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Sovereign funds can buy up to 20% in Indian firms

Last updated on: April 19, 2011 14:35 IST

Sovereign funds can buy up to 20% in Indian firms

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In a move that will enable foreign governments to make more investments in Indian stocks, capital market regulator Sebi has allowed them to buy to a maximum of 20 per cent stake in any listed company without any additional obligations.

The proposed threshold of 20 per cent is twice the current limit of 10 per cent, beyond which sovereign wealth funds, or investment arms of foreign governments, need to make an open offer for buying any additional stake.

Sebi, which will grant any such approval on case-by-case basis, has also sought changes in the relevant central government regulations about foreign investments, said a senior official.

A proposal to this effect was approved at a Sebi board meeting on March 25 and the new guidelines would be announced soon, he added.

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Photographs: Reuters
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The move, which would classify various funds of a single country as different entities and not as a single group, is primarily aimed at removing regulatory hurdles for sovereign wealth funds of the countries with whom India has signed Comprehensive Economic Co-operation Agreements.

Some of the major countries to benefit from the move include Singapore, whose two investment arms Temasek and GIC have heavily invested in Indian companies and often face problems in buying shares beyond the current limits.

The new rules would not equate sovereign funds as any other foreign institutional investors and give them a preferential treatment.

"Sovereign wealth funds invest in India via the foreign institutional investment route and/or through foreign direct investment/ foreign venture capital route," a Sebi board memorandum said.

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Photographs: Reuters
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"For this purpose, at times these funds use multiple investment vehicles (two to three), which may differ in terms of investment objective and structure," the memorandum said.

"Having regard to this, one Comprehensive Economic Co-operation Agreement signed by India recognises such investment vehicles of the aovereign as independent of each other for the purposes of application of the Sebi rules, regulations and guidelines," it added.

At present, an entity which buys over 15 per cent in a listed company has to make an open offer for another 20 per cent. Sebi plans to amend the takeover and foreign institutional investor regulations so that India's Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreements with other governments can be implemented.

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The new rules apply to SWFs from countries with whom India had signed CECAs, Sebi said.

India has CECAs with Singapore and South Korea. Its agreement with Malaysia is set to get operational by July. It is negotiating with the European Union, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Indonesia and Israel. The CECA with Japan has been delayed due to the earthquake there.

The new norms will immediately benefit Singapore's SWFs -- Government of Singapore Investment Corporation and Temasek Holdings -- and Malaysia's Khazanah.

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SWFs invest in India via the foreign institutional investor route and/or through the foreign direct investment/foreign venture capital route.

For this, at times they use multiple investment vehicles (two to three), which may differ in terms of structure and investment objectives.

The CECAs recognise these as independent of each other for application of Sebi rules.


Photographs: Reuters
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