Cabinet clears Rs 2 lakh crore debt rejig for power cos

Pushing new reforms in the power sector, the Centre today approved restructuring of Rs 1.9 lakh crore debt of State Electricity Boards in a move to turnaround the near-bankrupt power distribution companies.

Under the scheme approved by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, 50 percent of the short-term outstanding liabilities would be taken over by state governments. Balance 50 percent loans would be restructured by providing moratorium on principle and best possible terms for repayments, an official statement said.

Reuters

As part of mandatory condition, 50 percent of the outstanding liabilities up to March 31, 2012 is to be taken over by the state governments. This shall be first converted into bonds to be issued by discoms to participating lenders, duly backed by the state government's guarantee.

The scheme is effective as soon as notified and will remain open up to December 31, 2012 unless extended by the government, the statement said. The support under the scheme will be available for all

participating state-owned discoms on fulfilling short-term mandatory conditions, it said.

The restructuring or reschedulement of loans is to be accompanied by concrete and measurable actions by discoms or states to improve the operational performance of the distribution utilities. As per the statement, the takeover of liability by state governments from discoms in the next two-five years by way of special securities and repayment and interest payment to be done by state governments till the date of takeover.

The approved scheme is formulated based on report of expert group headed by B K Chaturvedi, Member (Energy) Planning Commission and deliberations in the PMO and Finance Ministry, it said.

For monitoring the progress of turnaround plan, two committees at state and central levels,respectively, are proposed to be formed, the statement said.

The Central government will provide incentive by way of grant equal to the value of the additional energy saved by way of accelerated AT&C loss and capital reimbursement support of 25 percent of principal repayment by the state governments on the liability taken over by them under the scheme, it added.

The accumulated losses of the state power distribution companies (Discoms) are estimated to be about Rs 1.9 lakh crore as on 31st March, 2011. "It is a step in the positive direction. The loss reduction and tariff increase plans would need to be monitored very strictly so that utilities are able to break even in next 3 to 4 years and in the interim they need to be provided adequate transition finance," Ashok Khurana Director General Association of Power Producers said.

Commenting on the debt restructure, State Bank of India Chairman Pratip Chaudhuri in Mumbai said, "our exposure to discoms is perhaps the lowest...and that would also be covered by state government guarantee...to UP is Rs 800 crore, out of Rs 20,000 crore total.

We think that the most stressed discoms are Rajasthan, UP, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and perhaps to some extent Punjab. "These are the discoms which will have to work extra hard and look at higher revenue generation in order to meet this benchmark but overall our discom exposure is 4 or 5 percent.

Our power sector exposure is loaded towards the large generating companies, rated companies, he added.

Central Bank of India Chairman and Managing Director M V Tanksale said: "It is a welcome move from the government and will definitely help the power sector. Here on, it would be important for discoms to operate at an 'cost plus' basis and let the subsidies come from the respective state governments on a cash basis.

"All the discoms where we have an exposure have already increased the tariffs, which is one of the conditions of the restructuring package. The assets continue to remain standard on our books as they were only restructured till now."

PTI