Foreign Direct Investments

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

Do We Really Need the “Approval” Route?

The announcement in the Budget Speech that the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) is going to be wound down in 2017-18, has led to speculation amongst consultants, lawyers, foreign investors and the media as to what will take its place. After all, the FIPB, an institution that has been around for more than two decades, epitomises, inter alia, the “government approval” route for foreign investment in sensitive sectors and has been the bedrock of the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) Policy. It has been the “go-to” body for approvals, clarifications, waivers of conditions and post facto approvals of transgressions, etc.

After successive liberalisations, the “approval route “ now accounts for only 10% or so of the FDI inflows and, therefore, the real question to ask should not be as to how or which agency(ies) will give the required approval for FDI in the sensitive sectors, but whether approval is required at all. Following from my earlier blog piece on “FIPB – The Sunset Year”, I would like to make the case that in the sectors, currently still under the FIPB route as per the contours of the FDI policy, an FDI approval per se is not required at all.

FDI Approval an Additional Layer

First, it may be observed that in the approval route sectors, the FIPB approval forms only one layer of approval, even though the FIPB process is indeed “single window” (in the sense that it brings all the stakeholders to the table). There is another very vital approval required from the administrative ministry, the regulator or the licensor concerned, which gives the operating license/approval. This includes the allocation of the resource (spectrum/ airwaves/mine etc.) as per the laid down procedures. This is true for all the extant FIPB mandated sectors viz. mining, telecom, defence, media, etc, except single brand and multi-brand trading (this has been discussed later). The policy also prescribes follow-on FIPB approvals for changes in ownership, additional capital etc in these “licensed sectors”. The need for engagement by two separate government layers is clearly debatable.

Foreign Ownership is Not a Concern

Second, also as a result of the periodic liberalisation of the FDI Policy, the sectoral cap in nearly all the approval route sectors has gone up progressively along the usual pattern of 26% to 49% to 51% over the years and now stands at 74% or even 100%[1] in some cases. This clearly implies that in respect of these sectors, where the FDI sectoral cap is at 51% or above, there are no real concerns as regards to foreign ownership and control of entities from a sectoral perspective. In such a situation, therefore, the exact percentage of foreign investment in an entity becomes merely a matter of record, rather than one requiring a formal approval from a high powered government inter-ministerial body.

Continue Reading FIPB – The Rites of Passage

In the Budget Speech of February 1, 2017, the Finance Minister (FM) announced that the Government has “decided to abolish the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) in 2017-18”. He also announced that the roadmap for the same is expected to be announced in the next few months, and in the meantime, “further liberalisation of FDI policy is under consideration.”

Considering that the “Approval Route” now forms only 10% or so of the FDI inflow, this decision appears logical. It is ironic, however, that this announcement should be hailed as a step to further improve “ease of doing business”, when the FIPB actually stands for “promotion of foreign investment”. Continue Reading FIPB – The Sunset Year

On November 15, 2016, the Supreme Court delivered an important judgment in IDBI Trusteeship Services Limited v. Hubtown Ltd[1], a case involving investment in India by a foreign investor. While the main thrust of the judgment was on circumstances under which a defendant may be granted leave to defend in a suit for summary judgment, the observations of the court in the context of the structure in consideration provides important indicators as to how courts should look at structured transactions.

In brief, the facts of the case are as follows. FMO, a non-resident foreign entity, made an investment into an Indian company, Vinca Developer Private Limited (Vinca) by way of compulsorily convertible debentures (CCPS) and equity shares. The CCPS were to convert into 99% of the voting shares of Vinca. The proceeds of the investment were further invested by Vinca in its wholly owned subsidiaries, Amazia Developers Private Limited (Amazia) and Rubix Trading Private Limited (Rubix) by way of optionally convertible debentures (OPCDs) bearing a fixed rate of interest. IDBI Trusteeship Services Ltd. (Debenture Trustee) was appointed as a debenture trustee in relation to the OPCDs, acting for the benefit of Vinca. Hubtown Limited (Hubtown) also issued a corporate guarantee in favour of the Debenture Trustee to secure the OPCDs. Continue Reading IDBI Trusteeship v. Hubtown – Supreme Court Gives a Fillip to Structured Investments

Amidst much anticipation, the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion released Press Note 3 (PN3) in March of 2016 (now incorporated in the Consolidated FDI Policy dated June 7, 2016) to clarify its stand on the subject of foreign direct investment (FDI) in e-commerce. This post is an attempt to highlight certain issues arising out of PN3 in relation to the use of the term ‘services’, which may not only impact the e-commerce players but may also extend to other businesses which utilize electronic platforms.

Through the release of PN3, the Department clarified its stance on two key aspects: (a) FDI is permitted in the ‘marketplace model of e-commerce’ under the automatic route (i.e., without prior approval); and (b) FDI is prohibited in the ‘inventory based model of e-commerce.

Continue Reading The E-commerce Press Note – Some Unanswered Questions

Earlier yesterday, the Prime Minister of India announced (Announcement) [1] a number of key changes to India’s foreign direct investment (FDI) policy, as set forth in Consolidated FDI Policy Circular of June 7, 2016 (Policy)[2]. Broadly, these changes pertain to enhancing the limits of foreign investment (FI) and easing of existing conditions regarding FI in some sectors. Through this short update post, we seek to highlight some prominent changes thus announced.

Continue Reading Key Changes to India’s FDI Regime Announced Yesterday

The Early Years

With the creation of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) in 1992, the existence of the Controller of Capital Issues (CCI) which was overseeing Indian capital markets was rendered redundant. However, the pricing guidelines issued by the CCI (PG) assumed greater importance despite CCI’s redundancy, given India’s intent to attract foreign direct investment (FDI). This was especially as most FDI transactions were in the unlisted entity space whereas SEBI was regulating listed entities. As such, the PG formulated by the CCI became the guiding principle for various investments into India. As per Reserve Bank of India (RBI) stipulations, the fair value of shares (FV) to be issued/ transferred to non residents (NRs) was to be determined by a chartered accountant (CA), in accordance the PG formula laid down by the CCI.

The rationale behind these stipulations was to garner maximum value and forex for Indian shares and was resultant of the 1991 crisis on balance of payments faced by India. Principles laid down in Press Notes 18/ 1998[1] and 1/2005[2] were also aimed at strengthening Indian promoters. In so far as outgo of currency was concerned, regulatory supervision was exercised to ensure that such outflow would be heavily regulated and minimised. This mindset continued to operate in the new millennium even as substantial liberalisation of sectors took place (in the context of FDI) and even when the context changed from regulation of forex to maintenance thereof.

Continue Reading Pricing Guidelines under FEMA – A Historical Analysis