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JSW Energy shareholders clear plan to raise Rs21,000 crore for acquisitions

LiveMint logoLiveMint 13-07-2017 Shakti Patra

Sajjan Jindal is readying a war chest to buy out stressed assets in the power sector. Shareholders of Jindal-promoted JSW Energy Ltd on Thursday voted to give the company board the power to raise up to Rs21,000 crore through various securities.

This included Rs5,000 crore via issuing non-convertible debentures, up to $750 million (over Rs4,800 crore) via foreign currency bonds and masala bonds, and up to Rs7,500 crore by issuing fresh equity.

Jindal, however, declined to give out details of assets his company is actively pursuing and termed the shareholder approvals as “enabling resolutions” for the future. He, however, said that the company is a buyer in the market.

JSW’s fund-raising preparation comes at a time when at least 18,000 megawatts (MW) of coal-based power plants are stranded due to lack of power purchase agreements, fuel supply or last mile funding due to the poor financial health of their promoter groups.

Separately, the central bank is also pushing banks to speedily clear up non-performing assets on their books, a significant portion of which originates in the power sector.

To be sure, an enabling resolution had been passed by the company’s shareholders to raise a similar Rs7,500 via equity issuance during the company’s last annual general meeting in July 2016, but the board hadn’t utilized the limit.

There is no doubt that such a large resource mobilization is an indication that JSW is looking at acquisitions, said G. Chokkalingam, founder of Equinomics Research and Advisory. “I, however, doubt if this is the right time to acquire power assets, given the structural changes that are happening in the sector,” he said.

In the last three years, JSW Energy had completed the acquisitions of two hydropower projects from Jaiprakash Power for Rs9,275 crore. It had also reached an agreement to acquire the latter’s thermal power plant at Bina (which is expected to be complete by December).

Despite structural challenges such as threats from renewable power and fewer power purchase agreements, JSW Energy is being seen as a logical buyer for thermal assets. It has one of the healthiest balance sheets in the sector, with a consolidated net-debt-to-equity ratio of 1.29 and a net-debt-to-Ebitda (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) ratio of 3.78.

While it currently has a power production capacity of 4,531MW, the firm aims to expand up to 10,000MW.

“For those companies that are not over-leveraged, this might be a great time to pick up assets in the power sector given the bargain they are available at due to prolonged stress,” said Gaurang Shah, vice-president, Geojit BNP Paribas. And Jindal certainly seems to believe so.

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