Deconstructing a slump

Construction industry hits a wall
The extended lockdown to stem the Covid-19 pandemic has compounded India’s growth woes. Along with external risks such as weak global demand, supply disruptions, and global financial shocks, the economy now faces factory shutdowns, reduced discretionary spending, and delayed capex cycle.

The construction industry, which mirrors the economy, is expected to take a huge blow from all this. A CRISIL Research analysis indicates a 12-16% contraction in construction investments for the industry this fiscal to ₹7.3 lakh crore from ₹8.6 lakh crore in fiscal 2020.

The estimate factors lower capex by central and state governments due to diversion of funds towards healthcare, public welfare and social obligations. This, at a time when their finances are already strained and gross budgetary support to infrastructure is expected to decline due to lower revenue receipts. Budgetary allocation to infrastructure by the central government for fiscal 2021, is lower compared with fiscal 2020.

It also factors the lockdown impacting construction activity and movement of labour in the first half of fiscal 2021.

With construction activities deferred, players in the construction sector are expected to log a 13-17% drop in revenue in fiscal 2021. What’s worse, earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (Ebitda) margins are estimated at 4-6% for the fiscal, down from 7-9% expected in the preceding one.

First quarter to draw a blank
With the continuing lockdown, labour issues and supply chain disruptions, CRISIL research believes the current quarter will be a washout.

The government has allowed construction of roads in rural belts and irrigation and renewable energy projects in virus-free zones or regions with no positive cases in the preceding 28 days from April 20.

However, construction companies face challenges in arranging transportation and accommodation for labour, maintaining social distancing at construction sites, obtaining clearances from district officials for intra-and inter-district projects, and ensuring raw material availability.

Industries such as transportation, quarrying, steel, cement and forging need to be up and running for meeting the raw material requirements of the construction sector. Add to this the workforce issues and the need to have permits and clearances in place before construction can resume, the sector is likely to take some time to return to normalcy even after the lockdown is lifted.

The bulk of construction activity, therefore, will likely resume only in the third quarter this fiscal.

Revenue outlook for the construction industry this fiscal

Deconstructing a slump
Source: CRISIL Research

Construction investment components

Deconstructing a slump
Note: 1) The split is over fiscals 2017 to 2019
2) Infrastructure segment comprises roads, railways, power, urban infrastructure (metro, water supply systems, smart cities), airports, warehouses, ports, irrigation and telecom towers
Source: CRISIL Research

Infrastructure spend as a proportion of GDP on a downtrend, Covid-19 to steepen decline
Deconstructing a slump
Note: 1. GDP growth rates for GDP at constant prices with FY12 base
2. GDP at current rates used for infrastructure as % of GDP
Source: CRISIL Research, Ministry of Statistics and Program Implementation

Infrastructure investments as a proportion of gross domestic product (GDP) stagnated between 4.5% and 5% till fiscal 2017, and have moved lower since then. The Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent nationwide lockdown till May 31 are likely to result in a drop in infrastructure investments as funds are diverted for meeting healthcare and social spends such as feeding and housing migrant labourers, paying for shramik train fares, and procuring personal protective equipment.

Higher dependency on public funds for construction spends

Deconstructing a slump
Source: CRISIL Research

The share of private spending has fallen from ~26% in fiscal 2010 to ~17% in fiscal 2020 as public–private partnership (PPP) models have failed to take off in most infrastructure sectors, except airports and roads, due to private entities having to bear majority of the risks in PPP models.

Drop in budgetary allocations pre-Covid not a good sign for infrastructure sector

Deconstructing a slump
Source: Union budget documents, CRISIL Research

The budgetary allocation for fiscal 2021 for the sector witnessed a 7% decline over the revised estimate for fiscal 2020. The proportion of gross budgetary support increased to ~41% of the total budgetary allocation in fiscal 2021 from ~35% in fiscal 2020. The pandemic and the subsequent lockdown will impact government revenue receipts as direct and indirect tax collections are expected to be hit with the reduction in economic activity. The turmoil in the global economy and financial markets would also impact the external borrowing capability of the central and state governments.

States’ infra allocations had fallen even before the pandemic struck
Allocation to infrastructure for fiscal 2021 has moderated even for states with higher spends on the sector.

Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat, which account for 26% of the pie have seen a decline in outlay compared with the previous fiscal, while for Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh, which account for 24%, it is flat.

Deconstructing a slump
Note: 1. Size of the bubble indicates FY21 budget estimates for capex investments in Rs crore
2. Green colour indicates on-year growth in infra spends for FY21 is higher than the last 3 years’ average; Yellow colour indicates on-year growth in infra spends for FY21 is around the last 3 years’ average; Red colour indicates on-year reduction in infra spends for FY21 over the last 3 years’ average
Source: CRISIL Research, state budget documents

States most affected by Covid-19 among top spenders on infra
States contribute the bulk of investments in urban development, water supply systems (WSS) and irrigation sectors.

However, with many of the top-spending states hit hard by the pandemic, and the subsequent lockdown, the priorities have shifted.

To add to their woes, state excise duty collections (on alcohol and fuel) are likely to drop as alcohol sale was banned for a month post lockdown imposition and fuel consumption has reduced to a trickle.

Consequently, investments in these sectors are likely to be hit as states utilise funds for meeting healthcare – which is a state subject – and social expenses arising due to the pandemic.

Deconstructing a slump
Note: Size of the bubble indicates budgeted state excise duty as a percentage of total tax collections for FY21
Source: Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, state budget documents, CRISIL Research

Revenue set to decline second year in a row
Deconstructing a slump

Construction firms are expected to see a 13-17% on-year drop in revenue due to the suspension of construction activities and slow pick-up post lifting of the lockdown. The sector is likely to return to normalcy only in the third quarter of fiscal 2021.

Lower proportion of fixed costs to cushion margins for construction firms
Deconstructing a slump
Source: CRISIL Research

Construction firms typically have a higher proportion of variable costs related to raw materials, electricity charges, equipment rentals and daily labour costs. Fixed costs are limited to compensation of full-time staff, maintenance of equipment and rentals.

Ebitda margin at an all-time low
Deconstructing a slump
Note: The sample set includes 65 listed companies in the construction sector
Source: CRISIL Research, company reports
CRISIL Research expects Ebitda margin for the sector to contract 200-300 basis points to 4-6% in fiscal 2021 from estimated 7-9% in fiscal 2020.

Higher proportion of variable costs for construction firms cushion the margin from a sharper drop in revenue. Benefits of lower inputs costs are unlikely to improve margins of players as most contracts have in-built material price escalation clauses

At the net level, players may make losses.

50% of debt among listed 65 players indicate weakening of profiles
A sample analysis of 65 firms with a total debt of ~₹1 lakh crore as of September 2019, threw up interesting results.

Deconstructing a slump
  • 37 firms, accounting for 57% of the sample and holding 39% of the sample’s debt, have an interest service coverage ratio (ISCR) below 1, while 12 firms, accounting for 18% of the sample and holding only 7% of the debt, have a comfortable ISCR above 3
  • 24 firms holding 49% of the sample’s debt have a relatively high net debt/Ebitda ratio above 3
  • 31% of the sample’s debt has a quick ratio less than 0.1
Deconstructing a slump
Note: 1. ISCR = EBIT/Interest for H1FY2020
2. Net Debt/EBITDA = (Total Debt – Cash)/ EBITDA. Debt is as on 30/09/2019 while EBITDA is on TTM basis i.e. H2FY2019 and H1FY2020
3. Quick ratio = (Debtors + Cash)/Current Liabilities as on 30/09/2019
Source: CRISIL Research, company reports

Roads EPC players relatively better off, real estate players may need course correction
Analysis of the sample split by type of construction activities (road players, diversified construction and real estate) indicate road players have a healthier credit profile compared with diversified construction firms and real estate players, in terms of ISCR, Net Debt/Ebitda and quick ratios.

Deconstructing a slump
Note: 1. Road players and Diversified construction firms are considered on a standalone basis while Real estate players contain 10 consolidated and 20 standalone players
2. ISCR = EBIT/Interest for H1FY2020
3. Net Debt/EBITDA = (Total Debt – Cash)/ EBITDA. Debt is as on 30/09/2019 while EBITDA is on TTM basis i.e. H2FY2019 and H1FY2020
4. Quick ratio = (Debtors + Cash)/Current Liabilities as on 30/09/2019
Source: CRISIL Research, company reports

Funding pattern for infrastructure sub-sectors

Deconstructing a slump

State funds contribute close to 45% of spends on infrastructure. While some sectors are solely dependent on state funding, others get a lion’s share of the central contribution. Private spending is already at an estimated all-time low of 17% in fiscal 2020 compared with 26% in fiscal 2010. It is expected to further dip in fiscal 2021 with the revenue of private players and capacity utilisation of their existing projects impacted significantly.
Considerations for Site Selection for Engineering Plant Projects
Site selection is the first and most important factor for location of any Engineering Plant Project as they involve huge construction costs. An unsuitable or wrong project site can result in great loss and may also lead to delays or failure of the project. Anil Kumar Nanda

Read more ...

Construction Mishaps - A Question Mark on Quality & Safety
Zainab Faridi compiles a series of recent construction mishaps that not only underscore the perils faced by Indian construction workers but also expose the urgent need for stricter quality check parameters, a skilled workforce, accountable project management

Read more ...

Decarbonizing Construction Industry for a Greener Future
A recent report by Deliotte - Shell indicates that the construction sector accounts for 37% of global CO2 emissions, of which 16% represent embodied carbon, that is carbon dioxide coming from material sourcing and manufacturing, logistics, and construction

Read more ...

Policy Prescription for Circular Economy to Boost Infra Construction
At a time when India is pushing policy reforms in a big way to provide a major boost to its economy, the generation of colossal 9.46 million tons of plastic waste every year and 150 metric tons of construction waste annually (about 40% of the global

Read more ...

7 Years of RERA Of Promising Gains, Challenges & Pitfalls
After seven years of its journey, the landmark reform of RERA (Real Estate Regulatory Act) has made some remarkable gains in terms of regulating the sector and protecting the interests of homebuyers. Especially considering that two crucial years were

Read more ...

National Ropeway Development Programme to Boost Real Estate
A massive USD 15 billion National Ropeway Development Programme of the Central Government, currently underway, will provide a major aerial connectivity boost to real estate, especially in Tier 2-3 cities that have high tourism potential. A Rs 1.25 lakh crore

Read more ...

J&K Realty and Infrastructure Development on Fast Track
As Jammu & Kashmir prepares to host G-20 Tourism Meet in Srinagar from 22-24 May 2023, the strides made by the Union Territory on urban development (in a run up to this conclave following the abrogation of Article 370 in August 2019), will provide

Read more ...

Ashoka Buildcon Achieves Largest Continuous Concrete Pour for Building Project
Ashoka Buildcon Limited has several prestigious projects under its belt and has to its credit notable record-breaking achievements - the latest being casting of a raft with 12400 cubic meters of concrete. With this feat, the company is eager to get

Read more ...

Investment Bonanza in UP to Fast-Track - Real Estate & Infrastructure Development
Riding high on landmark reforms and performance-driven governance, Uttar Pradesh has received a record investment proposals of over 33.50 trillion from Indian and foreign investors at the recently organised 3-day Global Investor Summit (GIS) in Lucknow

Read more ...

Mega Projects: Redefining Geographies
Mega infrastructure projects like flyovers, elevated roads, highways, metros, bridges, tunnels, expressways, etc, are redefining how we interact with our surroundings; in fact, Infrastructure is intrinsically linked to everyday life and is a defining

Read more ...

Major Connectivity Projects to Transform Urban Development Landscape of Delhi-NCR
With some state elections and general elections in sight, the Modi government has pulled out all stops to put its mega infrastructure projects on fast track for the socio-economic upliftment of people. A number of such key infrastructure projects

Read more ...

Women in Construction - Diverse Perspectives Will Drive Progress
India’s construction industry is advancing and embracing new technologies, and thereby throwing up exciting opportunities for women to grow professionally in traditionally male-dominated roles. With the advent of robotics, digital twins, and remote

Read more ...

Dola Roychowdhury - Founder Director, GCube Consulting Engineers LLP
The pay parity issue is very subtle and fragmented. It doesn't exist at entry levels any longer - but tends to widen as you go up the chain and hit that invisible ceiling. Compared to the global gender ratio of about 12%, India's female ratio is much lowe

Read more ...

Minimol Korulla - Maccaferri ISEAP
The global Infrastructure Construction industry currently has a female workforce ratio of 10% to 14%, while in India it is 8% to 12%. However, the representation of women in senior managerial roles is less than 2% - both globally and in India. The lack

Read more ...

Rubee Kongbrailatpam - Public Works Department, Manipur
The shift in perspective towards women's roles in the construction industry and the de-genderization of roles is a significant step towards creating a more inclusive and diverse workforce. Stereotypes and prejudices against women in construction

Read more ...

Dr. Ambika Behl - CSIR-Central Road Research Institute
Gender-based discrimination, the harsh work environment of construction sites, lack of knowledge about the industry, and a shortage of successful women in construction as role models, present significant barriers to entry for women. In India, the

Read more ...

Atasi Das -  G R Infraprojects, Gurugram
It's time to change the myth that "the infrastructure industry is a man's world and that it is not really a place for women." By promoting equal opportunities and gender sensitivity in the workplace, we can encourage more women to pursue a career in

Read more ...

Shruti Choudhari - BL Kashyap and Sons
Over the past decade, we have witnessed significant changes at BL Kashyap, including women-led planning, design, and HR departments. We have a majority of women in the tender and contracts department as well as women on-site in key roles during

Read more ...

Sandhya Rasakatla - Hindustan Zinc
Gender-based bias and stereotypes continue to be prevalent in many industries, including the construction industry, where women often face challenges due to the perception that they are less capable than men. However, it is important to recognize

Read more ...

Yogeshwari Rane - Hindustan Zinc
As we are moving towards highly mechanized mines, the overall perception of mining industry as a male-dominated industry is changing since it is no more about just physical labour. As the mining industry has traditionally been considered a physically

Read more ...