Financing India’s Growth—Opportunities for Infrastructure and Green Finance
Nikhil Rathi, CEO of London Stock Exchange Plc and Director of International Development, London Stock Exchange Group, discusses opportunities in sectors of green finance and infrastructure and what these could mean for a growing economy like India.
India achieved the fastest economic growth rate in the G20 in both 2015 and 2016—over 7 per cent in both years. Ambitious long-term structural reforms are underway, which promise to underpin this growth trajectory. These include most notably the landmark agreement on a nationwide framework for Goods and Services Tax, and demonetisation. Far-reaching financial market reforms are progressing, in particular in relation to Indian corporate bond markets, public listing of Indian stock exchanges, further openness to international investors and gradual internationalisation of the Indian rupee.
Crucially, to bolster economic growth and improvements in productivity, investment will be critical, particularly investment in infrastructure. It is in this area in particular—supporting the financing of Indian infrastructure—that the global capital markets in London can play a role and bolster broader cooperation between India and the UK. And together we can take a lead in delivering global reforms, such as harnessing green finance for infrastructure.
London has a long history in the world of finance. In January 1698, a stockbroker named John Castaing pinned to the wall of Jonathan’s Coffee House in the City of London the first-ever list of stock prices. Over the course of the last 315 years, that list, and the investors and brokers who must have crowded around it, became the London Stock Exchange and today, as then, it is the world’s most international market, home to over 2,200 companies from across 115 countries.
London’s role as the leading source of global capital for ambitious companies and countries was underlined by the landmark visit of Prime Minister Modi to the UK in 2015 during which he announced India’s plans to tap the London markets for Indian-rupee-based financing—the masala bonds. This builds on London’s position as the leading global foreign exchange centre.
Since then, London has become the foremost international market for offshore rupee-denominated debt—masala bonds, allowing Indian companies to raise money internationally without foreign exchange risk. In the last six months of 2016, over Rs1.1 billion (Rs 7,500 crore or £900 million) of rupee-denominated bonds were issued in London. This shows confidence in India’s reforms, with global investors willing to take rupee currency risk over a long-term horizon.
The funds raised so far and in the future are being used for a wide range of infrastructure projects in India ranging from renewable energy and housing to transport and rail. It will take time for the global masala bond market to deepen, but in the long term it should prove to be a resilient source of finance for India.
The Reserve Bank of India has announced a range of steps to strengthen India’s corporate bond market, including further quotas for international investors, reforms to the central bank’s liquidity programmes and repo and currency markets. These are landmark reforms, which will further support international investment into India. And, through global partnerships, London Stock Exchange Group can provide the tools to make this investment a reality.
The green element to major infrastructure projects is gaining global investor attention and India will be at the heart of these developments. Over the coming decade, it is anticipated that several trillion dollars will be raised through green finance instruments, be they green bonds, green funds or green equities, with much of this for investment in India.
Recent research from the Global Sustainable Investment Alliance suggests that sustainable investing strategies now represent more than 60 per cent of professionally-managed assets for EU investors. These investors are attracted to Indian green finance instruments.
To build this market for India, five pillars are important:
- Support green capital flows.
- Develop green infrastructure, particularly cross-border infrastructure.
- Develop analytics and indexes to support the integration of climate risk into investment processes.
- Data quality and standards. To improve global data flows between issuers and investors.
- Convening. Use India’s position in the market to bring global alliances together.
India provides some of the most exciting economic opportunities in the world. Financing those opportunities will be key to sustaining and increasing India’s growth rate and productivity, particularly financing for infrastructure.
In the area of green finance, the next decade will be decisive: It depends on the investment currently being made on whether the world will stay on a two (or lower) degree path or tilt towards runaway climate change. The Green Economy transition is under way. This brings new risks, but also new opportunities, especially for India.
While similarities between today and the era of Jonathan’s Coffee House remain, London Stock Exchange has clearly come a long way since 1698. Most significant though is the potential in the relationship between London and India. Like all relationships, for it to thrive, it will take continued focus and dedication by both parties, but it is clear that there is the will on both sides to build for the future.
The above is a synopsis of one of the chapters from ‘Winning Partnership: India-UK Relations Beyond Brexit’, edited by India Inc. Founder & CEO Manoj Ladwa.