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Relaxations to FPIs and Companies under bankruptcy wrt ECB

Regulatory update: RBI’s Bi-Monthly Monetary Policy Statement grants important relaxations to FPIs and Companies under bankruptcy with respect to ECB

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on 7 February 2019 has issued its Sixth Bi-monthly Monetary Policy Statement (Monetary Policy Statement), for the current fiscal year 2018-19. The key relaxations announced for foreign investors are as follows:

  1. Relaxation to FPIs investing under the debt route:

Under the extant framework for FPI investment in corporate debt, the RBI’s A.P. (DIR Series) Circular No. 31 dated June 15, 2018 restricted an FPI from having more than 20% exposure of its total corporate bond portfolio, in the corporate debt market in a single corporate (including exposure to entities related to the corporate). Imposed with the aim of incentivizing FPIs to maintain a diverse portfolio of assets, existing FPIs were also given an exemption from this requirement till end of March 2019 to adjust their portfolios. However, the market feedback according to the RBI indicated that FPIs have been constrained by the earlier requirements, and relaxations were needed.

Accordingly, in order to encourage investment in the Indian corporate debt market, the RBI vide the Monetary Policy Statement, removed the abovementioned restriction and has declared that all FPIs shall henceforth again be permitted to invest any portion of its corporate bond portfolio in a single borrower entity. The Monetary Policy Statement indicates that RBI would issue a circular in this regard by mid-February 2019 to make it official.

The Monetary Policy Statement however did not provide any relaxation on the following key restrictions imposed vide the aforementioned A.P. (DIR Series) Circular No. 31 dated June 15, 2018:

  1. Investment by a single FPI or a group of related FPIs shall not exceed 50% of the issue size of a corporate bond; and
  2. At any point of time, a FPI’s investments in corporate / government bonds maturing within one year shall not exceed 20% of the FPI’s total portfolio in corporate / government bonds.
  1. Relaxation ECB framework norms on end-use restrictions for companies under bankruptcy:

Under the extant External Commercial Borrowing (ECB) framework, any borrowing proceeds from an ECB could not be utilized for repayment or for on-lending for repayment of domestic rupee loans. However, cognizant of the prospect that resolution applicants under Corporate Insolvency Resolution Process (CIRP) under Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC), 2016 might find it attractive to borrow abroad to repay the existing lenders, the RBI has decided to relax the end-use restrictions for resolution applicants under the CIRP.

Further under A.P. (DIR Series) Circular No. 18 also dated 7 February 2019 the resolution applicants, who are otherwise eligible borrowers, have been allowed to raise ECBs from recognised lenders, except the branches/ overseas subsidiaries of Indian banks, for repayment of Rupee term loans of the target company under the approval route.

Sources:

  1. Sixth Bi-monthly Monetary Policy Statement for the current fiscal year 2018-19: https://rbi.org.in/Scripts/BS_PressReleaseDisplay.aspx?prid=46237
  2. P. (DIR Series) Circular No. 18 date February 07, 2019: https://www.rbi.org.in/scripts/NotificationUser.aspx?Id=11472&Mode=0
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