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By Matthias Williams
NEW DELHI, Sept 17 (Reuters) - India's GMR Infrastructure
Ltd has sold its majority stake in a highway project
for about $35 million, as debt-laden companies step up sales of
some assets to boost earnings in a sector struggling with a weak
GMR, one of the country's best known infrastructure groups,
whose interests span airports to power plants, said it had sold
its 74 percent stake in Ulundurpet Expressways to the India
Infrastructure Fund of IDFC Ltd.
It is the company's second sale in less than six months and
more could be in the pipeline, GMR officials said.
The deal will give GMR, whose outstanding debt was at $5.7
billion as of end June, an equity infusion of $35 million and
also take about $73 million worth of consolidated debt off its
The sale of GMR's 73 km (45 mile) highway in the southern
coastal state of Tamil Nadu is the latest example of Indian
infrastructure companies selling or trying to sell stakes in
projects in order to reduce their debts.
India sees ramping up the construction of new roads, power
plants and ports as crucial to making its businesses more
internationally competitive and lifting economic growth out of
its worst slowdown in a decade.
But the private sector's efforts to build new projects have
been derailed by problems ranging from coal and gas supply
shortages in the power sector to a throttling bureaucracy and a
lack of bank funding in the roads sector.
A drop of nearly 13 percent in the value of the rupee so far
this year has also raised the cost of servicing dollar loans for
companies. That has tipped companies into losses and forced them
to sell off assets to reduce the debt pile.
"We at GMR Group, continue to focus on creating liquidity
and reducing our leveraged position, as part of the strategy of
churning of assets," said Madhu Terdal, the chief financial
officer of the GMR Group, in a statement.
Its rival GVK Power and Infrastructure Ltd has
asked lenders to reschedule loans worth more than $200 million
to its power business and is looking to sell a stake in a unit
that runs airports in Mumbai and Bangalore.
Lanco Infratech Ltd is trying to sell stakes in
its power plants. India's Jaiprakash Associates Ltd
last week announced the sale of its cement plant in Gujarat
state to UltraTech Cement Ltd.
GMR shares ended up 2.1 percent on Tuesday, outperforming a
flat broader market.
($1 = 62.8350 Indian rupees)
(Reporting by Matthias Williams; Editing by Anand Basu and