Lukewarm response to arbitration claims by infra developers

Settlement of arbitration claims by infrastructure developers is slow because of the inability of road developers to provide bank guarantees and open escrow accounts, according to India Ratings and Research (Ind-Ra).

The government’s initiative to release 75 per cent of the locked amount in arbitration awards has had a limited impact on the liquidity of developers as banks are wary of taking exposure through bank guarantees without adequate margins or collateral.

Ind-Ra said non-submission of bank guarantees despite reminders by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) and non-opening of escrow accounts were the key deterrents to the success of the scheme, which was approved by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs.

The scheme was approved on August 31, 2016, and the NHAI started accepting claims on December 7, 2016.

The rating agency said since introduction of the scheme, Rs 9,000 crore was released, against Rs 26,000 crore of claims.

Hindustan Construction Company was the biggest beneficiary, receiving Rs 3,800 crore, the rating agency said, quoting NHAI data. The balance claims are pending due to absence of bank guarantees or escrow accounts.

Other companies that received their claims in full are IRB Infrastructure Developers (Rs 2,700 crore), Shapoorji Pallonji (Rs 1,410 crore) and Atlanta Infra Assets (Rs 1,180 crore).

Companies that submitted claims but have not received funds include Oriental Structure Engineers and its group companies (claims of Rs 2,830 crore), IL&FS Engineering and Construction Company (Rs 1,540 crore) and Reliance Infrastructure Group (Rs 1,330 crore).

The NHAI had pending arbitration awards amounting to Rs 220,000 crore on March 31, 2015. According to the NHAI, 65 claims amounting to Rs 26,300 crore have been submitted by road developers and funds in 19 cases amounting to Rs 9,800 crore had been released or settled against margin-free bank guarantees as on May 26, 2017. 

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