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Softened Interest Rates Likely to Brighten Solar Sector In India

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India Ratings and Research (Ind-Ra) estimates that INR560 billion out of total debt of INR1,730 billion could be refinanced at a lower borrowing cost across various infrastructure sub-sectors in its portfolio till FY19. Also, there could be a shift in the type of instruments issued for the purpose of raising capital in the sector largely to the capital market instruments, namely bonds, from the conventional term loans.

Ind-Ra estimates that for each 1% reduction in interest rate, the incremental surplus as a % of cash flow available for debt service would be highest in toll roads, followed by solar and wind energy. This could mainly be because the interest burden on these sectors is high as most of these projects are in the ramp-up stage.

Solar energy projects owing to their stable revenue profiles and better counterparties and toll road projects with reasonable track records and stronger sponsors and longer tail period, than other sub-sectors, appear to be the ideal candidates for refinancing. Though Ind-Ra expects a replacement of banks loans by bonds, traction will be witnessed through infrastructure investment trusts.

Also, Ind-Ra observes that the benefit of interest rate reduction will be the least for the annuity sector, followed by the thermal power sector, because refinancing risk has already been factored in at the time of initial funding for the former and due to minimal improvement in persistent issues in the latter.

An estimated INR45 million/project/year is projected to be the surplus for FY18, based on the average interest rate reduction of around 65bp witnessed for Ind-Ra rated entities across various infra sectors. The debt service coverage ratio is likely to improve 0.04x in FY18 across infra sectors.

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