Construction work takes place on National Highway 1, in Amritsar (Photographer: Pankaj Nangia/Bloomberg News)

Road Project Awards In India Going The HAM Way

Road projects awarded under the hybrid annuity model, where the government and the developer share the costs, rose nearly tenfold in two years, according to Citi Research.

Project length awarded under hybrid annuity model increased from 345 kilometres to 3,396 kilometres in two years through March 2018, the report said.

The HAM, launched by Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari in January 2016, competes with two other models. Here’s how the three differ:

  • Under build-operate-transfer, a developer foots the entire bill to build a project, recovers cost over a period and then transfers it to the government;
  • Engineering-procurement-construction is where the government pays a company to lay roads.
  • HAM is a combination of the two. State-run Nation Highway Authority of India releases 40 per cent of the project cost in tranches. The remainder is arranged by the developer, who also receives semi-annual annuities during the project’s operation and maintenance.

HAM projects are won at costs that are 20 percent higher than NHAI’s project estimates, Credit Suisse said. That leads to a strong return potential as the interest cost for deferred payment is only 3 percent, it said.

The NHAI awarded road orders worth Rs 75,600 crore under HAM in the year ended March compared with the Rs 31,200 crore cumulatively under the other two models.

“Hybrid annuity models have helped debt equity requirements in the industry,” said Rohan Suryavanshi, head of strategy and planning at Dilip Buildcon. “There’s also a sovereign guarantee from the government when it comes to the annuity payments, thus helping the road construction companies to be insulated from regulatory and economic shocks.”

Suryavanshi said though the volatility of returns is low, execution of projects remains a concern. Nomura too strikes a note of caution.

Macro-headwinds have led to a higher risk perception of HAM even as the long-term prospects remain good, the Japanese brokerage said. The areas to watch out will be risk of an unstable government after the 2019 elections, rising interest rates, depreciation of the rupee and increased risk of project financing, it said.