Steel demand growth moderated to 6.4% in April 2019 from an average of 7.5% in 2018-19 (7.9% in 2017-18). As per ICRA, the ongoing quarter growth is likely to remain lower due to continued weakness in automobile sector and reduced construction activity in the general election period, together with a hike in coking coal prices. This is likely to affect the financial performance of domestic steelmakers in Q1.
However, there would be demand recovery in the construction sector in the second half of FY2020 on account of an expected boost to the infrastructure sector.
ICRA expects that higher coking coal prices are likely to keep the profitability of domestic blast furnace operators under pressure in the current quarter.
Steel imports are expected to go down in the coming months as the domestic hot-rolled coil prices are trading at a 6% discount to imported offers.Domestic steel production growth would recover in the second half of the fiscal, reflecting trends in steel consumption, according to the report.
ICRA expects any meaningful price improvement only in the second half, when spending on infrastructure is likely to gain momentum and the auto sector is expected to rebound on pre-buying ahead of the roll-out of BS-VI emission norms.
The mines ministry will by the end of July issue notices inviting tenders (NITs) to auction 48 operating non-captive iron and manganese ore mines whose leases will expire in March 2020. The move will benefit steelmakers such as JSW Steel and Rashtriya Ispat Nigam (RINL) which have been fearing disruptions in supply of the key raw material.
Cumulatively, these mines annually produce around 45 million tonne of both the raw materials, mostly iron ore. Half of these mines are located in Odisha, six each in Jharkhand and Karnataka, five in Gujarat, three in Andhra Pradesh, two in Rajasthan and one each in Himachal Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.
As per the provisions of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2015, the lease period for merchant miners, totalling 329, are set to be expired in March 2020. Around 281 of these merchant mines are non-working ones.
In order to facilitate auction of the working mines even before the expiry of leases, the government has already brought in an amendment to the Mineral Concession and Development Rules (MCDR) in March last year, mandating existing lessees to complete G2 level of exploration to establish main geological features of a deposit over the entire mineralised area before April 2019.
The mines ministry has already formed a committee to look into the post-auction issues related to transition from the old to the new lessee and has mandated the committee to prepare a draft guideline.
As per the industry person, the extant law grants a lessee a total of seven months after the expiry of the lease to remove any ore mineral excavated during the lease period and the plant and machinery. Any move to force them out early will lead to litigation and chaos and disruption of raw material supplies to steel plants.
Amid an escalating trade war between the US and China, commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal will meet with officials and representatives of various trade promotion councils on Thursday to firm up a strategy to boost exports.
The export growth remained subdued at an average of just 3.2% in the past six months through April, while the trade war impacted the Indian and global trade prospects as well. There are chances of higher dumping from China, especially steel.
The US will also withdraw duty benefits on annual Indian exports of around $5.6 billion under its Generalised System of Preferences programme from Thursday.
The roads ministry is aiming to build 12,000 km of national highways in the current financial year in a bid to boost the pace of work to 40 km a day, Nitin Gadkari, minister for road transport and highways, said. According to him, the road ministry reached its peak performance with 10,800 km of highways built last year at 32 km per day.
The minister said that focus over the next five years would be to strengthen the country’s infrastructure and create jobs through small industries.
BJP’s manifesto has promised to invest Rs 100 lakh crore in the infrastructure sector, a significant amount of which is expected to go into construction of national highways and bullet train corridors, among other projects. The manifesto has also promised construction of 60,000 km of national highways over the next five years.
Gadkari said the Delhi-Mumbai expressway will lead to economic development in the backward areas of Rajasthan, Haryana and Ghaziabad, through which the highway passes.
The minister also encouraged the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) to allow oil marketing companies to set up fuel stations along the 1,300 km-long expressway. Around 2,000 petrol pumps can be set up along the Delhi-Mumbai expressway.
The minister has sent the Motor Vehicles Act to the cabinet for approval, and will try to table it in the upcoming session of Parliament. He also held a review meeting of the highways ministry on Tuesday.
Financial year 2018-19 was favourable for the cement industry as:
The industry registered double-digit volume growth for the first time in the past nine years;
Capacity utilisation reached close to 71%, the highest in the past seven years;
Cement prices climbed about 2% in FY19. Fuel costs declined, in sync with crude prices
In the current financial year, the industry is expected to enhance realisations by 2-5% on account of the following factors:
The government’s investments in infrastructure and its focus on the pace of execution;
In each of the next five years, the Central government is expected to build about 6,000 km length of roads; and
The low-cost housing segment is also likely to boost cement demand.
Given the present situation, companies in the northern, central, and eastern regions are likely to show better revenue growth for FY20. UltraTech Cement, Shree Cement, Ramco, JK Lakshmi Cement and Orient Cement are expected to report higher realisations of at least 4% in FY20.
In the past four months, cement stocks are up in the range of 35-40% and trading at premium valuation to historical averages. Premium valuations are expected to be undergirded by expectations of higher volumes and realisations in FY20.