100% FDI allowed in insurance intermediaries - No more ‘peekaboo’!

The Government of India notified the Foreign Exchange Management (Non-debt Instruments) (Second Amendment) Rules, 2020 (“Non-Debt Rules Second Amendment”) on April 27, 2020, amending the Foreign Exchange Management (Non-Debt Instruments) Rules, 2019. With this amendment, foreigners can now look to acquire 100% stake in an insurance intermediary, subject to verification by the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI). This amendment was much awaited by insurance intermediaries[1], which have in the past lobbied to be declassified from the same bracket as insurance companies, in so far as foreign investment was concerned.
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GOODBYE CHINA; HELLO INDIA

The noise around large companies shifting their manufacturing bases out of China has gotten shriller with the advent of Covid-19 related disruption. The theme is not new. Since the trade war between the United States and China, much has been written about companies shifting their operations from China to other South East Asian countries such as Vietnam, Thailand and Taiwan. India is hopeful of getting it right this time around and is competing with other South East Asian countries in rolling out the red carpet to companies exiting China. In anticipation of any announcements that may be made by the Government in this regard, this article examines some of the key factors that are relevant for companies contemplating a shift to India.
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Barbarians at the gate – no entry without approval

To say that the Covid-19 has unleashed unprecedented times is an understatement. Every country, government, regulator and citizen across the globe is trying to come to terms with the implications of this deadly virus and surviving it. It is indeed a Hobson’s Choice – to save lives or to save the economy. But several countries, in said and unsaid words, have expressed vulnerability to the corporate raiders from China! They are literally at the gate and it has become a cause of worry for most governments and corporations.

Japan has proposed building an economy that is less dependent on China, so that Japan can mitigate supply chain disruptions caused by the current Covid-19 pandemic. To this end, Japan announced an emergency economic package on April 7, 2020, earmarking 240 billion yen (approximately USD 2.2 billion) for fiscal 2020 to pay  Japanese manufacturing firms to leave China and relocate production either to their home country or to diversify their production bases into South East Asia. Australia, Italy, Spain, and Germany have announced amendments to their respective foreign investment laws to make acquisitions and takeovers by foreigners much harder. So has the European Union. The Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act of 2018 (FIRRMA) of the United States has seen increased review of foreign investments under the Trump administration due to security and national interest concerns.
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Non-Debt Instruments -The New Rules for Foreign Flows

In a quiet mid-October surprise, nearly four and a half years after the passage of the Finance Act 2015 (20 of 2015), the Government notified the effective date for implementation of the clauses that amended Section 6 of the Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999 (FEMA). The notification defining debt and non-debt instruments followed suit and then of course the Non Debt Instrument Rules (NDI Rules) under FEMA, which superseded the extant FEMA 20R and 21R.
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Liberalisation of Foreign Investment in Insurance Brokers - Budget 2019

Around noon on Friday, July 4th, 2019, the Hon’ble Minister of Finance, in her budget speech to the nation, proposed revisions to the existing foreign investment caps applicable to insurance brokers and other insurance intermediaries in order to allow 100% foreign direct investment (“FDI”). This move was long overdue on the government’s part, particularly in relation to insurance brokers. In fact, a proposal for liberalising foreign investment caps for insurance brokers has been on the drafting table of the Government of India for close to two years now. In the past, a number of representations had also been made by market participants to the various departments of the government highlighting the need to differentiate foreign investment norms for insurance brokers and insurance companies, and to not treat insurance brokers in parity with insurance companies, in so far as foreign investment is concerned[1].
Continue Reading Budget Special : The Liberalisation of Foreign Investment in Insurance Brokers – A Shot in the Arm

what are Press Notes and legal status of press notes

Vital economic policy issues, such as Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) Policy have been announced through various Press Notes issued by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), Ministry of Commerce and Industry. These Press Notes are not a product of legislative process, nor are they debated before Parliament, and yet they have far reaching consequences on economic policy.
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India Simplifies Foreign Investment Reporting Process Update

On June 7th, 2018, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had introduced two new forms (namely Single Master Form and Entity Master Form) vide a circular[1] (RBI Circular), with the aim of simplifying reporting under the Foreign Exchange and Management Act, 1999 (FEMA). Our earlier blog post contained details of the two forms and our in-depth analysis of the same. On June 27th, 2018, RBI released a User Manual for Entity Master – FIRMS[2] (User Manual) which provides detailed instructions and the process for filing the Entity Master Form.
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Foreign Investment Reporting Process

In alignment with the Indian Government’s continuing efforts to bolster foreign investment and ease of doing business in India, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has issued two important circulars in June 2018 with the aim of simplifying reporting under the Foreign Exchange and Management Act, 1999 (FEMA). The circulars are as follows:

Simplifying reporting under FEMA - RBI Circular

Currently all foreign investment transactions are reported in a complicated, disintegrated manner across various platforms/modes. The Foreign Exchange Management (Transfer or Issue of Security by a Person Resident Outside India) Regulations, 2017 (FEMA 20) provide for exhaustive reporting requirements for any foreign investment in India through 12 different forms[1]. Meeting these requirements had become a cumbersome process for foreign investors as well as Indian entities. Continue Reading India Simplifies Foreign Investment Reporting Process

FDI and Unregulated Financial Services

Most sectors of the economy have been completely liberalised for foreign direct investment (FDI) and the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) was abolished in June 2017. Policy watchers in this space were, therefore, taken unawares by a cryptic announcement by the Ministry of Finance on 16 April, 2018, on the “Minimum capital requirements for ‘other financial service’ activities which are unregulated by any financial sector regulator and FDI is allowed under government route”.

Why the Press Release

To put it in perspective, this announcement has its genesis in the RBI’s FEMA Notification No. 375/2016-RB dated September 9, 2016, which was a big ticket change, doing away with the nearly two decades old stipulation of minimum capitalisation in the NBFC sector. The playing field was thus levelled and the financial sector regulations could prevail in an ownership agnostic fashion.

The formal Press Note announcing this change in fact came subsequently (see Press Note 6 of 2016 dated October 25, 2016). FEMA 375 firmly placed all regulated financial services activities in the fold of the respective financial regulators, instead of the latter having to concern themselves with the ownership pattern of the entity.

FEMA 375, however, laid down that activities that are not regulated by any regulator, or where only part of the activity is regulated, or where there is doubt regarding regulatory oversight, approval would need to be obtained from the Government with attendant minimum capitalisation requirements as may be decided by the Government. It is not known , in the public domain, as to how many approvals in the ‘unregulated financial services’ space have actually been accorded post issuance of FEMA 375. This information would have been useful. Be that as it may, what has been set out in the press release of April 16, 2018 is perhaps the way for the future.Continue Reading FDI and Unregulated Financial Services

FDI Policy – So What’s New

There have been some very wide sweeping and deep impact changes in the business and economic environment over the past few years, many of which have also had a strong social impact. While some changes could be considered political, there are many changes that have happened basically because the government of the day chose to bite the bullet. These were long overdue and just couldn’t be kicked any further down the road – to put it succinctly, “the time had come”.

India’s Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) policy, which has its genesis in the liberalisation era beginning in the early 1990s, had always been subject to periodic incremental relaxation of sectoral caps and other easing measures. However, after years of a gradualist mode, the current decade has seen more dramatic shifts in the hitherto entrenched position in respect to FDI in various sectors. The ultimate measure was of course the abolition in June 2017 of the two and half decades old Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB), the inter-ministerial body that granted ‘prior government approval’ in mandated sectors.

The demise of this institution regarded as venerable by some and obstructionist by others, met as expected, with a mixed response. With nearly 95% of the FDI inflows in the country already coming in through the automatic route, the utility and need for such a body was clearly on the wane; practitioners were, however, apprehensive of the absence of the body, which had become the proverbial ‘go to place’ for clarifications and was the last port of call for policy intervention in case of need.

With the formal dissolution of the FIPB at the end of June 2017, a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) was put in place whereby the sectors / activities / transactions that required government approval were mandated to approach the respective administrative ministries for the same. Simultaneously, the FIPB portal was literally morphed into the Foreign Investment Facilitation Portal (FIFP), bringing with it bare essential changes to name and ownership, but virtually nothing more.Continue Reading FDI Policy – So What’s New?