Morning Mumbai mist, hot coffee and the 1986 song ‘The Final Countdown’ by Europe is playing in the background – life seems blissful! And it was mostly so for the Alternative Investment Funds (AIFs) industry. As we begin the run-up to Budget 2018, we look back at the milestones crossed in 2017 and the goalposts set for 2018 – and we focus on the key hits, misses and asks of the AIF industry.

2017: Key Highlights 

  • Investment by Banks in Category II AIFs: The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) amended the Reserve Bank of India (Financial Services provided by Banks) Directions, 2016 permitting banks to invest in Category II AIFs up to a maximum cap of 10% corpus of such AIF. With Category II AIFs constituting nearly 50% of the total number of AIFs registered with the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), this amendment sets the roadmap for channeling domestic savings into productive alternate assets and, at the same time, provides banks with the ability to earn a risk-adjusted return, thereby boosting the overall Return on Equity for its stakeholders.

Continue Reading It’s the Final Countdown: Achievements by and Expectations of the AIF Industry

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woollen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favourite things…”

Hearing my niece practice this iconic song made me introspect on the year gone by. So, here are select highlights of 2016 from the Alternative Investment Funds (AIFs) industry perspective.

  1. Regulatory developments
  • 2016 started with Report 1 of the Alternative Investment Policy Advisory Committee (AIPAC), and drew to a close with Report 2 of the AIPAC in December 2016. SEBI amended the AIF regulations in November 2016 to implement recommendations relating to Angel Funds. Our last post covers key recommendations made by AIPAC in Report 2. AIPAC has rightly focussed on structural and evolutionary changes needed for the AIF industry and thus 2017 will be the year to implement or build on these recommendations.
  • In February 2016, subject to certain conditions, RBI permitted NRIs to invest in AIFs on a non-repatriation basis and for investments to be treated at par with investments by residents.
  • In April 2016, the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority permitted pension funds to invest in Category I and Category II AIFs subject to various conditions. However, these conditions have effectively stymied pension fund investing in Category II AIFs. AIPAC reports recommend the liberalisation of regulations to allow investments in AIFs by pension funds, insurance companies, banks and others.
  • In April 2016, RBI amended the Foreign Venture Capital Investor (FVCI) regime under FEMA 20 to provide, inter alia, that FVCIs registered under the SEBI (FVCI) Regulations will not require RBI approval for investments as per amended Schedule 6. The RBI notification also stipulated that FVCIs can receive the proceeds on liquidation of venture capital funds (VCFs) or Category I AIFs. However, RBI’s October 2016 circular was a sting in the tail. That circular stated that downstream investment by VCFs / Category I AIFs that have been invested into by FVCIs will need to comply with Schedule 11 of FEMA 20 i.e. such downstream investments shall be subject to the sectoral caps and conditions under the foreign direct investment (FDI) policy.
  • In September 2016, RBI amended FEMA 20 to permit 100% FDI in ‘other financial services’ industry subject to conditions prescribed by the relevant regulator and FDI in entities conducting unregulated or partially regulated financial services (FS) activities with the prior approval of the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB). While this liberalisation was eagerly awaited, the language of the notification stirred up concerns surrounding the interpretation of ‘regulated FS activities’. For example, would FDI in an AIF manager which is exempt from registration under SEBI (Investment Advisers) Regulations require FIPB approval? Or would FDI in an Indian advisor to an offshore PE fund or Foreign Portfolio Investment (FPI) manager qualify for the automatic route?

Continue Reading 2016, The AIF Industry In Retrospect