MUMBAI : At a time when investing in capacity expansion is seen as a strategy for long-term revenue growth, Steel Authority of India Ltd’s (SAIL) expansion plans appear to have made investors anxious. The worry is that the steelmaker’s expansion plans would lead to significantly higher capital expenditure (capex) thus keeping debt high in the coming years. This could explain why SAIL’s shares have underperformed so far in 2023, gaining 10% compared to 14% rise in the Nifty 500 index.
The company’s management is evaluating various expansion plans including modernization and removing of bottlenecks in the business. As mentioned in its September quarter (Q2FY24) earnings call, SAIL is planning to take initiatives to improve utilization of its existing assets. This would be led by some minor investments, greenfield expansion of IISCO steel plant, and some brownfield expansions that will take place in Durgapur and Bokaro steel plants.
These plans will unfold over the next three-four years, ensuring SAIL avoids a liquidity crisis similar to past expansions at IISCO, Bhilai, and Rourkela, said the company. However, delays are likely given the company’s poor execution track record and existing debt burden. “SAIL’s next phase of capex wave raises concerns as it completed its earlier hot metal expansion plan from 14.6 million tonnes to 25 million tonnes after much delay and capex overrun," said Aditya Welekar, analyst at Axis Securities.
He added that a delay in the past and capex over-run had put pressure on return on invested capital. Even analysts at Kotak Institutional Equities believe SAIL faces the risk of an extended period of high capex, negative free cash flow and rising leverage. For FY24, the expected capex is. Read more on livemint.com