New Delhi: Fitch Ratings says that increase in proposed infrastructure spending in India’s latest government budget is unlikely to provide a boost to domestic steel demand growth, unless project execution rates pick up significantly. Domestic steel producers also face overcapacity, which is likely to weigh on their profitability and credit metrics in the near term.
The budget plans to increase capex on infrastructure (roads, railways and shipping) in the financial year ending March 2017 (FY17) by 23% to INR2.3trn. For FY16, the government had budgeted for infrastructure investment to double from actual spending in FY15. However, except for a pick-up in road construction (up 36% yoy in 1HFY16), project implementation appears to have been weak so far in FY16.
Private-sector investment has also remained weak, given the stretched corporate balance sheets. As a result, steel demand growth in India has remained soft at 4.7% yoy in 9MFY16. We expect steel demand growth to improve slightly to 7%-8% in FY17, supported by a pick-up in government infrastructure spending with better project execution.
However, the steel industry is burdened by overcapacity. Domestic capacity is scheduled to jump by about 15 million tonnes over the 2HFY16-FY17 period, which will exceed a potential 6 million tonne increase in domestic steel demand in FY17. At the same time, global supply continues to outstrip demand. Given the supply-demand growth mismatch, producers are likely to engage in price competition amid weak utilisation levels. Therefore, a recovery in sales realisation and profitability for Indian steelmakers is unlikely before FY18.