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A consortium of 15 lenders led by State Bank of India (SBI) will likely add to its exposure to the highly-leveraged Essar Steel India, lending it an additional Rs 6,000 crore. Essar Steel, promoted by the Ruias, has already borrowed close to R30,000 crore. Essar group, in turn, will bring in Rs 2,000 crore by way of promoters’ contribution. Of the R6,000 crore, the company will use around R2,000-2,500 crore to repay group companies from whom it borrowed to pay banks.
Bankers defend the fresh exposure saying without this, Essar Steel would end up in the corporate debt restructuring (CDR) cell. They point out that although the company has not defaulted, it might have trouble servicing its debt. “It’s better to give them the additional amount than restructuring the account since that would mean taking a hit on the interest,” a senior banker explained. The banks plan to take this fresh exposure to the steel company at an interest rate of 12.50%. A restructuring allows the borrower to revive the business since he gets more lenient repayment terms. In the April-June 2013 quarter, banks have already restructured R21,266 crore. In FY13, banks had restructured over R76,000 crore of loans through this route.
Essar Steel’s revenues in FY13 were R22,000 crore and are projected to rise to R33,000 crore in FY15 once the plant is fully operational. The steel major, part of the Essar Group conglomerate, is also trying to reduce its interest cost by refinancing its rupee debt via funds raised in dollars. Last month, the company raised $1 billion (approximately R6,800 crore) through external commercial borrowings and has plans to raise $2 billion more through pre-export finance, which will be borrowed against confirmed orders from foreign buyers, by the end of the year.
Essar paid Rs 6,000 crore to banks since March, 2011, the scheduled date of commercialisation, as per the original loan schedule. Since its raw material plant in Orissa will only be completed by December, 2013, Essar has made a case for an additional loan, arguing it was making the payments before the actual commercial operations date (CoD).
Currently, Essar Steel pays 12.5-13% on its rupee debt, which may come down by 6% to 7% via the refinancing, according to the company spokesperson.
Bankers draw comfort from the steps the management has initiated to cut costs and increase margins. The company plans to sell high-strength and low-alloy products, and has already started