Financial investors in India are scared of regulatory uncertainties. Not that uncertainties are exclusive to our country but it’s a critical risk factor that is assessed by those making substantial investments. Historically, one of the most important regulatory concerns for such investors is related to being categorised as ‘promoter’ of a listed company, both when the company is going public and also in cases where a private equity (PE) player intends to take a control position in an already listed company, by replacing its present promoters or by becoming co-promoters. Promoter liability theories have kept such investors away from taking control positions in listed companies. On the contrary, in the unlisted space where the promoter position is perceived differently, control deals are a way of life for certain PE funds in India.

Continue Reading New Promoters on the Block: The Financial Investors

The ability to attract large scale Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into India has been a key driver for policy making by the Government. Prime Minister Modi seems to be going along the right track, with India receiving FDI inflows worth USD 60.1 billion in 2016-17, which was an all-time high. Hence, the FDI policy of India has always been closely watched and carefully amended over the years.

On August 28th, 2017, the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) had issued the updated and revised Foreign Direct Investment Policy, 2017 – 2018 (FDI Policy 2017). The FDI Policy 2017 incorporated various notifications issued by the Government of India over the past year.

Please find below a brief analysis of the key amendments brought by the FDI Policy 2017 to the erstwhile FDI Policy of 2016 and their potential impact on FDI in India:

Continue Reading India announces new Foreign Direct Investment Policy, 2017 – 2018

Mergers are compared to marriages. As a union of companies, they require patience and understanding, but they also involve a large amount of paperwork. Mergers, like marriages, can flourish with the right synergies, but if there are differences between the entities, the arrangement can often collapse. The recent breakdown of the Snapdeal – Flipkart transaction, can provide a useful context to understand the reasons for the success/failure of M&A transactions.

The success of a deal depends on the companies, the individuals, the business climate, as well as the different regulators involved in the transaction. A few common reasons for deals breaking down are – valuation differences, different expectations between the parties involved, regulatory roadblocks or a lack of consensus regarding the exit horizons.

While these are reasons general to any corporate transaction, there are some requirements specific to M&A deals that must be met in order for the deal to survive.

Continue Reading When the Engagement Ring Doesn’t Fit – Why M&A Deals Fall Apart

The foundation of every state is the education of its youth,” said Diogenes, the ancient Greek philosopher.

Herein lies the crux of why education remains vital for any government across the world, often as a charitable and social responsibility.

This piece intends to provide an overview of the education sector in India; to highlight some of the key legislations and regulatory regimes that govern education in the country; shed light on some of the recent government initiatives in the sector; and, in conclusion, make a case for increased private participation in Indian education.

Continue Reading Regulatory Hot Broth: Why Private Participation Would Add to the Flavour of the Indian Education Sector

Until recently, whilst it was possible for a foreign company to merge with an Indian company, it was not possible for an Indian company to merge with a foreign company within the court sanctioned merger framework set out under Indian corporate law. This finally changed in April 2017, when the company law provisions that govern cross border mergers were brought into force. In the same month, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) also issued draft regulations setting out the conditions for obtaining ‘deemed’ approval from the RBI for cross border mergers. Now, companies in India desirous of merging with a foreign company may do so in specified jurisdictions.

Following are some of the key highlights of the recent regulations governing cross border mergers:

  • Jurisdiction Test

The eligible jurisdictions are: (a) those whose securities market regulator is a signatory to the Multilateral Memorandum of Understanding of the International Organisation of Securities Commission or to the Bilateral Memorandum of Understanding with the Securities and Exchange Board of India; or (b) jurisdictions whose central bank is a member of the Bank of International Settlements; and jurisdictions not identified in the public statement of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) for deficiencies relating to anti-money laundering or combating terrorism financing or jurisdictions without an action plan developed with the FATF to address the deficiencies. Key countries like the USA, UK, Russia, Germany, France, Japan, China, Singapore, Mauritius, etc. will fall within the definition of eligible jurisdictions. Continue Reading A New Dawn for India’s Cross Border Merger Regime

The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) recently issued an informal guidance in response to a request for an interpretive letter from Kotak Mahindra Bank Limited (KMBL) on the continual disclosure requirements under the SEBI (Prohibition of Insider Trading) Regulations, 2015 (PIT Regulations).

Regulation 7(2) of the PIT Regulations prescribes a two-step disclosure mechanism wherein:

  1. Promoters/ employees/ directors of listed companies are required to disclose to the company, within two days of the occurrence of a transaction, the number of securities acquired or disposed, where the value of such securities in the transaction (or a series of transactions in any calendar quarter) amounts to a traded value in excess of Rs. 10 lakh.
  2. The company in turn is required to disclose such trades to the stock exchanges, on which the traded securities are listed, within two days of receipt of the disclosure or upon becoming aware of such information.

Continue Reading SEBI’s Informal Guidance on Continual Disclosures under the Prevention of Insider Trading Regulations

As per the market regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India’s (SEBI) order dated March 31, 2017, in the Kamat Hotels (India) Limited (Kamat Hotels) case, Clearwater Capital (Clearwater) had subscribed to the foreign currency convertible bonds (FCCBs) of Kamat Hotels. Pursuant to a change in the applicable regulation relating to the conversion price for FCCBs, Kamat Hotels passed necessary resolutions approving the revision in price for conversion of FCCBs. Clearwater entered into an inter-se agreement (Agreement) with Kamat Hotels and its promoters on August 13, 2010. The Agreement expired on July 31, 2014. The Agreement had certain affirmative voting rights as are typical for the private equity (PE) investors to have for protection of their interests. Clearwater decided to convert the FCCBs into equity shares on January 11, 2012. The conversion resulted in increase in the shareholding of Clearwater from 24.50% to 32.23% requiring Clearwater to make an open offer under the SEBI (Substantial Acquisition of Shares and Takeovers) Regulations, 2011 (Takeover Regulations).

The open offer was made only under Regulation 3(1) which relates to acquisition of equity shares/voting rights and not under Regulation 4 (relating to acquisition of control). SEBI issued an observation letter on the draft letter of the offer filed for the open offer. SEBI’s letter stated that Clearwater acquired control under the Agreement in the year 2010 itself as certain affirmative voting rights/ protective covenants gave control to Clearwater and therefore, the open offer should have been made under Regulation 12 (relating to acquisition of control) of the 1997 Takeover Regulations. The protective covenants mandated approval of Clearwater before altering the share capital of Kamat Hotels, creating new subsidiaries, entering joint ventures, disposing or acquiring any material assets, lending or borrowing money beyond certain limits, winding up, etc.

Continue Reading SEBI’s Observation on Protective Covenants – Positive, But Law Not Settled Yet

Foreign investors into India have often found that when they seek to enforce customary contractual rights in investment agreements, such as option rights, guarantees and indemnities, they have been hamstrung by the ability of the Indian counterparty to contend that such rights are in contravention of the Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999 (FEMA) and the regulations issued by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).

It is in this context that the recent Delhi High Court judgment in the case of Cruz City I Mauritius Holdings v. Unitech Limited, MANU/DE/0965/2017, is relevant, in that it categorically strikes down the defence that an arbitral award is not enforceable on the ground that certain provisions of the contract pursuant to which the award was issued were allegedly in contravention of the FEMA regulations.

Cruz City 1 Mauritius Holdings (Cruz City) filed a petition in the Delhi High Court for enforcement of an arbitral award rendered under the rules of the London Court of International Arbitration (Award). This required Unitech Limited (Unitech) and Burley Holding Limited (Burley), a wholly owned subsidiary of Unitech, to pay Cruz City the pre-determined purchase price of all of Cruz City’s equity shares in a joint venture (incorporated in Mauritius) pursuant to:

  1. A “put option” exercised by Cruz City against Burley.
  2. A keepwell agreement (which was in the nature of a guarantee) whereby Unitech was to make the necessary financial contribution in Burley to enable it to meet its obligations.

Continue Reading Alleged Violation of FEMA now a Dwindling Defence against Enforcement of Contractual Rights

In this day and age of scams, crime by corporate entities throws a lot of challenges at multiple levels. The level of crime may be extraordinary owing to the magnitude, powers and reach of such corporations as opposed to an individual committing any crime. Once it is found that a corporation has committed a crime, the next question is whether corporations can be held guilty of such crimes since they do not have minds of their own.

For a long time, corporations in India were not held liable for criminal offences due to the requirement of mens rea or the intention to commit the offence and inability to award imprisonment or arrest, etc. However, corporations are no longer immune.

Supreme Court on Liability of Corporations and its Officials

The law on this aspect has evolved over time. Now, a corporation can be convicted of offences involving mens rea by applying the doctrine of attribution[1]. Thus, the corporation can be held responsible for offences committed in relation to the business of the corporation by the persons in control of its affairs. The legal position in the US and UK has also crystallised to ensure a corporation can be held liable for crimes of intent. In the UK, the courts have adopted the doctrine of attribution to the corporation liable for acts committed by the directing mind, i.e., the directors and managers.

Continue Reading Criminal Liability of Corporate Officials in India

Over the years, companies have used employee stock option schemes (ESOP Schemes) as an effective method to align employee interests with shareholders, reward their efforts, increase their loyalty towards the company and motivate employees to perform better.

An initial public offering (IPO) and consequent listing of equity shares is one of the critical ways in which employees seek value appreciation in stock options and equity shares held by them. Accordingly, unlisted companies typically align timing of exercise of options under ESOP Schemes with their plans to undertake an IPO.

The Securities and Exchange Board of India (Issue of Capital and Disclosure Requirements) Regulations, 2009, as amended (SEBI ICDR Regulations), which regulates IPOs, provides exceptions for ESOPs from certain eligibility conditions to be fulfilled by the issuer undertaking the IPO as well as transfer restrictions on equity shares applicable after the completion of the IPO.

However, issuers have faced challenges in the past with respect to eligibility conditions if the options have remained outstanding with individuals who have ceased to be an employee of the issuer.

Further, issuers are being increasingly questioned by such former employees, who continue to hold shares in the issuer but are not offered lock-in exemptions available to existing employees. Additional basis to these concerns is that former employees are treated beneficially under the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Share Based Employee Benefits) Regulations, 2014 (ESOP Regulations) and the Companies Act, 2013 and similar benefits have not been recognised under the SEBI ICDR Regulations.

Continue Reading Survival of Employee Stock Options through the IPO process: Are former employees stranded?