Cabinet authorises NHAI to set up infra trusts, monetise highway projects

The union cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has given its approval to the proposal of the ministry of road transport and highways, authorizing the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) to set up Infrastructure Investment Trust(s) (InvITs) as per InvIT Guidelines issued by Sebi. 

This will enable NHAI to monetise completed national highways that have a toll collection track record of at least one year and NHAI will have the right to levy toll on the identified highway.
InvIT as an instrument provides greater flexibility to investors and is expected to create opportunities for:
  • Generation of specialised O&M concessionaires.
  • Attract patient capital (for say 20-30 years) to the Indian highway market, as these investors are averse to construction risk and are interested in investment in assets which provide long-term stable returns.
  • Retail domestic savings and corpus of special institutions (such as mutual funds, PFRDA, etc.) to be invested in infrastructure sector through InvIT.
Roads and highways are the lifeline of the economy, connecting remote and far-flung areas and ensuring efficient transportation on regional as well as pan-India basis. Development of national highways has a multiplier effect in terms of facilitating trade and enhancing the overall economic development of a region.
In October 2017, the government of India launched Bharatmala Pariyojana, which is the flagship highway development programme of the government for development of 24,800 km of roads for a total investment of Rs5,35,000 crore.
Given the magnitude of the Bharatmala programme, NHAI would need adequate funds to complete the projects within the prescribed timelines. As a part of this exercise, a workable option is to monetise the completed and operational NH assets