Top Power Gear Maker Cuts Prices to Fight Slump: Corporate India

Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd. (BHEL), India’s largest maker of power equipment, cut prices by at least 15 percent in the past year to stem a slide in orders that threatens to send profit lower for a second straight year.

Electricity producers are scaling back investment because of a shortage of fuel, hurting manufacturers of equipment such as boilers, turbines and generators, said P.K. Bajpai, finance director at the state-owned company. Pending projects aren’t yielding orders as Asia’s third-largest economy expands at the slowest pace in a decade, according to Bajpai.

“We are trying to bid as aggressively as possible, but there’s overcapacity in the market,” Bajpai said in an interview. “We’ve corrected our prices in line with the market. We can only wait for things to improve as they will take time to get sorted.”

Shares of the New Delhi-based company have tumbled 31 percent this year, the fifth-worst performer on the benchmark 30-stock S&P BSE Sensex (SENSEX) index, after net income fell for the first time in 12 years. The South Asian nation plans to add 118 gigawatts of generation projects in the five years through March 2017 after falling 31 percent short of its capacity addition target of 80 gigawatts in the previous period.

Photographer: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Bloomberg

Bharat Heavy Electrical Ltd. logo displayed on an AC/DC locomotive train engine used by Central Railways, is seen on the outskirts of Mumbai. Close

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Photographer: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Bloomberg

Bharat Heavy Electrical Ltd. logo displayed on an AC/DC locomotive train engine used by Central Railways, is seen on the outskirts of Mumbai.

Profit Drop

Bharat Heavy, scheduled to report on Aug. 3 its performance for the quarter ended June 30, may say net income declined 14 percent from a year earlier to 7.93 billion rupees ($131.3 million), according to the median of 38 analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

Of the 58 analysts who track the stock, 32 recommend selling it, while eight favor buying it, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Shares of Bharat Heavy advanced 3.8 percent to 158.30 rupees today in Mumbai, the most in a month.

A shortage of coal and natural gas, fuels used to generate power, and the inability of indebted state distribution utilities to pay have reduced generation projects. Plans by power producers to invest as much as $43 billion have been shelved as the $1.8 trillion economy expanded 5 percent last year, the least since 2003.

Environmental concerns and delays in land acquisition are also stalling investments.

Stalled Projects

Tata Power Co., India’s second-largest and third-most indebted generator, is struggling to turn around the nation’s biggest power plant by allowing it to seek higher tariffs and find cheaper fuels as it negotiates with lenders to waive penalties for failing to meet some loan conditions.

Producers, including Reliance Power Ltd. (RPWR), Adani Power Ltd. (ADANI) and state-run NTPC Ltd. (NTPC) have together shelved more than 50 gigawatts of projects, citing fuel shortages. Projects with a generation capacity of 7 gigawatts were stranded without coal, B.K. Chaturvedi, member-energy at the Planning Commission said in February.

Bharat Heavy’s sales in the 12 months ended March 31 grew less than 1 percent to 476.2 billion rupees, slowing from an average 25 percent in the previous four years, while net income declined 6 percent to 66.1 billion rupees.

“At the moment, nothing seems to be going in favor of the company,” said Anubhav Gupta, an analyst at Kim Eng Securities Pvt. in Mumbai. “For Bharat Heavy’s fortunes to revive, the government has to take some special measures for the power sector.”

Cutting Costs

Bharat Heavy’s profit is set to drop in the current fiscal year and next, said Gupta and Chirag Muchhala, an analyst at Nirmal Bang Equities Pvt. in Mumbai. Average annual orders won by the equipment maker more than halved in the two years through March 2013 from an average 597 billion rupees over the previous three years.

Demand for the machinery may increase during the nation’s 13th Five-Year Plan that starts April 2017, when the government prepares an expenditure outlay, benefiting Bharat Heavy, Satish Kumar and Jay Kakkad, analysts at Standard Chartered Securities India Ltd., wrote in a July 18 report.

The company also expects to cut costs by manufacturing some components locally and as 12,000 workers retire in the next five years, they wrote.

Besides an economic slowdown and fuel-supply bottlenecks, local competitors and cheaper imports from China have also hurt Bharat Heavy. The company’s share of orders have fallen to 41 percent in the current five-year plan from 49 percent in the prior period, Bharat Heavy said in a presentation in November.

Fierce Competition

Rivals including Larsen & Toubro Ltd. (LT), BGR Energy Systems Ltd. (BGRL) and JSW Energy Ltd. (JSW) have partnered with foreign equipment makers to set up factories, raising the nation’s local capacity to almost 30 gigawatts.

“Entry of new domestic players in the boiler-turbine-generator industry has led to overcapacities resulting in severe price under-cutting to win new orders,” said Muchhala. “Bharat Heavy alone has an installed capacity to produce 20 gigawatts of power equipment capacity, whereas annual orders are nearly half of that due to the economic slowdown.”

India is considering raising levies on imports of power plant equipment to 26 percent to shield the local industry, heavy industry minister Praful Patel said July 24. The government raised taxes on overseas purchases last year to 21 percent.

“There’s fierce competition,” said Bharat Heavy’s Bajpai. “There are projects in the pipeline, but they aren’t getting converted into orders. You see what is happening to coal, environment and land issues. Who is going to lend to projects if these problems persist?”

To contact the reporters on this story: Rajesh Kumar Singh in New Delhi at rsingh133@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jason Rogers at jrogers73@bloomberg.net

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