Ind AS vs Qualifying Criteria for NBFCs-Accounting requirements resulting in regulatory mismatch?

-Financial Services Division and IFRS Division,  (finserv@vinodkothari.com  ifrs@vinodkothari.com)

The transition of accounting policies for the non-banking financial companies (NBFCs) is on the verge of being completed. As was laid down in the implementation guide issued by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, the Indian Accounting Standard (Ind AS) was to be implemented in the following manner:

Non-Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs)
Phase I

 

 From 1st April, 2018 (with comparatives for the periods ending on 31st  March, 2018)
·         NBFCs having net worth of rupees five hundred crore or more (whether listed or unlisted)
·         holding, subsidiary, joint venture and associates companies of above NBFC other than those already covered under corporate roadmap shall also apply from said date
Phase II From 1st April, 2019 (with comparatives for the periods ending on 31st March, 2019)
·         NBFCs whose equity and/or debt securities are listed or in the process of listing on any stock exchange in India or outside India and having net worth less than rupees five hundred crore

 

·         NBFCs that are unlisted companies, having net worth of rupees two-hundred and fifty crore  or more but less than rupees five hundred crore
·         holding, subsidiary, joint venture and associate companies of above other than those already covered under the corporate roadmap
· Unlisted NBFCs having net worth below two-hundred and fifty crore shall not apply Ind AS.

· Voluntary adoption of Ind AS is not allowed (allowed only when required as per roadmap)

· Applicable for both Consolidated and Individual Financial Statements

As may be noted, the NBFCs have been classified into three major categories – a) Large NBFCs (those with net worth of ₹ 500 crores or more), b) Mid-sized NBFCs (those with net worth of ₹ 250 crores – ₹ 500 crores) and c) Small NBFCs (unlisted NBFCs with net worth of less than ₹ 250 crores).

The implementation of Ind AS for Large NBFCs has already been completed, and those for Mid-sized NBFCs is in process; the Small NBFCs are anyways not required implementation.

The NBFCs are facing several implementation challenges, more so because the regulatory framework for NBFCs have not undergone any change, despite the same being closely related to accounting framework. Several compliance requirements under the prudential norms are correlated with the financial statements of the NBFCs, however, several principles in Ind AS are contradictory in nature.

One such issue of contradiction relates to determination of qualifying assets for the purpose of NBFC classification. RBI classifies NBFCs into different classes depending on the nature of the business they carry on like Infrastructure Finance Companies, Factoring Companies, Micro Finance Companies and so on. In addition to the principal business criteria which is applicable to all NBFCs, RBI has also laid down special conditions specific to the business carried on by the different classes of NBFCs. For instance, the additional qualifying criteria for NBFC-IFCs are:

(a) a minimum of 75 per cent of its total assets deployed in “infrastructure loans”;

(b) Net owned funds of Rs.300 crore or above;

(c) minimum credit rating ‘A’ or equivalent of CRISIL, FITCH, CARE, ICRA, Brickwork Rating India Pvt. Ltd. (Brickwork) or equivalent rating by any other credit rating agency accredited by RBI;

(d) CRAR of 15 percent (with a minimum Tier I capital of 10 percent)

Similarly, there are conditions laid down for other classes of NBFCs as well. The theme of this article revolves the impact of the Ind AS implementation of the conditions such as these, especially the ones dealing with sectoral deployment of assets or qualifying assets. But before we examine the specific impact of Ind AS on the compliance, let us first understand the implications of the requirement.

Relevance of sectoral deployment of funds/ qualifying assets for NBFCs

The requirement, such as the one discussed above, that is, of having 75% of the total assets deployed in infrastructure loans by the company happens to be a qualifying criteria. IFCs are registered with the understanding that they will operate predominantly to cater the requirements of the infrastructure sector and therefore, their assets should also be deployed in the infrastructure sector. However, once the thresholds are satisfied, the remaining part of the assets can be deployed elsewhere, as per the discretion of the NBFC.

The above requirement, in its simplest form, means to have intentional and substantial amount of the total assets of the NBFC in question to be deployed in the infrastructure area, both, at the time of registration, as well as a regulatory requirement, which has to be met over time. Breaching the same would result in non-fulfilment of the RBI regulations.

Impact of Ind AS on the qualifying criteria

The above requirement might seem simple, however, with the implementation of Ind AS on NBFC, there can be important issues which might result in the breach of the above requirement.

With the overall slogan of “Substance over Form”, and promoting “Fair Value Accounting” and an aim to make the financial statements more transparent and just, Ind AS have been implemented. However, the same fair value accounting can result in a mismatch of regulatory requirement, to such an extent that the repercussion may have a serious impact on the existence of being an NBFC.

As already stated above, once an NBFC satisfies the qualifying criteria, it can deploy the remaining assets anywhere as per its discretion. Let us assume a case, where the remaining assets are deployed in equity instruments of other companies. All this while, under the Indian GAAP, investments in equity shares were recorded in the books of accounts as per their book value, but with the advent of Ind AS, most of these investments are now required to be recorded on fair values. This logic not only applies in case of equity instruments, but in other classes of financial instruments, other than those eligible for classification as per amortised cost method.

The problem arises when the fair value of the financial instruments, other than the NBFC category specific loans like infrastructure loans, exceed the permitted level of diversification (in case of IFC – 25% of the total assets). Such a situation leads to a question whether this will breach the qualifying criteria for the NBFC. A numeric illustration to understand the situation better has been provided below:

Say, an NBFC-IFC, having a total asset size of Rs. 1,000 crores would be required to have 75% of the total assets deployed in infrastructure loans i.e. Rs. 750 crores. The remaining Rs. 250 crores is free for discretionary deployments. Let us assume that the entire Rs. 250 crores have been deployed in other financial assets.

Now, say, after fair valuation of such other financial assets, the value of such assets increases to ₹ 500 crores, this will lead to the following:

Under Indian GAAP Under Ind AS
Amount

(in ₹ crores)

As per a % of total assets Amount

(in ₹ crores)

As per a % of total assets
Infrastructure Loans 750 75% 750 60%
Other financial assets 250 25% 500 40%
Total assets 1000 100% 1250 100%

 

Therefore, if one goes by the face of the balance sheet of the NBFC, there is a clear breach as per the Ind AS accounting, as the qualifying asset comes down to 60% as against the required level of 75%. However, is it justified to take such a view?

The above interpretation is counter-intuitive.

It may be noted that the stress is on “deployment” of its assets by an IFC. Merely because the value of the equity has appreciated due to fair valuation, it cannot be argued that the IFC has breached its maximum discretionary investment limits. The deployment was only limited to 25% or so to say that even though the fair value of the exposure has gone up but the real exposure of the NBFC is only to the extent of 25%. Under Ind AS, the fair value of an exposure may vary but the real exposure will remain unchanged.

Taking any other interpretation will be counter-intuitive. If the equity in question appreciates in value, and if the fair value is captured as the value of the asset in the balance sheet, the IFC will be required to increase its exposure on infrastructure loans. But the IFC in question may be already fully invested, and may not have any funding capability to extend any further infrastructure loans. Under circumstances, one cannot argue that the IFC must be forced to disinvest its equities to bring down its investment in equities, particularly as the same had nothing to do with “deployment” of funds.

This is further fortified by Para 10. Accounting of Investments, Chapter V- Prudential Regulations of the Master Direction – Non-Banking Financial Company – Systemically Important Non-Deposit taking Company and Deposit taking Company (Reserve Bank) Directions, 2016 about valuation of equities:

“Quoted current investments for each category shall be valued at cost or market value whichever is lower”.

Hence, the RBI Regulations have been framed keeping in view the historical cost accounting. There is no question of taking into consideration any increase in fair value of investments.

Conclusion

Therefore, it is safe to say that while determining the compliance with qualifying criteria, one must consider real exposures and not fair value of exposures as the same is neither in spirit of the regulations nor seems logical. This will however be tested over time as we are sure the regulator will have its own say in this, however, until anything contrary is issued in this regard, the above notion seems logical.

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