Iraq seeks $100bn to reconstruct transport, agriculture and oil sectors

Local residents remove bodies from the rubble in the Old City of Mosul. Cities across Iraq have been destroyed by years of war with as much as $100 billion needed for the reconstruction effort. (Reuters)
Updated 09 February 2018
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Iraq seeks $100bn to reconstruct transport, agriculture and oil sectors

BAGHDAD: Iraq is seeksing around $100 billion in foreign investment in transport, energy and agriculture as part of a plan to rebuild parts of the country and revive the economy after a three-year war on Daesh.
The government’s National Investment Commission published a list of 157 projects it will seek investment for at an International Conference for Reconstruction of Iraq to be hosted by Kuwait Feb. 12 to 14.
Some of these projects are about rebuilding destroyed facilities like Mosul’s airport, while others are new investments to strengthen and diversify the economy away from oil, said an economic adviser to Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi.
“All together, they cost about $100 billion,” the adviser, Mudhar Saleh, told Reuters. Sixteen projects carry a price tag of $500 million or more, according to the list.
Rebuilding homes, hospitals, schools, roads, businesses and telecommunications is key to providing jobs to the young, to end the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people and put an end to several decades of political and sectarian violence.
Iraq declared victory over Daesh in December, having taken back all the territory captured by the militants in 2014 and 2015. A US-led coalition supported the Iraqi forces, especially in the battle to dislodge them from Mosul, their de facto capital in northern Iraq, in July.
The US government will not contribute funds at the conference but will instead encourage investment from the private sector and Gulf Arab allies, US and Western officials said.
A US official in Baghdad said 100 US companies were participating in the conference.
Three rail projects top the list: A 500-kilometer (311 mile) line from Baghdad to Basra in the south estimated to cost $13.7 billion, a line from Baghdad to Mosul in the north estimated at $8.65 billion and an $8 billion metro for the capital.
Iraq reopened to foreign investment in 2003 after the US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, but the vast majority of the billions invested went to increasing its oil and gas production.
It has become the second-largest crude exporter of OPEC, after Saudi Arabia, with a daily output of 4.4 million barrels.
At the conference, Iraq will seek investment in the downstream oil industry including in storage tanks, refineries and petrochemical plants to process its crude into plastics and fertilizers.
Saleh said investments in the oil industry and agriculture will probably be easier to attract than other sectors given the country’s vast crude reserves, available land and water wealth.
Total land offered for investments to grow “strategic crops” is nearly 1,500 square kilometers (580 square miles). Iraq, one of the world’s largest wheat importers, aims to achieve self-sufficiency and possibly become a net exporter of the grain.
“We feel there will be support for Iraq, from the Americans, the Europeans, the Arab countries, the United Nations, and humanitarian organizations,” said Saleh.


India’s small renewables firms fighting consolidation wave

Updated 21 August 2018
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India’s small renewables firms fighting consolidation wave

  • With many smaller operators being gobbled up or offering themselves for sale, the number of projects being developed could fall
  • Besides loans, other funding options have been dead ends for the smaller companies, further limiting growth opportunities

MUMBAI: Small to mid-sized renewable energy companies in India are starting to look like attractive takeover targets as lenders and investors withhold funds, worried by the stiff competition, weak bond markets, low tariffs and high debt besetting the sector.
The small companies’ difficulty in raising cash is keeping them away from government power project auctions, restricting their growth and crippling their ability to refinance loans, said a consultant from a top global consultancy firm.
With many smaller operators being gobbled up or offering themselves for sale, the number of projects being developed could fall, potentially keeping India from its renewable energy targets, said the consultant, who did not wish to be named as he is directly involved with a company that canceled a bond issue.
“India’s solar industry is becoming a big boys’ club,” said Rahul Goswami, managing director of Greenstone Energy Advisers.
In a few years, there may be only a few big companies and a few regional firms active in India’s renewable sector, he said.
The trend goes back at least to 2016, when Tata Power bought solar and wind company Welspun Renewable Energy, but the pace is expected to pick up.
“Smaller players are being squeezed out ... due to two main factors: cost of equipment and ... financing,” said Alok Verma, executive director at Kotak Investment Banking, an arm of Kotak Mahindra Bank.
One of India’s largest renewables companies, Greenko Group, said in June that it was buying 750 megawatts (MWs) of solar and wind assets from Orange Renewables, because the Singapore-based company saw few opportunities for growth. The deal has yet to be closed.
Essel Infra, with a renewable power capacity of 685 MWs, and Shapoorji Pallonji Group’s 400-MW solar arm are also in talks to sell off their assets, one firm and two banks doing the due diligence for these companies have said.
Besides loans, other funding options have also been dead ends for the smaller companies, further limiting growth opportunities.
ACME Solar postponed an initial public offering (IPO) announced in September last year as the proposed share issue did not generate enough interest from investors, confirmed a banker who was directly involved in the listing attempt.
Mytrah Energy, a major mid-sized renewables company, called off a $300 million to $500 million bond issue earlier this year as that option also went dry for the sector, and it canned IPO plans as well, said a separate banker directly involved there.
The companies have all declined to comment.
This dearth of financing and trend toward consolidation could be a significant threat to India’s target of 175 gigawatts (GWs) of renewables capacity by 2022, up from 71 GWs now, some analysts said.
Others said a concentration of bigger players, with more cash and better financing, could mean things move faster.
“Consolidation in the renewable energy industry augurs well for the overall success of the program ... Large players have access to required capital at reasonable rates and can procure the latest technology,” said Debasish Mishra, head of Energy, Resources and Industrials at Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu India.
Tata Power, one of India’s largest power generators, said in May it plans to invest $5 billion to increase its renewable capacity in India fourfold over the next decade to 12 GWs.
More than doubling India’s renewables capacity by 2022 will require $76 billion, including debt of $53 billion, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy said in July.
Another problem in India’s renewable sector is debt.
“Many mid-sized firms have taken debt to fund their equity,” the partner of an investment firm said, adding that many such companies will need financial restructuring or have to put themselves up for auction.
This model of financing debt through equity is called mezzanine financing and tends to involve high interest rates and an option to convert debt to equity in future.
Both ACME and Mytrah are funded by Piramal Finance Ltd. via mezzanine financing, according to statements by the companies at the time of funding.
For lending banks, this quasi-equity is seen as debt, making the liabilities of these companies look higher than usual, said the partner, who asked not to be named. The investment firm handles all kinds of financing, including mezzanine.
When companies with mezzanine financing go to banks for funds for upcoming projects, banks ask them for higher collateral or offer less cash in loan, said Kotak’s Verma.
Fitch Solutions said in a note last week that India would likely miss its renewable capacity targets due to “risks stemming from bureaucratic, financing and logistical delays.”