London: Union Minister of Road Transport & Highways and Shipping Nitin Gadkari yesterday launched the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) Masala Bond issue at the London Stock Exchange. The NHAI issue witnessed an overwhelming response from a wide range of investors, including first-timers in the masala bond market.

The initially benchmarked issue of Rs 1,500 crore was upsized to Rs 3,000 crore by yesterday 3.00 PM (GMT) at a price yielding 7.30% annually in view of the highly positive response from the investor market. The transaction marks the largest ever 5-year issuance and the largest inaugural transaction in Masala Bond market. Some of the leading investors were still showing interest in the NHAI issue who may be brought into the fold in the near future.

The NHAI Masala Bond issue has attracted investors from across the spectrum with Asia contributing 60% of the subscription and the balance 40% coming from Europe. Further, 61% of the amount comes from the fund managers or insurance, 18% from the banks and 21% from the private banks. The spectrum of investors shows bright prospects of the masala bond as an instrument of raising rupee denominated resources internationally. On this occasion, the London Stock Exchange presented a memento to Gadkari.

The minister started the day’s trading at LSE yesterday, and also addressed the media at India House, London. Gadkari also visited Ambedkar House, where Dr BR Ambedkar stayed during his student days at London School of Economics.

The NHAI is set to raise Rs 5000 crore through these masala bonds. “The total infrastructure picture in India is changing very rapidly and we need financial support from international investors. We can guarantee that all our projects are economically viable, with a good rate of return,” Gadkari said at the event.

Speaking on the occasions, the minister said, “India gives the highest priority for infrastructure development. Our economy is the fastest growing in the world. NHAI is a flagship organisation, with AAA rating and we have many big projects to offer.” He added, “The NHAI is financially a very strong organisation. This is the first time we have entered the masala bond market and I am confident that we will get a good response.”

The rate of road construction was 2 km per day when Gadkari had taken charge of the transport ministry; it is 23 km a day at the end of March this year, the minister said, explaining that India had 52 lakh km of road length out of which only 96,000 km is the national highway, meaning that 40% of the country’s traffic is concentrated on just 2% of the roads. The government wishes to increase this length to 2 lakh km, he said.

“The minister is someone who is a visionary, who gets things done. We are now on a roll with masala bonds. London is the financial centre of the world and the right place for more masala bond issuances,” said Minister for Asia in the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office Alok Sharma at the ceremony.

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