Power sector in dire straits

A developing India needs proper supply of electricity to meet the growing demand from households and other sectors and sustain its economic growth. But there is a yawning gap between what is planned and what the power sector has delivered.


The government had earlier set a goal for adding 78,577 MW of electricity capacity during the 11th Five-Year Plan, which was scaled down to 62,000 MW by the Planning Commission in its mid-term review, citing environmental and land acquisition hurdles.

Other issues that have plagued the power sector include shortage of fuel, distorted prices of electricity, worsening health of power distribution companies, higher transmission and distribution (T&D) losses among others.

According to the Association of Power Producers (APP), a grouping of over 20 private power companies in the country, an estimated 52 power projects having total capacity of 68,563 megawatts are facing default risks at present.

clip_image002Coal-fired plants, which account for 55.9% of the country’s total power-generating capacity, are facing a severe scarcity of the fuel. The demand-supply gap for coal, which stood at 84 million tonnes (MT) last fiscal, is likely to touch 142 MT in the current financial year.

Coal India [stockquote]COALINDIA[/stockquote], which accounts for 80% of the country’s output, aims to produce 464 million tonnes in 2012/13, and has already scaled down output target to 440 million tonnes in 2011/12.

Coal India’s inability to ramp up output forced the PMO to intervene and direct the state run energy major to sign compulsory supply pacts with power companies.

Starved of fuel, power firms have been importing coal from Australia and Indonesia. Last month, a Bloomberg report noted that India is poised to surpass China as the world’s top importer of thermal coal with purchases exceeding 118 million tonnes this year in India compared with China’s 102 million tonnes. Domestic fuel shortage has led to increased reliance on imported coal for fuelling the additional power capacity.


Even as coal supply has run dry, other sources like gas have failed to bridge the supply gap.
With each passing day, gas production from RIL’s prized KG~D6 basin has been hitting new lows. Output stood at 41mmscmd in Q3 FY2012 compared to 45mmscmd in Q2 FY2012. Due to lack of gas from RIL’s block, several gas-based power projects by Reliance Power[stockquote]RPOWER[/stockquote], Lanco [stockquote]LITL[/stockquote] and GMR [stockquote]GMRINFRA[/stockquote] in Andhra Pradesh are sitting idle.


The Power Ministry’s pet project, Ultra Mega Power Projects (UMPPs), each of which is 4000 MW, face an additional problem of financing as lenders are unwilling to bear the risks associated with the execution of such large projects.




The fallout of these multiple set of problems has been an increase in impairments and restructuring of loans to the power sector.


Since the power sector is considered as a catalyst for economic growth, hard-core reforms are needed to make the sector more efficient and meet the heavy demand for electricity.

Policies must be evolved to ensure completion of on-going projects quickly and add new capacity in an efficient, least cost manner, greater reliance on renewable energy like wind and solar power, easy access to long-term finance, assured supply of coal and gas and an efficient distribution system.

Returns on Reliance

RIL Logo

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We had discussed how risk and return are two sides of the same coin (read the series here). Also, we looked at the high price correlation of Reliance vs. the Nifty 50 index. The question yet to be answered is this: given a choice between owning Reliance and owning the NIFTYBEES ETF, what should an investor do?

Lets look at the pros of owning the NIFTYBEES:

  1. The NIFTYBEES represent the broader market. Investors get a diversified, market-weighted portfolio.
  2. 8.73% of the NIFTYBEES is, in fact, Reliance. So investors do get a slice of exposure to Reliance.

Now what would be the disadvantages of owning the NIFTYBEES vs. owning Reliance outright?

  1. If Reliance out-performs the index, then investors only get a small (8.73%) of the increase
  2. Investors may not want to buy the entire index and might prefer a concentrated portfolio of just resource stocks, of which Reliance is one.

To answer this question, lets turn our heads to two measures: alpha and beta (discussed here.) Reliance has an alpha of -0.0002946529 and a beta of 1.027928. What this shows is that Reliance actually underperformed the index (a –ve alpha) and it more or less tracked the index (a beta close to 1; confirmed by our correlation study.)

We are in the process of rolling out alpha and beta of individual stocks against the Nifty 50 index. Stay tuned!

The Reliance on Correlation

Our previous discussion of correlation in the NSE looked at a years worth of data for the NIFTY 50 components to see how individual stocks correlated with the index. There are three ways to look at correlation:

  1. Highly correlated stocks can be substituted with each other. For example, if the price of stock A is highly correlated with the price of stock B (r approaching 1), then investors should be indifferent between owning A or B.
  2. Correlation can be used to expose relative value. For example, in the above example, if A pays more dividends than B, then owning A is better than owning B.
  3. Correlation as a trading tool. In the above example, say on a particular day A drops (or rises) more than B, then you can put on a trade betting on mean reversion – that ultimately A & B will start behaving similarly.

For example, lets have a look at RELIANCE over the NIFTY 50 index. I created a series of 10-day correlations (r)

For 2006:


For 2007:


For 2008:


For 2009:


For 2010:


and lastly for 2011:


It looks like RELIANCE is usually highly correlated to the NIFTY 50 and the range is somewhere between 0.7 and 1.0. Lets have a look at the histogram to get a better idea:


You need to ignore the deviations around stock splits and dividend ex-dates (for example, on 26-Nov-2009, RELIANCE issued a 1:1 bonus so the displacement that you see surrounding that date should be ignored) to truly appreciate what’s going here.

The charts show that there are significant number of instances when the correlation breaks down but it always moves back into the range. Looks like betting on convergence seems to be a no-brainer.

Have a trade idea? Let me know!

Reliance Industries – Too big for India

NEW DELHI, INDIA - NOVEMBER 08: Indian Industr...

Image by Getty Images via @daylife

Over the following four and a half decades Ambani took plenty more chances, making bets on vast projects and using brawn and guile to deal with officials and politicians. Today RIL is a conglomerate active in energy, refining and petrochemicals, with a market value of $55 billion, or a tenth of the worth of India’s stockmarket.

At the most recent AGM in June some attendees grouched about the stock price and low dividends; today, with the shares at 770 rupees, they might be grumpier still. Though RIL’s motto is “growth is life”, its valuation implies that the years of plenty are over. Of RIL’s main business lines, refining is chugging along, and the firm is investing to double the size of its petrochemicals unit.

An important factor may be that the pool of potential outside investors has shifted from Indian individuals to institutions and foreigners, who are typically sceptical about the long-term prospects of the refining and petrochemical industries, which have a lousy track record in most countries.



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