CA Kamal Garg
(1) Overseas investments in Joint Ventures (JV) and Wholly Owned Subsidiaries (WOS) have been recognised as important avenues for promoting global business by Indian entrepreneurs. Joint Ventures are perceived as a medium of economic and business co-operation between India and other countries. Transfer of technology and skill, sharing of results of R&D, access to wider global market, promotion of brand image, generation of employment and utilisation of raw materials available in India and in the host country are other significant benefits arising out of such overseas investments. They are also important drivers of foreign trade through increased exports of plant and machinery and goods and services from India and also a source of foreign exchange earnings by way of dividend earnings, royalty, technical know-how fee and other entitlements on such investments.
(2) In keeping with the spirit of liberalisation, which has become the hallmark of economic policy in general, and Foreign Exchange regulations in particular, the Reserve Bank has been progressively relaxing the rules and simplifying the procedures both for current account as well as capital account transactions.
(1) Section 6 of the Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999 provides powers to the Reserve Bank to specify, in consultation with the Government of India the classes of permissible capital account transactions and limits up to which foreign exchange is admissible for such transactions. Section 6(3) of the aforesaid Act provides powers to the Reserve Bank to prohibit, restrict or regulate various transactions referred to in the sub-clauses of that sub-section, by making Regulations.
(2) In exercise of the above powers conferred under the Act, the Reserve Bank has in supersession of the earlier Notification No.FEMA19/RB-2000 dated 3rd May 2000 and subsequent amendments thereto, issued Foreign Exchange Management (Transfer or Issue of any Foreign Security) Regulations, 2004 vide Notification No. FEMA 120/RB-2004 dated July 7, 20041. The Notification seeks to regulate acquisition and transfer of a foreign security by a person resident in India i.e. investment by Indian entities in overseas joint ventures and wholly owned subsidiaries as also investment by a person resident in India in shares and securities issued outside India. Overseas Investment can be made under two routes viz. (i) Automatic Route outlined in paragraph B.1 and (ii) Approval Route outlined in paragraph B.7.
Indian parties are prohibited from making investment in a foreign entity engaged in real estate (meaning buying and selling of real estate or trading in Transferable Development Rights (TDRs) but does not include development of townships, construction of residential/commercial premises, roads or bridges) or banking business, without the prior approval of the Reserve Bank.
In terms of Regulation 4 of the Notification, general permission has been granted to persons residents in India for purchase / acquisition of securities in the following manner:
(a) out of the funds held in RFC account;
(b) as bonus shares on existing holding of foreign currency shares; and
(c) when not permanently resident in India, out of their foreign currency resources outside India.
General permission is also available to sell the shares so purchased or acquired.
(1) In terms of Regulation 6 of the Notification, an Indian party has been permitted to make investment in overseas Joint Ventures (JV) / Wholly Owned Subsidiaries (WOS), not exceeding 400 per cent of the net worth as on the date of last audited balance sheet of the Indian party, i.e. a company incorporated in India or a body created under an Act of Parliament or a partnership firm registered under the Indian Partnership Act, 1932, making investment in a JV/WOS abroad and includes any other entity in India excluding individuals as may be notified by the Reserve Bank.
(2) The ceiling of 400 per cent of net worth will not be applicable where the investment is made out of balances held in Exchange Earners’ Foreign Currency account of the Indian party or out of funds raised through ADRs/GDRs. The Indian party should approach an Authorised Dealer Category – I bank with an application in Form ODI and prescribed enclosures / documents for effecting remittances towards such investments.
(3) The total financial commitment of the Indian party, in all the Joint Ventures / Wholly Owned Subsidiaries put together, shall not exceed 400% of the net worth of the Indian party as on the date of the last audited balance sheet. For the purpose of determining the ‘total financial commitment’ within the limit of 400% as specified above, the following shall be reckoned, namely:
a. 100% of the amount of equity shares;
b. 100% of the amount of compulsorily and mandatorily convertible preference shares;
c. 100% of the amount of other preference shares;
d. 100% of the amount of loan;
e. 100% of the amount of guarantee (other than performance guarantee) issued by the Indian party;
f. 100% of the amount of bank guarantee issued by a resident bank on behalf of JV or WOS of the Indian party provided the bank guarantee is backed by a counter guarantee / collateral by the Indian party.
g. 50% of the amount of performance guarantee issued by the Indian party provided that the outflow on account of invocation of performance guarantee results in the breach of the limit of the financial commitment in force, prior permission of the Reserve Bank is to be obtained before executing remittance beyond the limit prescribed for the financial commitment.
The investments are subject to the following conditions:
a) The Indian party / entity may extend loan / guarantee only to an overseas JV/ WOS in which it has equity participation. Proposals from the Indian party for undertaking financial commitment without equity contribution in JV / WOS may be considered by the Reserve Bank under the approval route. AD banks may forward the proposals from their constituents after ensuring that the laws of the host country permit incorporation of a company without equity participation by the Indian party.
Indian entities may offer any form of guarantee – corporate or personal (including the personal guarantee by the indirect resident individual promoters of the Indian Party)/ primary or collateral / guarantee by the promoter company / guarantee by group company, sister concern or associate company in India provided that:
i) All financial commitments including all forms of guarantees are within the overall ceiling prescribed for overseas investment by the Indian party i.e. currently within 400 per cent of the net worth as on the date of the last audited balance sheet of the Indian party.
ii) No guarantee should be ‘open ended’ i.e. the amount and period of the guarantee should be specified upfront. In the case of performance guarantee, time specified for the completion of the contract shall be the validity period of the related performance guarantee.
iii) In cases where invocation of the performance guarantees breach the ceiling for the financial exposure of 400 per cent of the net worth of the Indian Party, the Indian Party shall seek the prior approval of the Reserve Bank before remitting funds from India, on account of such invocation.
iv) As in the case of corporate guarantees, all guarantees (including performance guarantees and Bank Guarantees / SBLC) are required to be reported to the Reserve Bank, in Form ODI-Part II. Guarantees issued by banks in India in favour of WOSs / JVs outside India, and would be subject to prudential norms, issued by the Reserve Bank (DBOD) from time to time.
b) The Indian party should not be on the Reserve Bank’s Exporters’ caution list / list of defaulters to the banking system circulated by the Reserve Bank / Credit Information Bureau (India) Ltd. (CIBIL) / or any other credit information company as approved by the Reserve Bank or under investigation by any investigation / enforcement agency or regulatory body.
c) All transactions relating to a JV / WOS should be routed through one branch of an Authorised Dealer bank to be designated by the Indian party.
d) In case of partial / full acquisition of an existing foreign company, where the investment is more than USD 5 million, valuation of the shares of the company shall be made by a Category I Merchant Banker registered with SEBI or an Investment Banker / Merchant Banker outside India registered with the appropriate regulatory authority in the host country; and, in all other cases by a Chartered Accountant or a Certified Public Accountant.
e) In cases of investment by way of swap of shares, irrespective of the amount, valuation of the shares will have to be made by a Category I Merchant Banker registered with SEBI or an Investment Banker outside India registered with the appropriate regulatory authority in the host country. Approval of the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) will also be a prerequisite for investment by swap of shares.
f) In case of investment in overseas JV / WOS abroad by a registered Partnership firm, where the entire funding for such investment is done by the firm, it will be in order for individual partners to hold shares for and on behalf of the firm in the overseas JV / WOS if the host country regulations or operational requirements warrant such holdings.
g) An Indian party may acquire shares of a foreign company engaged in a bonafide business activity, in exchange of ADRs/GDRs issued to the latter in accordance with the Scheme for issue of Foreign Currency Convertible Bonds and Ordinary Shares (through Depository Receipt Mechanism) Scheme, 1993, and the guidelines issued there under from time to time by the Government of India, provided:
(i) ADRs/GDRs are listed on any stock exchange outside India;
(ii) The ADR and/or GDR issued for the purpose of acquisition is backed by underlying fresh equity shares issued by the Indian party;
(iii) The total holding in the Indian entity by persons resident outside India in the expanded capital base, after the new ADR and/or GDR issue, does not exceed the sectoral cap prescribed under the relevant regulations for such investment under FDI;
(iv) Valuation of the shares of the foreign company shall be
(a) as per the recommendations of the Investment Banker if the shares are not listed on any recognized stock exchange; or
(b) based on the current market capitalisation of the foreign company arrived at on the basis of monthly average price on any stock exchange abroad for the three months preceding the month in which the acquisition is committed and over and above, the premium, if any, as recommended by the Investment Banker in its due diligence report in other cases.
(4) The Indian Party is required to report such acquisition in form ODI to the AD Bank for submission to the Reserve Bank within a period of 30 days from the date of the transaction.
Method of Funding:
(1) Investment in an overseas JV / WOS may be funded out of one or more of the following sources:
i) drawal of foreign exchange from an AD bank in India;
ii) capitalisation of exports;
iii) swap of shares (valuation as mentioned in para B.1 (e) above);
iv) proceeds of External Commercial Borrowings (ECBs) / Foreign Currency Convertible Bonds (FCCBs);
v) in exchange of ADRs/GDRs issued in accordance with the Scheme for issue of Foreign Currency Convertible Bonds and Ordinar Shares (through Depository Receipt Mechanism) Scheme, 1993, and the guidelines issued thereunder from time to time by the Government of India;
vi) balances held in EEFC account of the Indian party; and
vii) proceeds of foreign currency funds raised through ADR / GDR issues.
In respect of (vi) and (vii) above, the ceiling of 400 per cent of the net worth will not apply. However, all investments made in the financial sector will be subject to compliance with Regulation 7 of the Notification, irrespective of the method of funding.
(Compiled by CA Kamal Garg, a Fellow Member of ICAI. He is engaged in IFRS – Audit and Advisory, FEMA, Valuation and XBRL Services. He can be approached at email@example.com, 9811054015)