Debt capital markets - a bumpy road ahead

The novel coronavirus pandemic (“Covid-19”) has brought about a new set of challenges for the Indian economy. While our economy successfully weathered the 2008 financial crisis, the current scenario has halted economic activity for most of the sectors. While the reasons for the previous and current crises are different, some trends are similar. One of these is the inability of borrowers to service debt.

The 2008 financial crisis was characterised by defaults in various debt instruments such as term loans, external commercial borrowings and FCCBs. To combat this, the Reserve Bank of India introduced a host of measures such as relaxation on restructuring of various loan accounts[1] and allowance to firms to use rupee amounts to buy back FCCBs. Simultaneously, in order to create a vibrant market for corporate bonds[2], the Securities and Exchange Board of India introduced the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Issue and Listing of Debt Securities) Regulations, 2008 (the “SEBI ILDS Regulations”).
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SEBI CONSULTATION PAPER FOR LISTED COMPANIES WITH STRESSED ASSETS - CURE FOR THE SICK COULD BE VACCINE FOR ALL 

With the slowdown in the economy and unprecedented business disruption due to Covid 19, several Indian listed companies, which were already heavily leveraged, will soon be looking at avenues for further funding to meet working capital requirements and liquidity challenges. Given the current regulatory regime surrounding raising of equity capital, it is possible that some of the over-leveraged ones may become insolvent. With a view to facilitate fund raising by such listed companies that have stressed assets, the market regulator has come up with a consultation paper, that provides certain procedural relaxations to the SEBI (Issue of Capital and Disclosures Requirements) Regulations, 2018 (ICDR Regulations) and SEBI (Substantial Acquisition of Shares and Takeovers) Regulations, 2011 (SAST Regulations).
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Current Issues in the Mutual Funds Industry

Things indeed have been less than perfect for the mutual funds industry as a result of economic slowdown as well as specific events, key among which is the value deterioration across a number of industries and asset classes. The onset of COVID-19 has served to exponentially compound these problems. The most recent victim of the current situation is Franklin Templeton India, which announced its decision to wind-up six debt schemes, citing this as the only viable option to preserve value for unitholders and enable an orderly and equitable exit for all investors.

AMFI, the mutual fund industry body, has tried to assure investors that majority of fixed income AUM is invested in superior credit quality securities and schemes have appropriate liquidity to ensure normal operations. Mutual funds are not one homogenous mass and separate schemes have different investment strategy and underlying assets, but the supervening effect of the ongoing pandemic has created such redemption pressures and corresponding lack of cash flows, that the mutual fund industry has been dealt a body blow by the ensuing demand-supply liquidity mismatch.
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Innocent Tippee Liability under Insider Laws

The SEBI Insider Trading Regulations prohibit trading in securities whilst in possession of unpublished price sensitive information (UPSI). It also states that when a person holds UPSI and trades in securities, his trades would be ‘presumed’ to have been motivated by the knowledge and awareness of such information in his possession.

Given that the burden of proof is on the insider to establish that his trade was not motivated by awareness of such information, the Regulations to provide statutory defences for the insider to prove his innocence. The stated defences, which are illustrative in nature, however, do not include a circumstance where a person has received UPSI and relied on it to make a trade under the assumption that it is publicly available information. The ‘innocent recipient’ was proposed as a statutory defence in the NK Sodhi High Level Committee Report, but did not find its way into the final form of the amended regulations. This defence was meant to be available if the recipient had no reason to believe that the information in his possession was UPSI or the person who communicated it to him violated any law or confidentiality obligation. As per the report, the insider would need to prove that he did everything reasonably in his power to confirm that the information in his possession was not UPSI (i.e. exercise of diligence expected of a reasonable man) and that he traded bona fide.
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Corporate house-keeping during a crisis

Secretarial compliances, periodic reporting and disclosure requirements, programmed into the DNA of listed companies, often proceed seamlessly following protocols defined by the legal regime and industry best practices. However, with social distancing advisories changing the way in which corporate India goes to work, management and secretarial teams will need to re-assess established protocols and approach day to day internal housekeeping matters a little differently in the coming months.
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 Short-and-Long-term-Impact-of-Current-Market-Conditions-–-Part-II

Commercial and legal impact

In the previous part of this publication, we had set out an overview of the current market scenario and economic slowdown across key global markets, in view of factors such as global economic concerns, the COVID-19 pandemic as well as India-specific concerns such as the collapse of Yes Bank and pressure on Indian industries. We now evaluate the commercial and legal impact of these events on capital market transactions and highlight the key commercial and regulatory considerations for companies considering such transactions.
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Buy-Backs by Listed Companies - Key Considerations

A listed company proposing to undertake a buy-back is required to primarily comply with the provisions of the Companies Act, 2013 (the “Companies Act”) and the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Buy-Back of Securities) Regulations, 2018 (the “SEBI Regulations”). However, a listed company is also required to ensure compliance with the requirements of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Substantial Acquisition of Shares and Takeovers) Regulations, 2011 (the “SEBI Takeover Regulations”), the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Listing Obligations and Disclosure Requirements) Regulations, 2015, the Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Prohibition of Insider Trading) Regulations, 2015 and other applicable securities laws including in other jurisdictions.

As explained in our earlier blog, as prescribed in the SEBI Regulations, a listed company may undertake a buy-back of its shares and other specified securities through any of the following methods: (a) from the existing holders of securities on a proportionate basis through a tender offer; (b) from the open market either through the book building process or through the stock exchange mechanism; or (c) from odd-lot holders.
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ABOLITION OF DIVIDEND DISTRIBUTION TAX

Introduction

The Hon’ble Finance Minister, Ms Nirmala Sitharaman, had presented the Union Budget for the financial year 2020-21 on February 1, 2020, and introduced the Finance Bill, 2020 (“Bill”) in the Lok Sabha. The Bill comprised of financial proposals, including taxation related proposals, to amend the provisions of the Income-tax Act, 1961 (“IT Act”) for financial year 2020-21. The final Bill, incorporating certain amendments, was passed by the parliament on March 26 and received the assent of the President of India on March 27, 2020, and has now been enacted as the Finance Act, 2020 (the “Finance Act”).

In this post, we are covering the provisions of the Finance Act related to dividends distributed by Indian companies. For the changes impacting the tax on dividend distributions to the unitholders of Real Estate Investment Trust and Infrastructure Investment Trusts please see our earlier post here.
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Short And Long-Term Impact Of Current Market Conditions - Part I

 Overview of current markets

During the morning trading session on March 23, 2020, the S&P BSE Sensex crashed 2,991.85 points (10%) to hit 26,924.11, while the Nifty 50 fell 842.45 points (9.63%) to slip to 7,903.00, triggering a circuit breaker and suspension of trading for 45 minutes, for the second time this month.

Market indices across the globe have fallen at record rates following the World Health Organization’s declaration of the COVID-19 outbreak as an international public health emergency on January 30, 2020, and then as a global pandemic on March 11, 2020. Add to that the collapse of Yes Bank earlier this month, with a moratorium crippling liquidity, along with the sharp decline in oil and crude prices, and the Indian market indices have taken an unprecedented hit.
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Open Market for Buy-Back of Securities - SEBI

The Securities and Exchange Board of India (“SEBI”) introduced the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Buy-Back of Securities) Regulations, 2018 (the “SEBI Regulations”) with effect from September 11, 2018, which govern buy-backs undertaken by a listed company.

A listed company’s shares and other specified securities can be bought back using any of the following methods:
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