings shall not constitute a consent by India Ratings to use its name as an expert in connection with any registration statement filed under the United States securities laws, the Financial Services and Markets Act of 2 of the United Kingdom, or the securities laws of any particular jurisdiction including India. Due to the relative efficiency of electronic publishing and distribution, India Ratings research may be available to electronic subscribers up to three days earlier than to print subscribers. June 213 5

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