Mumbai: The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has yet again pushed back the deadline to privatize operations of its second bundle of roads under the toll-operate-transfer (TOT) model. The new deadline will be in January, said two prospective bidders and an infrastructure consultant.

NHAI is likely to set 3 January as the new deadline, the consultant said, though an official announcement has yet to be made.

“We’re hearing that the submission dates will be pushed back again because NHAI isn’t getting the offers it wants," said a senior executive at a company that plans to bid.

Officials at NHAI could not be reached for comment.

The government wants to raise 2 trillion through the TOT model in five years. The first round of auctions in February raised 9,681 crore for the highway developer, who put it into the Bharatmala roads programme. The second bundle of 586 kilometres of national highways in Rajasthan, Gujarat, West Bengal, and Bihar has a base bid price of 5,362 crore, with the winning bidder earning the rights to toll revenues from the highways for 30 years.

However, enthusiasm among prospective investors this time has been a lot less inspiring. Bidders in the current round might not be even be willing to pay the bid price, unlike in the first round where the winning bidder paid 1.5 times the base price, Mint had reported recently.

Bidders have complained some stretches in the current batch of roads are poorly constructed and have far less traffic and toll revenues than projected.

When the second lot of TOT was announced in August, the deadline for submitting bids was 5 November. NHAI later extended it to 5 December and then to 19 December. The announcement to push the date back again to the new year is expected to be made soon.

NHAI officials could not be reached for comment.

“I’m sure the bids will come in because the Ministry (of Road Transport and Highways) will not let the auctions fail," said the senior executive quoted above. “However, there is far less enthusiasm among investors now and a lot less willingness to pay top dollar for these assets," the executive said.

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