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business | IST

REC says coal shortage temporary; does not expect NPAs to increase

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As India comes face to face with a big coal shortage with stocks at critical levels, Sanjay Malhotra, chairman and managing director at REC, discussed what this means for the companies that are engaged in the financing of power projects across India.

As India comes face to face with a big coal shortage with stocks at critical levels, Sanjay Malhotra, chairman and managing director at REC, discussed what this means for the companies that are engaged in the financing of power projects across India.
“I would say this is a very temporary phenomenon and we should not really be unduly concerned about this,” he said.
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“This is a pointer for us that we need to be vigilant. This has been caused by the global shortages in coal, gas and also of course, domestically by wind which normally does support the demand, this time it was a little low and similarly, hydro. So, as far as capex is concerned for the sector, we are very sanguine about the growth prospects,” he mentioned.
India is still a growing country, still the average per capita consumption of electricity is only 1200 units per year, which is one-third the global average and with a growing emphasis on green energy, energy transition and electric vehicles (EVs) because of climate change concerns, there is going to be good capex in the years to come, he noted.
In terms of liquidity issues, he said, “The liquidity infusion scheme was the need of the hour. It was a very different scheme, the purpose was very different. The purpose was basically to infuse liquidity into the power sector after COVID and because of lockdowns, when payments came to a trickle from the consumers and energy consumption went down, whereas the fixed costs remained the same. So at that time, it was very important to keep the power generating stations running, to keep the electrons flowing in the network and the homes lit up. So that's why this liquidity was introduced. I am happy to inform you that by September 30, both PFC and REC together, we are able to infuse more than Rs 100,000 crore into the power sector and this is against the target of Rs 90,000 crore. So, we have achieved more than the target as liquidity infusion scheme is concerned. Coming now to the new scheme, which is the reform-based distribution sector scheme (RDSS), the purpose of this scheme is very different. And while liquidity infusion scheme was a one-time solution to the immediate liquidity crisis, this looks at the sector in a much more holistic way,” he explained.
“If you look at the payment history of the distribution companies (DISCOMs) they have not defaulted either to REC or to PFC and there's no stress. Whatever stress we have, whatever non-performing assets (NPAs) we have on our books, they are in the private sector, and liquidity infusion was for the government DISCOMs. So, firstly, going by history, we don't expect there to be any repayment issue. However, we have taken good care and we have ensured that there is a robust payment security mechanism and we have insisted on government guarantees for all these loans. So, we do not foresee any issues of repayment so far as liquidity infusions in loans are concerned,” he stated.
According to him, REC is amongst the best performing over the last few years as far as the stress or NPAs are concerned.
“At present our NPAs are at a low of 1.8 percent. So, net NPA 1.8 plus 1.6 percent is as per industry standards, it's quite normal. We have over the years reduced it. Going forward as well, we do not expect the stress to increase. We are continuing to get repayments,” he said.
For the full interview, watch the accompanying video.
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