Trading window closure in case of debt listed company

CS Nitu Poddar, Senior Associate, Vinod Kothari & Company

corplaw@vinodkothari.com

 

SEBI (Prohibition of Insider Trading) Regulations, 2015 (‘Regulations’) is applicable in relation to securities listed and proposed to be listed. Companies having its debentures listed are also required to comply with the provisions of the Regulations. The intent of the Regulations is to prohibit trading in listed securities while in possession of Unpublished Price Sensitive Information (UPSI). UPSI has been defined to mean such information that is not generally available and which can materially affect the price of the securities on becoming generally available and includes information in relating to financial results, dividends, change in capital structure, restructuring and changes in key managerial personnel.

UPSI in case of debt listed entities

Sensitivity of an information largely depends on the kind of security it is associated with; Information that may be regarded as UPSI for an equity listed entity may not necessarily affect prices of the debt listed. For example, declaration of dividend is price sensitive information for an equity listed entity but may not have any impact on the debt listed. The reason for the same is that debentures receive fixed rate of interest and is not at the discretion of the management. However, default/ expected default in payment of interest on a loan is price sensitive information as it may result in non-service of obligations in relation to the debt listed too.

 

Generally speaking, the information with respect to the financial position of the company,revision in ratings, instance of defaultmade by the company in repayment of any debt or any such information which affects the payment of principal and /or interest of the debentures are probable price sensitive information for listed debt securities.

 

Given the uniform applicability of the Regulation for all listed companies, there are certain implementation issues with respect to the closure of trading window in case of debt listed company which has been discussed in this article.

 

Closure of Trading Window in case of Financial Results

 

Trading Window denotes a notional window used as an instrument of monitoring the trades of Designated Persons. A Designated Person is permitted to trade only when the Trading Window is not closed.

 

As per Para 4 of Schedule B to the Regulations, it is mandatoryfor all listed companies to close its Trading Windowfrom the end of “every quarter” till 48 hours after the declaration of financial results.

 

“Trading restriction period can be made applicable from the end of every quarter till 48 hours after the declaration of financial results”

 

 

An equity listed entity is required to submit financial results on a quarterly basis. In case of debt listed entity, listed entities are required to submit un-audited or audited financial results on a half yearly basis. If the debt listed entity is a subsidiary of an equity listed entity, in that case it is required to submit financial results on quarterly basis for consolidation purpose.

 

The quarterly results so submitted may not be published on the website of the debt listed entity; however, the information becomes generally available by forming part of the consolidated financial results.

 

Accordingly, few pertinent questions that arise are:

 

  1. Should the trading window of a debt listed entity be closed from the end of every quarter till the declaration of financial results by the company which will happen only after the completion of a half year?

 

  1. Should the debt listed company close the trading window every quarter while submitting results to holding company for consolidation purpose?

 

Possible interpretation:

 

Quarters/ Half Year Timeline for submission of results to stock exchange Period of trading window closure in case debt listed entity has not holding company. Period of trading window closure in case of submission of results for consolidation.
April to June (Q1) Not required From July 1 till 48 hours of declaration of consolidated results by holding company.
July-September (Q2)

 

April – September (HY 1)

 

November 14

 

 

From October 1 till 48 hours after declaration of financial results

From October 1 till 48 hours after declaration of financial results by debt listed entity.
October – December (Q3) Not required From January 1 till 48 hours of declaration of consolidated results by holding company.
January – March (Q4)

 

October – March (HY 2)

 

 

May 30

 

 

From April 1 till 48 hours after declaration of financial results.

From April 1 till 48 hours after declaration of financial results by debt listed entity.

 

It is to be noted that, with the amended[1] provisions in place, the tenure of closure of Trading Window got elongated and covers almost 180 days/ 6 months of the year. Now, if the provisions of PIT, for a debt listed company, are interpreted in a way that the window should be closed from the end of each quarter and opened once the financial results are declared after the half year, one can easily imagine that the window is closed for almost the 8-9 months of the year! Does that mean that the designated person of such companies will be allowed barely 3 months for trading? Taking such a view will be squarely impractical.

 

A debt listed company which is not a subsidiary of an equity listed holding company, cannot be mandated to close trading window every quarter merely to comply with Schedule B requirements. This will result in absolute impractical situation.

 

Where the debt listed company is required to share quarterly financials for consolidation purpose,standalone financial results of the debtlisted company are notpublished separately. Accordingly, the UPSI becomes published and publicly available, to the extent of consolidated figures, on declaration of results by the holding company and therefore, keeping up with the intent of closing of the Trading Window (to prohibit trading by designated person while in possession of UPSI) it will be appropriate to interpret that the trading window of such debt listed companies should be closed quarterly and opened after 48 hours of declaration of consolidated financial results by the holding company to public.

 

Compliances for sharing of financial result with the Parent company

 

So far as sharing of the quarterly results of the debt listed company with the holding company is concerned, the same being for legitimate purpose, certain compliances have to be ensured by the debt listed company in line with its code of conduct viz.

  • Promoters are regarded as Designated Persons under the Regulations. Therefore, signing of non-disclosure / confidentiality agreement with the holding company may not be required;
  • Designated Person shall not trade in the listed securities of the debt listed company until the information becomes generally available either pursuant to publishing of financial results by the debt listed entity or publishing of consolidated figures by holding company, as applicable.
  • Entry to be made in the structured digital database in relation to sharing of information with employees of the holding company.

[1]Securities and Exchange Board of India (Prohibition of Insider Trading) (Amendment) Regulations, 2018 (w.e.f. April 01, 2019)

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