New Model of Co-Lending in financial sector

Scope expanded, risk participation contractual, borders with direct assignment drawn 

-Team Financial Services (finserv@vinodkothari.com)

Co-lending is coming together of entities in the financial sector – mostly, something that happens between banks and NBFCs, or larger banks and smaller banks. Financial interfaces between different financial entities may take the form of securitisation, direct assignment, co-lending, banking correspondents, loan referencing, etc.

While direct assignment and securitisation have been around for quite some time, co-lending was permitted by the RBI under its existing guidelines on ‘Co-origination of loans between banks and NBFC-SIs for granting loan to the priority sector’[1]. As per the Statement on Developmental and Regulatory Policies issued by the RBI dated October 9, 2020, it was decided to expand the scope of co-lending, currently permitted only for NBFC-SIs, to all NBFCs. Accordingly, the RBI came, vide notification on co-lending by banks and NBFCs (Co-Lending Model/CLM)[2] dated November 5, 2020, with a new regulatory framework for co-lending, of course, in case of priority sector loans. The CLM supersedes the existing guidelines on co-origination.

There is no clarity, still, on whether the non-priority sector loans (PSL  or Non-PSL) will also be covered by this regulatory discipline, or any discipline for that matter. In this write-up, we explore the key features of the co-lending regime, and also get into tricky questions such as applicability to non-PSL loans, the borderlines of distinction between direct assignments and co-lending, the sharing of risks and rewards, etc.

Applicability

The erstwhile Regulations for priority sector lending covered co-lending transactions of Banks and Systemically Important NBFCs. However, under the Co-Lending Model.The CLM covers all NBFCs (including HFCs) in its purview.

There is a whole breed of new-age fintech companies using innovative algo-based originations, and aggressively using the internet for originations, and these companies pass a substantial part of their lending to either larger NBFCs or to banks. Thus, the expanded ambit of the Co-Lending Model will increase the penetration and result into wider outreach, meet the objective of financial inclusion, and potentially, reduce the cost for the ultimate beneficiary of the loans. Smaller NBFCs have their own operational efficiencies and distribution capabilities; hence, this is a welcome move.

Further, the RBI has excluded foreign Banks, including wholly owned subsidiaries of foreign banks, having less than 20 branches, from the applicability of the CLM. Also, Small Finance Banks, Regional Rural Banks, Urban Cooperative Banks and Local Area Banks have been excluded from the applicability of CLM.

An interesting question that comes up here is whether such exclusion should be construed as a restriction on such entities from entering into co-lending transactions, or a relaxation from the applicability of the Co-Lending Model? It may be noted that the CLM a precondition for PSL treatment of the loans. This is clear from the title ‘Co-Lending by Banks and NBFCs to Priority Sector’. The intent is not to put a bar on existence of co-lending arrangements outside the CLM. That is to say, if the loan, originated by the principal co-lender, is a priority sector loan, then the participating co-lender will also be able to treat the participant’s share of the loan as a PSL, subject to adherence to the conditions specified in CLM. The implication of this is that where the loan does not meet the conditions of CLM, then the participating bank will not be able to accord a PSL status, even though the loan in question is a PSL loan.

With that rationale, in our view, there is no absolute prohibition in the excluded banking entities from being a co-lender. However, if the major motivation of the co-lending mechanism under the CLM is the PSL tag, that tag will not be available to the excluded banks, and hence, the very inspiration for falling under the arrangement may go away. This is also clear from the PSL Master Directions[3] which recognises co-origination of loans by SCBs and NBFCs for lending to the priority sector and specifically excludes RRBs, UCBs, SFBs and LABs.

Applicability date and the fate of existing transactions

In the absence of any specified timelines, the CLM supersedes the existing co-lending guidelines with immediate effect. However, it specifies that outstanding loans in terms of the erstwhile guidelines would continue to be classified under priority sector till their repayment or maturity, whichever is earlier.

This would mean grandfathering of existing loans, and not existing lending arrangements. That is to say, if there are existing co-lending arrangements, but the loan in question has not yet originated, even existing co-lending arrangements will have to abide with the Co-Lending Model. Needless to say, any new co-lending arrangements will nevertheless have to abide by the Co-Lending Model.

As we note below, one of the very important features of the Co-Lending Model is that risk-sharing and loan-sharing do not have to follow the same proportion. Additionally, it is possible for the participating bank to have an explicit recourse against the originating co-lender. This feature was not available under the earlier framework. This alone may be a sufficient motivation for existing CLMs to be revised or redrawn.

Co-lending, Outsourcing and Direct Assignment – new borderlines of distinction

For the purpose of entering into co-lending transactions, banks and NBFCs will have to enter into a ‘Master Agreement’. Such agreement may require the bank either to mandatorily take the loans originated by the NBFC on its books or retain discretion as to taking the loans on its books.

Where the participating bank has a discretion as to taking its share of the loans originated by the originating partner, the transaction partakes the character of a direct assignment. Para 1(c) of the CLM says that ”…if the bank can exercise its discretion regarding taking into its books the loans originated by NBFC as per the Agreement, the arrangement will be akin to a direct assignment transaction. Accordingly, the taking over bank shall ensure compliance with all the requirements in terms of Guidelines on Transactions Involving Transfer of Assets through Direct Assignment of Cash Flows and the Underlying Securities….with the exception of Minimum Holding Period (MHP) which shall not be applicable in such transactions undertaken in terms of this CLM.

That would mean, a precondition for the arrangement being treated as a CLM is that the participating bank takes the loans originated by the originating partner without discretion exercisable on a cherry-picking basis.

Does this mean that irrespective of whether the loan originated by the originating partner fits into the credit screen of the bank or not, the bank will still have to take it, lying low? certainly, this is not the intent of the CLM This is what comes form clause 1(a)- ‘…..the partner bank and NBFC shall have to put in place suitable mechanisms for ex-ante due diligence by the bank as the credit sanction process cannot be outsourced under the extant guidelines.’

Thus, even in case the bank gives a prior, irrevocable commitment to take its share of exposure, the same shall be subject to an ex-ante due diligence by the bank. Ex-ante obviously implies a prior  As per the outsourcing guidelines for banks[4], the credit sanction process cannot be outsourced. Accordingly, it must be ensured that the credit sanction process has not been outsourced completely and the bank retains the right to carry out the due diligence as per its internal policy. Notwithstanding the bank’s due diligence exercise, the co-lending NBFC shall also simultaneously carry out its own credit sanction process.

The conclusion one gets from the above is as follows:

  • The essence of co-lending arrangement is that the participating bank relies upon the lead role played by the originating bank. The originating bank is the one playing the fronting role, with customer interface. The credit screens, of course, are pre-agreed and it will naturally be incumbent upon the originating bank to abide by those. Hence, on a case by case basis or so-called “cherry picking” basis, the participating bank is not selecting or dis-selecting loans. If that is what is being done, the transaction amounts to a DA.
  • Subject to the above, the participating bank is expected to have its credit appraisal process still on. Where it finds deviations from the same, the participating bank may still decline to take its share.

It is important to note that if DA comes into play, the requirements such as MHP, MRR, true sale conditions will also have to be complied with. However, co-lending transactions do not have any MHP requirements, unlike in case of either DA or securitiastion. Of course co-lending transactions do have a risk retention stipulation, as the CLM require a 20% minimum share with the originating NBFC. Hence, the intent of the RBI is that co lending mechanism must not turn out to be a regulatory arbitrage to carry out what is virtually a DA, through the CLM.

Interest Rates

The erstwhile guidelines require that the interest rate charged on the loans originated under the co-lending guidelines would be calculated as per Blended Interest Rate Calculations, that is to say the rate shall be calculated by assigning weights in proportion to risk exposure undertaken by each party, to the benchmark interest rate of the respective lender.

The current guidelines require that the interest rate shall be an all inclusive rate that is mutually agreed by the parties. However it shall be ensured that the interest rate charged is not excessive as the same would breach the provisions of fair practice code, which is to be compulsorily complied.

This change would provide flexibility to the lenders and also ensure that the cost incurred in tracing and disbursals to remote sectors as well as enhanced risk exposure is appropriately compensated.

Determining the roles

Under the erstwhile provisions, it was mandatory that the share of the co-lending NBFC shall be at least 20%. The same has been retained in the CLM as well, requiring NBFCs to retain a minimum of 20% share of the individual loans on their books.

Under the CLM, the co-lending NBFC shall be the single point of interface for the customers. Further, the grievance redressal function would also have to be carried out by the NBFC.

Operational Aspects

Escrow Account

For the purpose of disbursals, collections etc. an escrow account should be opened. The co-lending banks and NBFCs shall maintain each individual borrower’s account for their respective exposures. It is only for the purpose of avoiding commingling of funds, that an escrow mechanism is required to be placed. The bank and NBFC shall, while entering into the Master Agreement, lay down the rights and duties relating to the escrow account, manner of appropriation etc.

Creation of Security

The manner of creation of charge on the security provided for the loan shall be decided in the Master Agreement itself.

Accounting

Each of the lenders shall record their respective exposures in their books. The asset classification and provisioning shall also be done for the respective part of the exposure. For this purpose, the monitoring of the accounts may either be done by both the co-lenders or may be outsourced to any one of them, as agreed in the Master Agreement. Usually, the function of monitoring remains with the NBFC (since, it has done the origination and deals with the customer.)

Non-PSL loans: whether the framework would apply in pari materia?

The guidelines on CLM have been issued for co-lending of loans that qualify for the purpose of priority sector lending. This does not bar lenders from entering into co-lending transactions outside the purview of these guidelines. The only difference it would make is such loans would not be eligible to be classified as loans to the priority sector (which is the primary motive for banks to enter into co-lending transactions).

This seems to form a view that the guidelines would not at all be applicable in case of non-priority sector loans. However, for a transaction to be a co-lending transaction, there has to be adequate risk sharing between the co-lenders. Hence, the guidelines on CLM shall be applicable in pari-materia.

[1] https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/NotificationUser.aspx?Id=11376&Mode=0

[2] https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/NotificationUser.aspx?Id=11991&Mode=0

[3] https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/NotificationUser.aspx?Id=11959&Mode=0

[4] https://www.rbi.org.in/scripts/NotificationUser.aspx?Id=3148&Mode=0

 

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RBI takes steps to prepare for the aftermath of the pandemic

-Kanakprabha Jethani (kanak@vinodkothari.com)

Background

On October 9, 2020, the RBI released its Statement of Developmental and Regulatory Policies[1] which lays down the next steps of the RBI in the direction of coping up with the impact of the pandemic. The intended moves of the RBI seem to ensure preparing the financial sector to support the economy get in track with the new normal. Below are a few highlights proposed by the RBI with respect to the financial sector.

With respect to capital adequacy of banks

Banks and NBFCs are required to maintain certain capital ratios prescribed by the RBI. As for banks, they are required to maintain a Capital to Risk-weighted Assets Ratio (CRAR) of 9%. For the calculation of risk-weighted assets, the RBI prescribes the weights to be assigned to each on and off the balance sheet assets of the banks.

Increase in the size- limit for regulatory retail portfolio

The RBI has prescribed 75% risk weight for the ‘regulatory retail portfolio’ of banks. For an exposure to qualify into the regulatory retail portfolio[2], the following conditions are required to be met:

  • The exposure shall towards an individual person or persons or small business;
  • The exposure shall be in the form of revolving credits, line of credit, term loans and leases, student and educational loans and small business facilities and commitments;
  • No aggregate exposure to one counterparty should exceed 0.2% of the overall regulatory retail portfolio;
  • The maximum aggregated retail exposure to one counterparty should not exceed Rs. 5 crores.

The above limit of Rs. 5 crores has now been increased to Rs. 7.5 crores for fresh facilities and incremental qualifying exposures. This has been done with an intent to reduce the cost of credit and to harmonisation the regulations with the Basel guidelines[3]. This measure is expected to increase the much-needed credit flow to the small business segment.

Revision in risk weights

The risk weights for housing loans to individuals have also been changed. The table below shows the change in risk weighting requirements:

Earlier Risk weighting requirements[4]

Outstanding Loan LTV ratio (%) Risk Weight (%)
Upto Rs. 30 lakhs <=80 35
>80 and <=90 50
Above Rs. 30 lakhs and upto Rs. 75 lakhs <=80 35
Above Rs. 75 lakhs <=75 50

Revised requirement:

LTV ratio (%) Risk Weight (%)
<=80 35
>80 and <=90 50

Under the existing regulations, differential risk weights are assigned to individual housing loans, based on the size of the loan as well as the loan-to-value ratio (LTV). In order to rationalise the risk weights, the regulator has linked them to LTV ratios only for all new housing loans sanctioned up to March 31, 2022. This measure is expected to give a fillip to the real estate sector. However, the determination of LTV is still linked to the size of the loan[5]. Hence, there is only a minimal change with this revision of limits, which is not likely to have much impact on housing loans extended by banks.

Wider inclusion with respect to priority sector lending

Loans co-originated by banks and NBFC-SIs were allowed to qualify for priority sector lending targets[6]. The RBI has now allowed loans co-originated by banks with NBFC-NSIs and HFCs as well for qualifying as priority sector loans. The detailed guidelines in this regard are awaited.

There already exist co-lending arrangements between banks and smaller NBFC and HFCs, however, they are not regulated by any specific guidelines. Though in spirit most of these arrangements are structured in accordance with the existing guidelines for NBFC-SI, however, some of the norms may be a challenge to implement- one of them being the minimum risk sharing of 20% by way of direct exposure by the NBFC.

Conclusion

These steps introduced by the RBI are not exactly a major move taken by the regulator, however, several such changes may have an impact in the long run. Further, the inclusion of NBFC-NSIs and HFCs in the scope of co-origination guidelines is a welcome move and is expected to work in the benefit of smaller NBFCs and HFCs.

 

 

[1] https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/BS_PressReleaseDisplay.aspx?prid=50480

[2] Refer: https://www.rbi.org.in/scripts/BS_ViewMasCirculardetails.aspx?id=4353

[3] Refer: https://www.bis.org/publ/bcbs128b.pdf

[4] https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/NotificationUser.aspx?Id=10995&Mode=0

[5] Refer: https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/BS_ViewMasCirculardetails.aspx?id=9851

[6] Refer: https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/NotificationUser.aspx?Id=11376&Mode=0

 

The new PSL Master Direction and its Impact on NBFCs

-Siddharth Goel (finserv@vinodkothari.com)

Introduction

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) issued Master Directions-Priority Sector Lending (PSL) Targets and Classification on September 4, 2020 (‘Master Directions’).[1] The Master Directions consolidates various circulars and guidelines issued by RBI with respect to PSL.

The changes made in the Master Directions primarily deal with targets and sub-targets for classification of loans as priority sector loans. Further there are some addition of new sectors in Eligible categories, along with increase in lending limit of some of the existing eligible categories for priority sector lending.

Our detailed write-up on the topic can be viewed here.

Changes in priority sector norms do not have a direct impact on the NBFCs, but they have an indirect impact. Banks are allowed to acquire loans under Direct Assignment arrangements or invest in pass through certificates backed by loans which qualify the definition of PSL, in order to meet the prescribed targets. Mostly, the banks acquire these receivables from NBFCs who does the origination of the loans. Additionally, banks also engage in co-lending arrangements with NBFCs to originate PSLs. Therefore, it is worthwhile to examine the impact of these changes on NBFCs.

Co-origination of loans by Banks for lending to Priority Sector

RBI through its vide notification RBI/2018-19/49 dated September 21, 2018 issued guidelines on Co-origination of loans by Commercial Banks and NBFC-ND-SI (“Co-origination Guidelines”).[2] These guidelines excluded Regional Rural Banks (RRBs) and Small Finance Banks (SFBs). Essentially, the banks could claim priority sector status in respect of its share of credit while engaging in the co-origination arrangement with NBFC under the Co-origination Guidelines. Provided, the priority sector assets on the bank’s books should at all times be without recourse to the NBFC.

It is pertinent to note that the PSL Master Directions under its para 25 covers Co-origination of loans by Banks and NBFC-ND-SI. The Master Direction specifically excludes, RRBs SFBs and Urban Co-Operative Banks (UCBs) and Local Area Banks (LABs) under the above para. Moreover, the Master Directions under the said para, specifically stipulates that detailed guidelines in this regard are to be governed as provided under Co-origination Guidelines dated September 21, 2018. Hence there are no changes intended to be introduced vis-a-vis Master Direction, to the co-origination of loans by banks and NBFCs.

PSL- Lending by Banks to NBFCs for On-Lending

In the earlier regime, after the review of Priority sector lending by banks to NBFC for On-Lending notification dated August 13, 2019[3], RBI through its notification dated March 23, 2020,[4] extend the priority sector classification for bank loans to NBFCs for on-lending for the FY 2020-21. Further, existing loans disbursed under the on-lending model continued to be classified under Priority Sector till the date of repayment/maturity. The extension notification also stipulated an overall capping limit for calculating bank’s total priority sector lending as produced herein below;

“3. Bank credit to registered NBFCs (other than MFIs) and HFCs for on-lending will be allowed up to an overall limit of five percent of individual bank’s total priority sector lending. Further, banks shall compute the eligible portfolio under on-lending mechanism by averaging across four quarters, to determine adherence to the prescribed cap.”

Para 22 of the Master Directions governs Bank loans to registered NBFCs (other than MFIs). It is highlighted that there is no change in sub-category for On-lending by NBFC, and limits also remain unchanged. The above para in the Master Direction, clearly stipulates that on-lending will be eligible for classification as priority sector under respective categories which is subject to the following conditions:

(i) Agriculture: On-lending by NBFCs for ‘Term lending’ component under Agriculture will be allowed up to ₹ 10 lakh per borrower.

(ii) Micro & Small enterprises: On-lending by NBFC will be allowed up to ₹ 20 lakh per borrower.

The above dispensation is valid up to March 31, 2021 and will be reviewed thereafter. However, loans disbursed under the on-lending model will continue to be classified under Priority Sector till the date of repayment/maturity. Caping of overall limit of Bank Credit to 5 percent has been prescribed under para 24 of the Master Directions.

Investments by Banks in Securitised Assets & Direct Assignment

Investments by banks in securitised assets or assignment/outright purchase of a pool of assets, representing loans by banks and financial institutions to various categories of priority sector, except ‘others’ category, are eligible for classification under respective categories of priority sector depending on the underlying assets. However, earlier the requirement was that the interest rate charged to the ultimate borrower in securitised assets and in case of transfer of assets through direct assignment, shall be capped at Base Rate of the investing bank plus 8 percent per annum.

Therefore, investments by banks, in securitised assets and purchase of assets originated by NBFCs in eligible sectors had to comply with above capping in order to qualify as eligible for PSL. To encourage MSME lending in smaller areas where cost of intermediation is high for the smaller NBFCs, the UK Sinha committee in its report has proposed the cap at Base Rate of the investing bank plus 12% per annum initially and periodical review thereafter. The intent of the recommendation stood on the grounds that price caps are not applicable to banks when they originate directly through branches.

Accordingly, such capping limit has been relaxed and as per the as per the revised requirement the all-inclusive interest charged to the ultimate borrower by the originating entity should not exceed the External Benchmark Lending Rate (EBLR)/ MCLR of the investing bank plus appropriate spread which will be communicated separately. It is expected that the RBI shall be separately communicating the limits to the banks.

The aforesaid relaxation in the interest rate capping would widen the eligibility of loans originated by the NBFCs for securitisation and direct assignment to banks, for meeting the PSL requirement.

Adjustments for weights in PSL Achievement

To address the regional disparities in flow of credit at the district level, currently districts have been ranked on the basis of per capita credit flow. Higher weight (125%) is assigned to the incremental priority sector credit in districts with low per capita credit flow. Similarly, lower weight (90%) has been assigned to incremental PSL in districts with comparatively higher credit flow. The higher PSL credit (125 %) districts are specified in ANNEX-I A and districts with comparatively low PSL credit (90%) are specified in ANNEX-IB of the Master direction. Districts not mentioned in either of the Annex will be having weightage of 100%. PSL incremental credit shall be applicable from F.Y. 2021-2022 onwards.

Thus, for the purpose of above incentives, banks will get incremental PSL credit, if they invest as following:

  • Investment in securitsed assets/direct assignment/outright purchase, of loans originated by NBFCs from high priority districts. The entire investment in PTCs made by the banks, the proportion which is represented by those as priority districts will be weighted at 125% and low priority districts at 90% and others at 100%.
  • On-lending by Banks to NBFCs, wherein NBFCs are further lending in districts with high priority.
  • Incremental credit incentive will be available to Banks, on proportion of their share of loans, to district with high priority under Co-Origination model.

Impact of new Master Directions on NBFCs

The new Master Direction does not seem to impact legal relationship between banks and NBFCs in respect to co-origination of loans and co-lending materially, since all the regulations are similar to the earlier PSL regime. However, the incentives introduced by way of incremental PSL credit to Banks will channel the credit to districts with low credit penetration. Therefore, banks will be benefitted by dealing with NBFCs having portfolio of loans (eligible for PSL) and presence in districts with lower credit penetration.

Further, change in capping, of investments by Banks in securitised assets and direct assignment/ outright purchase of loans, originated by NBFCs is intended to cover loans originated with higher spreads. Further lending to new sub sectors introduced through Master Direction, would also qualify towards PSL target investments by Banks.

The indicative list of new sub-sectors and sub-sectors with enhanced credit limit is reproduced herein below for ready reference.

Agriculture Lending Including Farm Credit (Allied Activities), lending for Agriculture Infrastructure and Ancillary Activities. ·        Inclusion of loans to farmers for installation of stand-alone Solar Agriculture Pumps and for solarisation of grid connected Agriculture Pumps.

·        Inclusion of loans to farmers for installation of solar power plants on barren/fallow land or in stilt fashion on agriculture land owned by farmer

·        Inclusion of loans up to ₹50 crore to Start-ups, as per definition of Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Govt. of India that are engaged in agriculture and allied services.

·        Inclusion of loans up to ₹2 lakh to individuals solely engaged in Allied activities without any accompanying land holding criteria. This change is in line with recommendation by M.K. Jain Committee7.

·        Inclusion of loans for construction of oil extraction/ processing units for production of bio-fuels, their storage and distribution infrastructure along with loans to entrepreneurs for setting up Compressed Bio Gas (CBG) plants.

·        Laying of Indicative list conveying permissible activities under Food Processing Sector as recommended by Ministry of Food Processing Industries.

·        A credit limit of ₹5 crore per borrowing entity has been specified for Farmers Producers Organisations (FPOs)/Farmers Producers Companies (FPCs) undertaking farming with assured marketing of their produce at a pre-determined price. This inclusion is as per the M.K Jain Committee Recommendations8.

 

Other Finance to MSMEs In line with the series of benefits being extended to MSMEs, loans up to ₹50 crore to Start-ups, as per definition of Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Govt. of India that confirm to the definition of MSME has been included under the PSL catergory. (On the basis of recommendations by UK Sinha Committee, to financially incentivise the startups in India)

 

 

Housing Loans

 

·        Increase in Loans up to ₹ 10 lakh (earlier ₹ 5 lakh) in metropolitan centres and up to ₹6 lakh (earlier 2 ₹ Lakh) in other centres for repairs to damaged dwelling units.

·        Bank loans to governmental agency for construction of dwelling units or for slum clearance and rehabilitation of slum dwellers subject to dwelling units with carpet area of not more than 60 square meters. Under the earlier regime, it was based on cost of dwelling unit which was ₹ 10 lakh per unit.

·        Inclusion of bank loans for affordable housing projects using at least 50% of FAR/FSI (Floor Area Ratio/ Floor Space Index) for dwelling units with carpet area of not more than 60 sq.m.

 

Social Infrastructure

 

Inclusion of loans up to a limit of ₹ 10 crore per borrower for building health care facilities including under ‘Ayushman Bharat’ in Tier II to Tier VI centres. This is in addition to the existing limit of ₹5 crore per borrower for setting up schools, drinking water facilities and sanitation facilities including construction/ refurbishment of household toilets and water improvements at household level, etc.

 

Renewable Energy Increase in loan limit to ₹ 30 Crore for purposes like solar based power generators, biomass-based power generators, wind mills, micro-hydel plants and for non-conventional energy based public utilities etc. This is to boost renewable energy sector, the earlier limit was up to ₹ 15 Crore.

 

 

[1]https://rbidocs.rbi.org.in/rdocs/notification/PDFs/MDPSL803EE903174E4C85AFA14C335A5B0909.PDF

[2] https://rbidocs.rbi.org.in/rdocs/notification/PDFs/NT49BAA4688D36A64EAF8DB0BFD99C6FC54C.PDF

[3] https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/NotificationUser.aspx?Id=11659&Mode=0

[4] https://www.rbi.org.in/scripts/FS_Notification.aspx?Id=11828&fn=2754&Mode=0

 

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ECLGS scope expanded to cover business loan by individuals

-Financial Services Division (finserv@vinodkothari.com)

 The Finance Minister had announced several measures to provide stimulus to economy for providing a momentum after impact caused by Covid-19 and also to take further the mission of self-reliant India. Among various schemes introduced in the package, one was the Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme (‘Scheme’), which intends to enable the flow of funds to MSMEs by providing additional loans to MSME’s covered by 100% government guarantee.

Under this Scheme, the Government of India, through a National Credit Guarantee Trust (NCGTC), will provide 100% guarantee on loans provided by banks and Financial Institutions (FIs) to MSMEs and MUDRA borrowers under the said scheme. The Scheme aims to extend additional funding of Rs. 3 lakh crores to eligible borrowers in order to help them through the liquidity crunch faced by them due to the Covid-19 crisis.

In order to ensure the full utilisation of the 100% government guarantee loans in times of such financial downturns, the scheme has been updated on July 4, 2020[1] to widen the scope and significant changes in the limits has been notified. It is evident form the amendments under revised operational guidelines that it is aimed at providing deeper benefit to the society, by expanding the borrower base to include individuals who have availed loan for business purposes under the scheme.

National Credit Guarantee Trust by a Notification date 31st October 2020 has extended the scheme up to 30th November 2020 or till the utilisation of 3 lakh crores, whichever is earlier.

This article discusses the changes and its impacts in detail.

Key changes under the new ECLGS

Eligible Borrower

The erstwhile operational guidelines only allowed Business Enterprises/MSME to borrow under the scheme which were having already existing loan facility with the member lending institution (MLI). The major change under the revised guideline is the extension of the scheme to the individuals who have existing loan facility with MLI. Such application of credit facility by an individual under the scheme shall be supported by Management Certificate to the effect that they have availed such loan facility for their own business purposes.

We had earlier also held the view that a loan taken by a business, even though owned by an individual and not having a distinctive name than the individual himself, cannot be regarded as a “loan provided in individual capacity”. And hence, must be covered under the ambit of the scheme.

For instance, many SRTOs, local area retail shops etc are run in the name of the proprietor. There is no reason to disregard or disqualify such businesses. It is purpose and usage of the loan for business purposes that matters.

The scheme now specifically includes individuals who have availed loans for business purpose, this would help business who are not incorporated or the owner had availed facility in its own name. This would also benefit professionals like Doctors, CA/CS/CMA, who have availed loans for scaling up their service businesses.

Increase in total outstanding loan limit for eligible borrowers

Under the previous operational guideline the total outstanding loan limit of an eligible borrower from all the MLI was caped at INR 25 crores which has now been increased up to INR 50 crores as on February 29, 2020. As the ceiling for maximum amount of loan is increased the maximum amount of guaranteed loan that can be issued under the guideline have increased from INR 5 crores to INR 10 crores.

Increase in turnover limit for eligible borrowers

The turnover limit of eligible borrowers has been increased from INR 100 Crores to INR 250 crores. This means eligible borrowers which were earlier having annual turnover inclusive of all taxes/GST more than INR 100 crores are now eligible under the new operational guidelines. Provided there annual turnover is less than INR 250 crores for financial year 2019-20.

Smaller companies were already covered under the scheme and so the aforesaid amendment would include larger companies as well.

Option to MLI providing ECLGS facility on behalf of other lenders

The erstwhile operational guideline provided for a borrower who wishes to take from any lender more than 20% of outstanding credit that the borrower had with specific lender, a NOC would be required from all the other lenders.

Revised operational guidelines has served as a clarification that NOC to be required in such cases only from the lender whose share of ECLGS loan is proposed to be extended by a specific lender. However, it would be necessary for the specific lender to agree to provide ECLGS facility on behalf of such of the lenders.

Conclusion

As per the news report, more than half of the amount of guarantee approved under the scheme remains unrealised till date. Hence, the increase in ambit of scheme would be beneficial to reach out to the businesses in the name of individuals as well. Further, it would help the larger businesses to avail funding, in these times when all businesses are facing liquidity issues.

 

[1] https://www.eclgs.com/documents/Operational_Guidelines_ECLGS_Updated_as_on_August_04_2020.pdf

 

 

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