Major Impetus to IPO Rush

Despite the challenging times, the Indian capital markets are hitting all-time highs on a daily basis and have been flooded with capital. This has seen a rush of equity offerings over the last 12 months including record filings for draft documents over the last few months. In their continuous efforts to make India exchanges more competitive, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (“SEBI”) has notified the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Issue of Capital and Disclosure Requirements) (Third Amendment) Regulations, 2021 (“ICDR Amendment”). Pursuant to the ICDR Amendment, SEBI has revisited some of the requirements relating to lock in of equity shares post-IPO (one of the oldest requirements of SEBI), as well as the concept of  promoter group and group companies under the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Issue of Capital and Disclosure Requirements) Regulations, 2018, as amended (“ICDR Regulations”).


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Role of IFSC in the Indian SPAC Dream

India, being one of the major consumers of international financial services, has been pushing the envelope on making itself the hub for such services. With this objective, the Government of India had operationalised India’s first (and currently the only) International Financial Services Centre (“IFSC”) at GIFT Multi Services Special Economic Zone (“SEZ”) in Gujarat in April 2015. In this regard and to further this objective, the International Financial Services Centres Authority Act was enacted in December 2019 to set up a unified regulator, viz the International Financial Services Centres Authority (“IFSCA”), which commenced operation in October 2020. The IFSCA has been vested with the roles and powers of four domestic regulators, namely the Reserve Bank of India (“RBI”), the Securities and Exchange Board of India (“SEBI”), the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (“IRDAI”), and the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority. IFSCA has been set up to develop and regulate financial institutions, financial services, and financial products within the IFSCs in India.


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SEBI Regulatory Update

There have been significant changes to the regulatory regime governing alternative investment funds (“AIFs”)[1] in the past year and a half. In its Board Meeting dated August 06, 2021, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (“SEBI”) approved a fresh set of amendments to the SEBI (Alternative Investment Funds) Regulations, 2012 (“AIF Regulations”), governing AIFs, intended to ease compliance requirements, provide greater investment flexibility and streamline regulatory processes. A regulatory circular giving effect to these proposed amendments is awaited.


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Rights Issue – Is the Board’s Discretion to Allot Unsubscribed Shares Absolute?

Introduction

Rights issue, as the term denotes, is the recognition of an inherent right of an equity shareholder against dilution of his shareholding in the company. It is a pre-emptive right of the equity shareholder to subscribe to his proportionate share in all further issuance of equity shares.


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Corporate Defamation: A Perspective on Analyst Reports

In 2008, Bank Atlantic, a Florida based bank, sued a prominent Wall Street analyst over a report on potential bank failures titled “Who’s Next?” The Bank stated that the analyst had defamed the bank by suggesting that it might fail. Bank Atlantic had previously sued ABC over a news report in 1991. In 2009, Hertz Global Holdings Inc., sued an analyst for defamation over a report that Hertz claimed, suggests that the world’s largest car rental company could go bankrupt.


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SEBI Delisting Regulations 2021

The SEBI (Delisting of Equity Shares) Regulations, 2021 (“2021 Regulations”), were notified on June 10, 2021. The new regulations do not substantially deviate from the SEBI (Delisting of Equity Shares) Regulations, 2009 (“2009 Regulations”). However, certain incremental changes are introduced that further refine and streamline the delisting process. The key changes effected by the 2021 Regulations, with specific reference to voluntary delisting offers, are as follows:


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Technicality or Trivialisation - SAT’s Attempt to Balance Interests of Justice

The Securities Appellate Tribunal (SAT) passed an order (Order)[1] recently, ruling that it is empowered to hear and decide appeals even in the absence of a Technical Member. The Order was prompted by an objection raised by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) regarding the constitution of SAT’s Bench, in light of the earlier technical member of SAT having demitted office on March 31, 2021, and the ensuing vacancy of such office.
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SEBI Clarifies Key Aspects of Investment Advisers Regulations through Informal Guidance

The Securities and Exchange Board of India (“SEBI”), through its interpretive letter, issued upon the request of Paytm Money Limited (“Paytm”) under the SEBI (Informal Guidance) Scheme, 2003 (“Informal Guidance Scheme”), on April 09, 2021, has clarified that investment advisers (“IAs”), registered with SEBI under the SEBI (Investment Advisers) Regulations, 2013 (“IA Regulations”), may not: (i) be reimbursed from the asset management companies for any expenses incurred for services rendered to their clients, even though the adviser may not be charging any advisory or execution fees; (ii) seek electronic consent from clients prior to rendering any investment advice, instead of a signed investment advisory agreement; and (iii) appoint a department head, who is not a managing director or designated director or managing chairman or executive chairman or any other equivalent management body of the IA, as its ‘principal officer’.
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Indian Mutual Funds – New M&A Rules! Anu Tiwari (Partner), Ritu Sajnani (Senior Associate), Utkarsh Bhatnagar (Senior Associate) and Karthik Koragal (Associate) The Securities Exchange Board of India (“SEBI”) carried out a regulatory revamp exercise of SEBI (Mutual Funds) Regulations, 1996 (“MF Regulations”) and various circulars issued under it by way of a circular on mutual fund(s) (“MF”) issued on March 4, 2021 (“MF Circular”), effective from March 5, 2021, thereby streamlining a robust regime governing the reporting, compliance and disclosure requirements applicable to asset management company(ies) (“AMC”) and the trustee(s) of such AMCs. Reporting requirements strengthened Currently, the MF Circular requires an AMC to furnish the complete details of any indirect change in its control/ promoters of the sponsor(s) to SEBI and also notify details of a proposed change in control (whether direct or indirect) to the unitholders, by way of an email (in addition to publishing the same in newspapers. Similarly, in case of any proposed change to the fundamental attributes of a MF scheme, trustees are now mandated to obtain comments from SEBI, prior to effectuating such change. With an intent to ensure better compliance, SEBI has also expanded the scope of ‘key personnel’ of an AMC to include chief investment officer, chief risk officer, chief information security officer, chief operation officer, compliance officer, sales head, investor relation officer(s), etc. in addition to the erstwhile list of key personnel, which included the chief executive officer, fund manager(s), dealer(s) and head of other departments of the AMC. Hence, inter alia these new key personnel who are also now prohibited from carrying on self-dealing or front running activities, in addition to meeting the prescribed eligibility criteria. The revised reporting requirements extends SEBI’s regulatory prowess to monitor and bring more transparency in relation to the indirect change in control of the AMCs’ process. Relaxations and scrutiny go hand-in-hand In order to facilitate innovation in the MF space, SEBI has introduced certain relaxations like permitting employees of AMCs to participate in private placement of equity by any company, has allowed trustees to delegate its function(s) to declare/ fix a record date and decide the quantum of dividend, etc. to AMC officials. Further, trustees are now mandated to report to SEBI the MF securities dealt by them, only if a transaction exceeds INR 5 lakhs (vis-a-vis the previous threshold of INR 1 lakh). The regulator has also classified investment in non-convertible preference shares (“NCPSs”) as a ‘debt instrument’ and accordingly, limitation of a MF scheme to invest not more than 10% of its net asset value in debt instruments will also include NCPSs. The trustees now being required to obtain SEBI comments before effecting a ‘change in in the fundamental attributes of a MF scheme’ seems burden-some, as the regulator’s role, and oversight, already guarantees for the requisite checks and balances to govern the MF scheme, including for MF scheme transfers, through separate regulations and circulars in this behalf. Above is likely to add another layer to M&A deal-making, with already many layers involved, impacting deal costs and timelines, especially if a ‘new sponsor’ application may be involved, from a process, governance and unit holders’ standpoint. Albeit above ties into SEBI’s increasing focus on MF trustee’s accountability, which has hitherto been an overlooked area, given the nature and composition of MF trustee boards. Though, done with noble regulatory intent, one would have to see whether the above changes, including expansion of key personnel, further ‘spook’ trustee directors, especially independents - already an onerous position, with few upsides, especially after Calcutta High Court’s Order in the ITC / JPMorgan MF Trustees case, and SEBI’s approach qua Franklin Templeton trustees in 2020, expand the scope of potential SEBI show-cause ‘noticees’ from the current list of 7 (!), and shoot MF M&A in the knees, which was given a new lease of life recently via SEBI dropping the ‘3/ 5’ profitability criterion in Regulation 7, MF Regulations.

The Securities Exchange Board of India (“SEBI”) carried out a regulatory revamp exercise of SEBI (Mutual Funds) Regulations, 1996 (“MF Regulations”) and various circulars issued under it by way of a circular on mutual fund(s) (“MF”) issued on March 4, 2021 (“MF Circular”), effective from March 5, 2021, thereby streamlining a robust regime governing the reporting, compliance and disclosure requirements applicable to asset management company(ies) (“AMC”) and the trustee(s) of such AMCs.
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RECLASSIFICATION OF PROMOTERS BY SEBI

The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) came out with its consultative paper on “promoter reclassification/ promoter group entities and disclosure of the promoter group entities in the shareholding pattern[1] to seek public comments on November 23, 2020.

The topic of promoter reclassification has been a talking point since 2015, wherein the power to reclassify promoters laid in the hands of the company, rather than the promoter. Therefore, it was observed by SEBI that the process provided too wide a net to alter the tag of a “promoter”. Hence, in 2018, SEBI revamped the procedure and came out with the now inserted Regulation 31A of Listing Obligations and Disclosure Requirements Regulations, 2015.
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