Apart from lack of credit rating, experts point to a few more issues with infrastructure bonds, for which notification was issued last month
A month ago the notification concerning issue of new infrastructure bonds was announced. A close reading points out to a few issues in the notification in its current form. The notification fails to mention the need to obtain credit rating for these bonds, which we have highlighted yesterday (see http://www.moneylife.in/article/8/8011.html). But there are other issues as well.
Firstly, in order to ensure long-term funding for infrastructure projects, which typically have long gestation periods, the minimum tenure of the infrastructure bonds has been fixed at 10 years. However, the minimum lock-in period is limited to five years. The investor will be allowed to exit either through the secondary market or through a buyback facility. The bond issuer has been given the liberty to choose what would be the mode of exit. "Investors may be allowed the put and call option," said the IFCI official.
Does not the put and call option and a minimum lock-in period of five years defeat the purpose of having minimum 10 year tenure? "Typically, repayments from the infrastructure companies start after five years. If there still remains a negative gap between withdrawal and funding and the issuer has to borrow from the market the amount that will be required would be small and would not have a significant impact," said Samir Kanabar, partner, tax & regulatory services, Ernst & Young.
Secondly, the yield of the bond cannot exceed the yield on government securities of corresponding residual maturity, as reported by the Fixed Income Money Market and Derivatives Association of India (FIMMDA), as on the last working day of the month immediately preceding the month of the issue of the bond. According to R Balakrishnan, columnist of Moneylife and former executive director of rating agency Crisil, this begs the question, "what is government security for this purpose? Central or state bonds? Why would weaker companies and stronger companies have the same ceiling? Weaker issuers like non-banking finance companies will look for some odd maturity such as 13 months, which is highly illiquid, take the quote and then issue bonds of that maturity, with a five year put call." Experts we spoke too had no counter to this possibility.
"They (the government) are ensuring that funds are borrowed at a lower rate, at best at the yield of a government security. In order to make infrastructure finance available at a lower rate, the government is playing its part by giving a tax rebate," said Mr Kanabar.
Thirdly, these bonds can be issued by the end of FY11. Isn't the window too short? Officials from IFCI state there are comfortable with the window as most action for such tax-free bonds is seen only in the last quarter of the financial year. The Centre is expected to renew it depending on the success of the bonds in this financial year. "It is being tried for one year; if it works well for one year, it will be continued. Prima facie, the window period may look small, but it is not so small, it will gradually get renewed," said Mr Kanabar.
Finally, in these days of transparency, fair competition and level-playing field, one other issue about infrastructure bonds is that Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) is allowed to issue them. Can an insurer borrow? Then why not private insurers? Well, who says LIC is like any other insurer. Level-playing field, did you say?
For investors, the infrastructure bonds are a must-have. Each investor can invest Rs20,000. According to Mr Balakrishnan, they get a bonanza if five-year put/call allowed. With a 30% tax break, the amount invested is just Rs14,000 for a bond face with a value of Rs20,000. Assume a coupon of 8% and the yield is an attractive Rs11.42%.
It is always sad to see ships collide, break their backs, capsize, and sink, especially if they are so close to port. Here major media make a circus out of what is actually one of the saddest spectacles
The MSC Chitra / Khalija III collision outside Mumbai Harbour once again brings into focus the sheer neglect of maritime matters on the Indian coast by the various organisations responsible.
While details on what actually happened are still sketchy and the rumour mills as well as grapevines work overtime, with the media concentrating on the environmental damage aspect, here is what is known:-
The Khalija-III had already been in all sorts of problems with the Indian maritime administration. Why was she allowed to be anchored so close to the arrival and departure channels to and from the Bombay Floating Light Vessel area is still unknown? Yes, ships, especially those in trouble, try to get closer to the harbour-especially during the monsoon. But are we the world's safe haven for junks and rust-buckets just waiting to not just pollute our coast but also shut down our biggest ports? A cursory look will show a few dozen other such ships stuck in the Mumbai port-waiting to add to the list of derelicts and potential wrecks. Karachi Harbour was shut down for months a few years ago because of a similar incident.
The MSC Chitra belongs to one of the world's largest shipping companies-Mediterranean Shipping Company-based in Switzerland and with a very strong presence worldwide with cruise lines, container ships and other business interests. How they got there makes for another fascinating tale, one which involves many shades of grey, including some past escapades in the Bombay Port in the early '70s-when the company's owner was still a Master sailing his own ships in these waters. Their safety record is on par with the rest of them. But fact remains, huge container ships and monsoon winds as well as weather conditions require very high levels of ship-handling skills.
The MSC Chitra sailed out of the New Mumbai port, with over 2,000 TEU (Container capacity is often expressed in twenty-foot equivalent units, TEU) of containers loaded from this port, and a few thousand more already on board, and was on her way outbound. The current state of congestion at JNPT/Nhava makes for extremely fast turn-arounds, a "load as much as you can" status, with pressure to avoid any "shut-outs", all of which are recipes for disaster. Crew rest, load stability, actual contents as well as weight of containers and cargo - and other issues - are usually thrown to the winds in such conditions; the only parameter up for discussion is how much more can you load, how fast you can get this ship out, and the next one in. Typically, everybody onboard in such conditions would have been working non-stop for many hours before arrival, while in port, and when sailing out. That is 48-72 hours, easy-leaving them not at their brightest and freshest when sailing out.
There are a variety of inputs-but the most believable one has to do with this version-the outbound MSC Chitra in a hurry to make the monsoon impacted schedules simply sailed too close to the Khalija-III, and was then pushed by the prevailing winds on to her bows. Basic forces as studied in physics change of inertia and the rest of it did the rest. On cargo ships at sea, this is like a plastic ball full of liquid and marbles being pushed towards a sharp knife - one cut, and the marbles will all tumble out, while the plastic ball will collapse in all sorts of uncertain ways-and the water will behave in further multiple uncertain ways.
The various entities operational on VHF Radio in and around Mumbai/JNPT/Nhava/Butcher Island/Pir Pau/ONGC-Panvel and others have still not got their act together on common watch-keeping channels. As a result ships sailing in and out in the same waters using the same ocean channels are often keeping guard and keeping watch on different radio channels-sometimes not even aware of instructions being given to other ships right next to them. Please remember-ships do not have brakes-this business of not being able to coordinate VHF communication in and around Mumbai and its ports/terminals on different VHF radio channels has been going on for as long as this writer can remember-which goes back to the '70s.
It is always sad to see ships collide, break their backs, capsize, and sink, especially if they are so close to port. Here major media make a circus out of what is actually one of the saddest spectacles. Something like hanging around a hospital where thousands are cured every day, but the news is in covering the few cases that went bad, for whatever reason.
But the real trouble is just about to begin ashore. In commercial terms, this is probably one of the biggest disasters in the history of modern Indian shipping, and one that will have deep impacts on a large number of people. Bluntly put-many people are going to suffer-especially if their documentation after loading was not complete-and chances are that since this collision occurred within a few hours of the ship sailing, documentation was still "in process" for most. Which means many things-most of all, for shippers, it means they are now at the mercy of their agents, the shipping lines, and host of other intermediaries and entities. Many of whom will simply freeze documentation.
2000+ containers loaded from this port means, assuming a fair mix of full and part container loads (FCL and LCL), that there would be anything between 3000 and 6000 bills of lading which have suddenly come unstuck. That would also be anything between 15 and 25 thousand tonnes of cargo-these and other details will not emerge for some time, if at all, by which time truth will be the biggest casualty as a variety of interests race to protect themselves, as well as change the rules of the game by moving in all direction vis-à-vis things like insurance, freight, title, and other interesting aspects of trade nobody every worries about as long as things are going the way they should.
Therefore, here are some more true facts:-
1. Some of the documentation pertaining to cargo shipped on board this ship, especially if the documentation was still being completed, will soon not be worth the paper they are printed on. In commercial terms, issues like mate's receipts, shipped on board certificates, manifests and bills of lading will all be contested. Downstream there will be a move by a variety of entities to protect their interests, as cargo as well as freight deemed earned are both considered lost, without liability on the ship-owner, ship and cargo onboard soon to become part of the maritime ocean floor. Or come afloat on some beach somewhere, at some time - where it is of no value to the shipper or consignee. (Anecdote:- rubber ducks that were loaded in a container that went overboard in the Pacific Ocean during a storm landed up on beaches as far away as Kenya, Scotland, Bering, and the whole Pacific Coast area-for years.)
2. Understanding the fine print on "Total Constructive Loss" and "Salvors Rights" will take on deeper meanings, as shipper and consignee end up negotiating with more than just their bankers and insurers. Each case will have its own complications, and unless the terms and conditions of shipment have been fully understood as well as catered for, quite a few shippers will end up taking a big bath-even if they have negotiated their documents basis any of a variety of options. At the very least, the freight paid or not paid is lost-probably with some loaded add-ons-unless somebody remembered to insure the freight. At the other end, somebody will be left holding the damages on possible liability claims - the environment again, remember-again, so much will depend on the fine print in the insurance taken out before shipping the cargo.
3. There are shippers who insist on bills of lading directly from the primary shipping line concerned, even for the intermodal segments, as well as segments where the cargo may move on somebody else's ships. At the other end of the spectrum are the vast range of "shipping documents", whose antecedents are usually unknown, and hidden behind third country addresses-sometimes these are insisted on by consignees who seem to know more about the potential issues in such cases. In the middle somewhere are the Government of India authorised NVOCC (non-vessel owning common carrier) documents. This, again, is a very complicated subject and the outcome here will be simple-if the shipper/consignee negotiated only basis "rate", then there appears to be a problem.
4. As always, a few insurance frauds will surface-thereby putting a scrutiny on EVERY case pertaining to this incident. Insurance payouts at the best of times will take forever and a month-here it will be even longer. Invariably, containers which were nowhere near the ship and cargo which existed in dreams somewhere will get together and try to prove that they were on this ship. Happens all the time!
5. And finally, the worst downside is at the customer end-where shipments are part of somebody's Just in Time scheduling, or specific sub-components and assemblies. The Law of Torts or similar remedies simply do not apply in such cases, and where shipments contained important items whose basic value was far below the consequential losses caused by them not getting there, then there is no compensation.
Millions of containers move throughout the world seamlessly, like clockwork, keeping the wheels of commerce turning. The loss of MSC Chitra is like a massive cog thrown into a very smoothly operating machine, with results which are simply not known, and which will be hidden behind the louder noise of the environmental damage. Sad, but true-truth is always in the numbers, and this proves the case again.
New Delhi: The power ministry has recommended allocation of natural gas from Reliance Industries' (RIL) fields to four power projects including the Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (ADAG)-run Reliance Power's (R-Power) Samalkot expansion unit in Andhra Pradesh.
The ministry, at the last meeting of Empowered Group of Minister (EGoM) on 27th July, sought 14.5 million standard cubic meters per day (mmscmd) of gas from RIL's KG-D6 fields for the four projects totalling 4,136 MW.
The request was made on the grounds that these projects have most approvals and would be commissioned by 31 March, 2012, sources in the know of the development said.
It recommended allocation of 8 mmscmd gas for the 2,400 MW expansion project planned by R-Power at Samalkot, saying the project had environmental clearance besides "land, water and all other infrastructure facilities." Also, it has executed and EPC contract on 21 July, 2010.
The ministry sought 4.48 mmscmd gas for the 1,200 MW project Torrent Power is setting up at Dahej SEZ in Gujarat, 0.4 mmscmd for 100 MW unit of Pandurang Energy Systems at West Godavari District in Andhra Pradesh and 1.62 mmscmd for 436 MW plant of RVK Energy at East Godavari District, also in Andhra Pradesh.
All the four projects, according to the power ministry, would be commissioned during the current Eleventh Five Year Plan period (2007 to 2012).
Sources said the EGoM did not make any allocation to any plant as RIL had informed that it cannot produce more than 60 mmscmd gas from KG-D6. All of the current output of 60 mmscmd from KG-D6 has already been allocated to urea manufacturing units, power plants, LPG units, city gas projects, steel plants and refineries.
More gas from KG-D6 would flow when RIL completes drilling additional wells in the eastern offshore field.
The EGoM decided that "subject to availability of gas, necessary allocation from KG-D6 fields will be made to the projects in pipeline as and when such projects are ready to commence production."
Sources said besides the four projects, GMR is also in queue for 3.88 mmscmd for its 2x284 MW Vemagiri project that it says has obtained all clearances including from ministry of environment and forests and is at very advanced stage of completion.
The company also entered into a Gas Transportation Agreement with GAIL for transportation of gas, which the project will need from April 2011.
Also, Lanco has sought 3.5 mmscmd for 742 MW stage-III expansion of its Kondapalli power project that will be commissioned by June 2011. The project has requisite statutory approvals and clearances, including environmental clearance in place and also having adequate evacuation systems for the power to be generated out of it, they said.
Sources said the power ministry stated that Torrent had land and water for its Dahej project and non-EPC work, including area grading, and civil work was being executed in full swing.
Torrent had signed Turnkey EPC contract with Siemens AG of Germany and Siemens for engineering, procurement and commissioning (EPC) of three units of 400 MW each on 2 July, 2010.
Pandurang Energy Systems Pvt Ltd's 2x50 MW project in Annadevarapeta village in West Godavari District had land and water and all other infrastructure facilities while RVK Energy's 436 MW unit at Jagurupadu village in East Godavari districted had placed purchase orders for the equipment with GE and Wartsila.