What is a Project Life Cover Ratio, or PLCR?

A Project Life Cover Ratio – or PLCR – is calculated for every project finance deal and typically needs to meet various covenants throughout the project life. But what is a PLCR, how is it calculated, and why do we even need it? Let’s take a deeper look at one of the least understood project finance ratios.

The PLCR, together with the DSCR and LLCR, provide a holistic view of a project's ability to repay and restructure its debt.

Calculation of the PLCR

The PLCR can be calculated without understanding it – and every project finance model will have it.  It shares similar characteristics with the LLCR and is assessed in conjunction with the DSCR and LLCR to form a view of a project’s robustness to pay its debt.
The PLCR = NPV(CFADS over the project life) / Debt Balance at any point in time
We discount the CFADS using thew WACC for the PLCR we are looking at – senior PLCR will just take the cost of senior debt whereas Total PLCR will look at the combined WACC.
From the above, we can intuitively see that the PLCR will be higher than the LLCR – but what does this mean?

Taking a Step Back to the LLCR to Understand the PLCR

If we recall what an LLCR is used for, it is used to assess the robustness of a project to service its debt over the project life. Given that the DSCR may vary in every period, taking a periodic view of the capability to repay debt, especially in a period where the CFADS may be higher than normal, does not provide a holistic view of debt repayment capability. Therefore, the LLCR is used to have a look at the debt repayment ability over the loan life – one can think of it as an average DSCR.

So Then Why a PLCR?

A PLCR shows the ability to restructure or extend the tenor of the debt beyond the initial loan life.  It gives a view of a project beyond the loan life, which may be concerning if the average PLCR is lower than the average LLCR (which may be the case if revenues dip substantially after the loan is paid).
A PLCR shows what buffer the project has should the debt not be repaid during the tenor of the loan, and provides one with the final piece of the puzzle to form a complete view of a projects ability to repay debt, especially when combined with:
DSCR: Ability to repay debt in a single period
LLCR: Ability to repay the debt over the loan life, which typically ends before the project life (e.g. if the project life is for 20 years of operations, the debt may have a tenor of 15 years).

What to Watch Out For When Looking at the Project Life Cover Ratio

There are a few things to watch out for when it comes to the PLCR.  The most obvious one is the discount rate to use – especially when the loan life has ended.  A discount rate is still required, but we no longer have a benchmark for it.  A simple, but not always correct, method is to use the last discount rate before the loan life ended.  This is something that should be looked at on a project by project basis.
The other item to notice is the inclusion of cash balances in the PLCR calculation, for example, a DSRA.  Again, this should be looked at on an individual basis.
In the next article, I’ll include an example of a PLCR calculation.
Matthew Bernath Financial Modeller
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