Ind-Ra downgrades power sector ratings to negative


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Power generation companies will face an elevated counterparty risk due to steep fall in demand

In this file photo taken steam rises from a coal power plant of global energy supply company Uniper beside a wind turbine. (AFP PHOTO)

Mumbai: India Ratings and Research (Ind-Ra) has revised its outlook for energy infrastructure companies to negative from stable for FY21 as the COVID-19-driven lockdown is likely to affect liquidity level in all companies across the power sector value chain.

It said power generation companies (gencos) will face an elevated counterparty risk due to steep fall in demand, under-recoveries compared to cost, possible lower subsidy payout by states and weakening economic outlook.

Against the background of gloomy industrial demand and government's limited resources, liquidity will be a critical driver for energy infrastructure special purpose vehicles (SPVs) until the effects of lockdown persist.

Though the long-term risk profile of most rated companies is unlikely to be affected due to the presence of long-term power purchase agreements, Ind-Ra expects liquidity to be the key influencer for rating actions in the interim.

Ind-Ra said the cash flow stress until May can be managed through debt deferment options notified by the Reserve Bank of India on March 27 if the projects avail it.

The agency said it may take rating actions on SPVs that do not have adequate liquidity to handle the expected delay in tariff payments from discoms, commensurate with their rating levels.

Rating downgrades are likely to increase since there is uncertainty on the timing of payments from discoms. Constrained states' fiscal leeway also limits the timely transfer of subsidies and aggravates the cash flow problems of discoms.

Thus, even after considering the debt deferment provisions, Ind-Ra said there could be downward rating actions. Added risk on the deferment is that structuring of interest servicing at the end of the moratorium period and any adverse stipulation by even a minority of lenders could jeopardise stability.

On the other hand, attempts to invoke any contractual provision (like force majeure clauses) to not make payments to gencos may cause steep downward rating revisions since this might lead to regulatory proceedings and elongated period for tariff recovery due to prolonged litigations.

Funding plans such as enhanced working capital limits is monitorable, said Ind-Ra.