Adani’s Carmichael Coal project a house of cards: Report

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Map:IEEFA

By SAT News Desk

Melbourne, April 24: The proposed Carmichael Coal project in Queensland by India’s Adani group has once again come under the cloud with a new report by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) saying “Mounting debt across the Adani Group suggests that the Indian conglomerate’s Carmichael mine proposal for northeast Australia has become an increasingly precarious house of cards.”

The report— “Adani: Remote Prospect: Carmichael Status Update 2017”—notes that Adani Enterprise Ltd.’s equity market capitalization has declined from over US$10 billion in 2015 to $1.9 billion today. Relative to net debt estimated at $2.5 billion, this capitalization is wholly insufficient to underwrite even the reduced $5 billion total project cost for Carmichael.

“Adani’s proposal has all the fundamentals of a feckless entrepreneurial scheme reminiscent of those last seen in Australia in the 1980s,” said Tim Buckley, Director of Energy Research at IEEFA and lead author of the report. “Absent massive taxpayer subsidies, no independent investor would give the proposal a second glace given its strategic and financial predicament, particularly set against a rapidly declining market for seaborne thermal coal.”

“The leveraged nature of Adani Enterprises, which controls the Carmichael project, is mirrored across the whole Adani Group,” a IEEFA media release says.

The media release says, “Since early 2015, the Adani group has seen estimated net indebtedness rise by US$3 billion to $15.9 billion. Adani Power alone, mooted as the key off-taker for the Carmichael coal, has net debt of US$7.6bn, and its auditors qualified their most recent review of the company with notes on a material weakness in financial controls. Adani Power, then, is an unbankable off-taker.”

The report describes how the Adani Group currently has a pipeline of US$30 billion of mostly greenfield projects in India in addition to Carmichael, including $10 billion or more in renewable energy proposals plus proposed diversifications into new business areas as various as defense systems and copper smelting.

“Gautam Adani is an ambitious businessman with a broad range of proposals on the table at any one time. Since the purchase of Carmichael in 2010, the forward market value of its coal has declined 50% and thermal coal imports in India are down double digits in line with the government’s stated policy to nearly cease imports entirely by the end of this decade,” Buckley said. “Adani took a calculated business risk on this speculative project in 2010 but the world has changed since then. No longer strategically aligned nor financially robust, today it is less a gamble, more a shot in the dark.”

India’s energy transformation is one of the main drivers of the structural decline of the seaborne the thermal coal that has emerged since 2014.

“India’s government commitment to ending thermal coal imports and its ambitious target of 275GW of renewable energy installations by 2027 is among the forces eating away at the rationale of the Carmichael project.

Record-breaking auctions in India for both solar and wind energy have driven down renewables costs to new lows. Both are now cheaper than new coal in India.”

As a result, coal imports have dropped 22-25 percent year on year over the past two months. Meanwhile, Adani’s Indian renewables and transmission businesses are well aligned with government plans for rapid cost-competitive renewable energy expansion and the provision of electricity to its population.

“Private capital has already vacated the playing field,” Buckley said. “Australian and Indian taxpayers have become the only potential sources of funding, but it should be clear that Carmichael has never looked like more of a stranded asset than it does today.”

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