Tag Archives: IPO

Differential Voting Rights: Helping Tech Companies to an easy climb up the mountain of entrepreneurship

There is a common and a convenient rule of one vote – one share practised by most of the companies. This rule is generally referred to as voting rights on ordinary shares. However, when there is a requirement to deviate from this rule, the concept of differential voting rights comes into play. This differential voting rights are known as DVRs in India and dual-class shares or DCS in the international perspective. These DVRs are rights which are disproportionate to their economic ownership. When a promoter or shareholder wants to retain decision making powers and rights, they can do so by retaining shares with superior voting rights or by issuing of shares with lower or fractional voting rights to other investors.

The concept of DVR has been captured in the Companies Act, 2013 under Section 43 (a)(ii) which says, that a company limited by shares may have equity share capital with differential rights on voting, or dividends, or otherwise. Rule 4 of the Companies (Share Capital and Debentures) Rules, 2014, provides certain conditions which are required to be complied with, for issuance of shares with differential rights. SEBI (Listing Obligations and Disclosure Requirement) Regulations, 2015, (“SEBI (LODR) Regulations, 2015”) also dealt with DVRs, but, it prohibited the listed companies from issuing shares with superior voting rights.

The need for DVR

In the current era, India is going through vast developments and advancement in many sectors especially the technology and information technology sector. These developments and advancements require huge capital. For raising capital, the companies seek investments, but these frequent and vast investments may lead to dilution of founder/ promoter stake. In order to cope with this, issuance of DVRs are helpful.

The journey of the framework

Earlier in 2000, the concept of DVR came to India through the Companies Act, 1956, whereby Indian companies were allowed to issue DVRs. However, in 2009, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) had disallowed the issue of shares with superior rights to voting or dividend by listed companies, but they were permitted to issue shares with fractional voting rights. In order to bring the new framework, SEBI had invited comments from public on a Consultation Paper named ‘Issuance of shares with Differential Voting Rights (DVRs)’ (Consultation Paper[1]). It dealt with both the shares with superior rights (Superior Rights Shares or SR Shares) and inferior rights (Fractional Rights Shares or FR Shares). The framework got approved by SEBI in its board meeting on June 27, 2019 , permitting issuance of SR share by listed company and disallowing issuance of FR shares.

A walk through in to the new framework

Eligibility conditions: 

A company to be eligible to issue DVRs in form of SR shares, shall adhere to the following conditions:

  1. The company issuing SR share shall be technology company. SEBI defines a technology company as one that is “intensive in the use of technology, information technology, intellectual property, data analytics, bio-technology or nano-technology to provide products, services or business platforms with substantial value addition”.
  2. The SR shareholder should be a part of a promoter group and whose collective net worth does not exceed INR 500 crore. The investment made by SR shareholders in the shares of the issuer company will not be considered while determining the collective net worth.
  3. The SR shall be issued only to promoters/founders who hold an executive position in the company.
  4. The issuance of the SR shares should be authorized by passing a special resolution in the general meeting.
  5. SR shares have been held for at least 6 months prior to filing the Red Herring Prospectus (RHP).
  6. SR shares should have voting rights in the ratio of minimum 2:1 and maximum 10:1 compared to ordinary shares.

Listing and lock-in period: Post the IPO, the issuer company can list the SR shares on Stock Exchanges. However, SR shares are subject to lock-in after the IPO, until they are converted into ordinary shares. Transferring, pledging or lien of SR shares among promoters is prohibited under the framework.

Rights of SR shares: Except for voting on resolutions, the SR shares will be treated at par with ordinary shares in all other aspects. The total voting rights of SR shareholders (including ordinary shares), post listing should not exceed 74%.

Additional rules for companies with SR shareholders pertaining to enhanced corporate governance: The listed  companies issuing SR shares shall comply with the following rules for “enhanced corporate governance” such as:

  1. i) As prescribed under the SEBI (LODR) Regulations, 2015, Independent directors should comprise at least 1/2 of the board and 2/3 of committees (excluding the audit committee) and
  2. ii) The audit committee should only have Independent Directors.

Coat-tail provisions: After the IPO, the SR shares will be given same treatments as ordinary equity shares in terms of voting rights with respect to the following matters:

  1. Appointment or removal of Independent Directors and/or Auditors
  2. Cases where promoter is willingly transferring control to another entity
  3. Related Party Transactions involving SR Shareholder as per SEBI (LODR) Regulations, 2015
  4. Voluntary winding up of the Company
  5. Alteration of the Articles of Association or Memorandum of Association, except any such changes affecting the SR shares
  6. Voluntary Resolution Plan initiated under Insolvency & Bankruptcy Code, 2016
  7. Funds utilized for purposes other than business
  8. Substantial value transaction based on materiality threshold as prescribed under SEBI (LODR) Regulations, 2015
  9. Passing of special resolution for buy-back or delisting of shares
  10. Any other provisions as notified by SEBI from time to time

Sunset clauses: SR shares can be converted under two circumstances:

  1. Time based: After 5 years of listing, the SR Shares shall be converted to Ordinary Shares. By passing a resolution, the validity can be extended only once by 5 years. However, the SR shareholders shall not be allowed to vote on such resolution.
  2. Event based: In the event of demise, resignation of SR shareholders, merger or acquisition where the control would be no longer with SR shareholder, etc., the SR shares shall be compulsorily get converted into Ordinary Shares.

Changes to be incorporated in various laws pursuant to DVR framework:

The Companies Act, 2013: As stated earlier, under Section 43(a)(ii) of the Companies Act, 2013, and Rule 4 of the Companies (Share Capital & Debentures) Rules, 2014 framed under the Companies Act, 2013 prescribes that shares with DVRs in a company, shall not exceed 26% of the total post-issue capital. However, the new framework extends the limit to 74%. Therefore, corresponding changes are required to be brought in the Companies Act, 2013.  Another limiting factor in the Companies Act, 2013 is that “the company must have a consistent track record of distributable profits for the last 3 years”, but criteria for 3 years is silent on IPOs.  Such a criteria may not be helpful and rather impossible for all start-ups. Therefore, this matter should also be taken into consideration.

Securities Contracts (Regulation) Rules, 1957 (‘SCRR’): A company with multiple classes of equity shares at the time of undertaking an IPO, is required to make an offer of each such class of equity shares to the public in an IPO. Further, Rule 19(2)(b) of SCRR provides that minimum dilution and minimum subscription requirements as prescribed have to be complied with, separately for each class of the equity shares. It is a mandatory requirement under the rule that all kinds of shares shall be listed. There is no provision for listing one kind of share and not listing another. As the new framework demands for listing of SR shares without offering to public, it leads to a doubt for a company with different classes of shares whether it should proceed with listing all kinds of share or keep few of such equity shares unlisted. Therefore, a clarification is required in this regard.

SEBI (LODR) Regulations, 2015: Under regulation 41(3) of SEBI (LODR) Regulations, 2015, it has been stated that listed entity shall not issue shares which may confer to a person SR right on equity shares which are already listed. Therefore, an amendment is required which permits the grant of SR shares to equity shareholders.

SEBI (Substantial Acquisition of Shares and Takeovers) Regulations, 2011 (“SEBI Takeover Code”): Regulation 3 and 4 of SEBI Takeover Code provides that when an acquirer is holding 25% or more of the shares or voting rights in a target company, it has an obligation to make a public announcement of an open offer. Based on the stated Regulation of SEBI Takeover Code and the new DVRs framework, Regulation 10 is required to be amended in such a manner that Regulation 3 would not get triggered for making an open offer if the stated threshold is crossed by reason of SR shares getting lapse or converted into ordinary equity shares, provided that there is no attendant change in control in favor of the person crossing such threshold.

Further, Regulation 29 of SEBI Takeover Code requires disclosure for acquisition of additional voting right by holder of ordinary equity share. Since the change in voting rights brought after the conversation of SR shares to ordinary shares, which is an involuntary act on behalf of holder of ordinary equity share, there is a requirement of bringing change in format of disclosure under Regulation 30 of SEBI Takeover Code.

The pros and cons of DVRs:

Advantages from the perspective of issuer:

  • It solves the biggest issue of raising fund without diluting the voting right or the control of the founders/promoters over the company.
  • when there is ordinary equity shares issued to outside investors, there is a possibility that such shareholders acquire majority of the shares of the company and gain control over the management of the company, where as in the case of SR shares, this possibility is minimised.

Disadvantages from the perspective of issuer:

  • It is a challenge for the issuer to find such investors who are not interested in control and management of the company even after investing huge amount of money.
  • Issuing of SR shares is not considered a good corporate governance.

Advantages from the perspective of investor:

  • It is beneficial for those investors who are getting a higher rate of dividend over the ordinary shareholders.
  • The DVRs with FR shares are generally offered at a discount for equal number of shares.

Disadvantages from the perspective of investor:

  • DVRs with SR shares with the founders or large proportion of DVRs with FR shares with public investors, make management excessively powerful and can raise issues of corporate governance.
  • As a result of separating voting right from economic interests, there might be possibilities externalities like management entrenchment, excessive compensation of management, reduced dividend pay-out etc.

Conclusion

When we know that India is still considered to be a developing country and it has a lot of              competition with various other developed and developing states. India should have such corporate and commercial laws which are at par with the corporate and commercial laws of other countries. While India is giving majority of its space for incorporation and functioning of technology companies, it should have DVRs related laws like in US, Canada, Hong Kong etc. Such laws will help in raising the capital of tech companies. The applicability of DVRs law in India will not just help in growth and development of the tech companies in India, but it will also lead Indian tech companies to be good competitors for the tech companies incorporated in other nations.  It would help the promoters/founders of the company to grow their business fast. The only thing to be kept in mind by the companies while adopting such laws  is that, they shall also maintain a good corporate governance in their company.

Authors: Srisha Choudhary and Alivia Das

References:

[1] https://www.sebi.gov.in/web/?file=https://www.sebi.gov.in/sebi_data/attachdocs/apr-2019/1554115093453.pdf#page=1&zoom=auto,-16,800

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Amendment to Regulations on Institutional Trading Platform- Innovation Growth Platform 1.0

Background

In the year 2016, Securities Exchange Board of India (SEBI) had introduced Institutional Trading Platform vide amendment to the SEBI Regulations (Issue of Capital and Disclosure Requirements), 2009 (SEBI ICDR Regulation) to facilitate listing of start-ups in sectors like e-commerce, data analytics and bio-technology to raise funds and get their shares traded on stock exchanges. However, due to strict norms and inability to access the platform, this initiative was not effective. In the wake to kick start listing of securities by the start-ups, with effect from 5 April 2019, SEBI further amended the SEBI ICDR Regulation (Amendment Regulation). The Amendment Regulation is notified to bring change in the start-up ecosystem by making the platform more accessible and more attractive for the new age ventures.

Key Changes

SEBI has tweaked the existing listing norms of the Institutional Trading Platform and has made the following changes:

Particulars Old Provision Amended Provision
Change of name Earlier it was known as Institutional Trading Platform (ITP) The platform has been renamed as ‘Innovators Growth Platform‘(IGP).
Eligible Issuers In addition to start-ups, any company having Qualified Institutional Buyers (QIBs) as their shareholders to the extent of at least 50% of pre-issue capital was eligible to list on the ITP. IGP has been designed to facilitate listing of the companies that provide products and services or business platforms in the areas of technology, information technology, intellectual property, data analytics, bio-technology or nano-technology are eligible to list on the IGP.
Shareholding Requirement At least 25% of the pre-issue capital to be held by QIBs. Listing can be done by way of IPO or even without an IPO process.

(a)   IPO Process: At least 25% of the pre-issue capital (for at least 2 years) to be held by either: (a) QIBs; (b) a pooled investment fund with minimum assets under management of USD 150 million (subject to meeting other prescribed criteria for such pooled investment fund); (c) accredited investors (not more than 10%); (d) Cat III FPI; or (e) family trusts with net-worth of more than INR 500 Crores.

(b)   Without IPO process: no such minimum offer to the public is required.

Post-issue shareholding Earlier, there was a requirement that no person, individually or collectively with other persons acting in concert, to hold 25% or more of the post-issue capital. This requirement has been done away with.
Minimum application size INR 10 lakh INR 2 lakh (this brings relaxations)
Allocation 75% to institutional investors 25% to non-institutional investors There is no minimum reservation requirement. Also, the allocation will be on proportionate basis to institutional and non-institutional investors.
Minimum number of allottees 200 50
Minimum trading lot INR 10 lakh INR 2 lakh

 

Conclusion

Though very less, off lately we have seen few tech companies like Tejas Networks, Koovs, Matrimony.com, etc. who have taken the IPO route to raise funds. Despite the vagaries of market, going public not only provide recognition but also shows that the start-up is beyond mortality. The Amendment Regulations have tried to simplify the listing norms and with this, SEBI intends to attract a greater number of investors on the IGP and aims to provide a much-needed boost to start-ups looking to access the capital markets.

Source:https://www.sebi.gov.in/legal/regulations/apr-2019/securities-and-exchange-board-of-india-issue-of-capital-and-disclosure-requirements-second-amendment-regulations-2019-_42644.html

Regulatory update: SEBI – Compensation to Retail Individual Investors (RIIs) in an IPO.

SEBI vide its circular dated 15 February 2018 has directed that RIIs applying for shares in IPO should be compensated if Self Certified Syndicate Banks (SCSB) fail to make the allotment despite of RIIs eligibility.

In order to bring uniformity in the calculation of compensation available to the RIIs, SEBI has stated that the compensation shall be calculated as below:

(Listing price– issue price) *multiplied by* (no. of shares that would have been allotted if a bid was successful) *multiplied by* (probability of allotment of shares determined on the basis of allotment).

Source:

https://www.sebi.gov.in/legal/circulars/feb-2018/compensation-to-retail-individual-investors-riis-in-an-ipo_37864.html

Regulatory Updates: SEBI- Circular on Minimum Public Shareholding

SEBI vide its circular dated 22 February 2018 has provided the following methods for complying with the Minimum Public Shareholding (MPS) requirement:

  1. Open market sale of shares held by the promoters/promoters group up to 2% of the paid-up equity share capital of the listed entity in the open market subject to five times average monthly trading volume of the shares of the listed entity.
  2. Qualified Institutions Placement (QIP).

QIP offers a quick solution to listed entities enabling them to meet MPS requirements apart from meeting their funding requirements. Also, a sale of a certain small percentage of shares through the open market will facilitate quicker and cheaper compliance for listed entities where promoters hold shares marginally above the threshold limit.
Rule 19A of the Securities Contracts (Regulations) Rules, 1957 stipulates that every listed company shall maintain a public shareholding of at least 25%. Listed public sector companies have been provided additional time till 21 August 2018 to comply with the requirements.

Accordingly, listed entities that have a public shareholding of less than 25% are required to adopt any of the certain methods to comply with the MPS requirements, such as issuance of shares to public through prospectus, offer for sale to public through prospectus, Sale of shares held by promoters through secondary market, Institutional Placement Program, rights issue to public shareholders, bonus shares to public shareholders, open market sale and QIP.

Source:
https://www.sebi.gov.in/legal/circulars/feb-2018/manner-of-achieving-minimum-public-shareholding_37953.html