India’s Biggest Bank Plans Coal-Loan Policy Before Key Auctions
A worker waits as fellow workers fill a basket with coal during the unloading of a truck at a coal wholesale market in Mumbai, India. (Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)

India’s Biggest Bank Plans Coal-Loan Policy Before Key Auctions

State Bank of India is creating a policy to lend to coal miners before landmark auctions that would end decades of state monopoly on the fuel, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.

Long-term offtake contracts assuring demand will be central to any lending decision, the person said, asking not to be identified before terms are finalized. The nation’s biggest bank would prefer a loan tenor closer to five years, the person added.

Read about SBI’s concerns over funding coal mines

The planned policy suggests SBI is open to providing some of the financing required to put 41 coal mines with a combined annual production capacity of 225 million tons into private hands. The giant bank has flagged concerns about the sector, and Indian banks are reining in loans to corporate borrowers as the coronavirus pandemic pressures asset quality.

SBI’s shares rose 0.8% at 2:44 p.m. in Mumbai, recouping earlier losses of as much as 0.9%

Lenders are also wary about sustained demand for coal, which is seen globally as a dirty fuel but is still the biggest source for electricity generation in India. In Japan and Europe, several banks have announced plans to cut down lending to coal projects.

India’s coal-fired power plants, the biggest users of the fuel, operated at an average 46.2% of their capacity during the three months ended June, compared with 63.2% a year earlier.

State-run MSTC Ltd. will hold the final online auctions from Oct. 19 to Nov. 9, allowing private companies to mine and sell coal for the first time in nearly five decades.

A representative for SBI didn’t immediately reply to an email seeking comment.

The price at which the coal will be sold to potential buyers will also be important to appraise the viability of the loans, the person said, adding that SBI will determine a cap on how much exposure it will have to the sector.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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