Recent Trends in Crypto-Industry: India & Abroad

-Megha Mittal

(mittal@vinodkothari.com)

“Opportunity amidst tragedy” would likely be the most suitable phrase to summarise the journey of cryptos during the Global Pandemic- with disruption taking a toll on people and economies, and physical proximities massively restrictred, cryptos have outshone traditional assets, by virtue of its inherent features- easy liquidity, access and digitalisation.

Further, as countries around the globe attempt to stimulate their economies by opening floodgates of liquid funds, the ‘digital natives’ have and are expected to increasingly venture into adventure-some investments- think, cryptos. And while such adventurous investing may be short-lived, the results may infact have a long-lasting impact- it is this expected impact that has sets the ‘bull’ stage for cryptos in times to come.

In this brief note, we cover the recent highlights and developments in the crypto-industry, also discussing developments in the relatively new concepts of stablecoins, crypto-lending.

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Limits on creeping acquisition by promoters increased during COVID-19 crises

Shaifali Sharma | Vinod Kothari and Company

Introduction

SEBI has been taking several proactive measures to relax fund raising norms and thereby making it easier for companies to raise capital amid the COVID-19 pandemic. With a view to further facilitate fund raising by the companies, SEBI vide its notification dated June 16, 2020[1], has relaxed the obligation for making open offer for creeping acquisition under Regulation 3(2) of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Substantial Acquisition of Shares and Takeovers) Regulations, 2011 (Takeover Code).

The relaxation allows creeping acquisition upto 10% instead of the existing 5%, for acquisition by promoters of a listed company for the financial year 2020-21. The relaxation is specific and limited to acquisition by way of a preferential issue of equity shares and therefore excludes acquisitions through transfers, block and bulk deals etc. Also recently, SEBI in its Board Meeting[2] held on June 25, 2020 has proposed to provide an additional option to the existing pricing methodology for preferential issue under which the minimum price for allotment of shares will be volume weighted average of weekly highs and low for twelve weeks or two weeks, whichever is higher.However, this new rule shall apply till December 31, 2020 with 3 years lock-in condition for allotted shares. Further, by way of the same notification, SEBI has also relaxed the provisions of voluntary open offer where an acquirer together with PAC will be eligible to make voluntary offer irrespective of any acquisition in the previous 52 weeks from the date of voluntary offer, this will promote investments into various companies in future.

This article tries to discuss on whether the relaxation given by SEBI to the promoters are as encouraging as it seems to be, when connected with the pricing norms for preferential issue under the SEBI (Issue of Capital and Disclosures Requirement) Regulations, 2018 (‘ICDR Regulations’) and how the new pricing methodology proposed by SEBI can leverage the situation.

What is Creeping Acquisition?

Creeping acquisition, governed by Regulation 3(2) of the Takeover Code, refers to the process through which the acquirer together with PAC holding more than 25% but less than 75%, to gradually increase their stake in the target company by buying up to 5% of the voting rights of the company in one financial year. Any acquisition of further shares or voting rights beyond 5% shall require the acquirer to make an open offer. Further, for the purpose of creeping acquisition, SEBI considers gross acquisitions only notwithstanding any intermittent fall. The same is projected in Figure 1 below. Also, in all cases, the increase in shareholding or voting rights is permitted only till the 75% non-public shareholding limit.

Figure 1: Creeping acquisition limit increased from 5% to 10%

Rationale for easing the norms of Creeping Acquisition

While the companies are currently struggling to manage their cash flows due to the financial challenges faced on account of COVID-19, the amendment will allow companies to raise funds from promoters to tide over their difficulties for the financial year 2020-21. This revision will also boost the sagging stock market and help sustain the stock prices of the company.

Promoters, on the other hand, owning 25% or more of the shares or voting rights in a company will be able to increase their shareholdings up to 10% in a year versus the previously allowed threshold limit of 5%.

Permutations and Combinations of Creeping Acquisition during FY 2020-21

Since the enhanced 10% limit applies only in case of acquisition under preferential issue, the total acquisition of 10% may be achieved by any of the following combinations:

Option 1: Acquire upto 5% shares via open-market purchase or any other form and the remaining 5% shares can be acquired through subscribing to a preferential issue.

Option 2:Acquire 10% shares through preferential issue

Accordingly, in a block of 12 months of financial year 2020-21, if the promoterwants to acquire share through open market, bulk deals, block deals or in any other form, the 5% threshold shall remain in force and additional 5% can be acquired through preferential issue.

Identified below are the permitted acquisitions through open market, transfers or other forms in case promoter opts for preferential issue:

Whether the relaxation in open offer is actually encouraging when read with the pricing norms under ICDR Regulations?

As stated above, the relaxation can be availed only in the cases where the investments are done undera preferential issue. Regulation 164 of the SEBI (Issue of Capital and Disclosures Requirement) Regulations, 2018 (‘ICDR Regulations’) deals with the pricing norms under preferential issue. It provides that the issue price in cases where the shares have been listed for more than 26 weeks on a recognized stock exchange as on the relevant date, the issue price has to be higher of the following:

  1. the average of the weekly high and low of the volume weighted average price of the related equity shares quoted on the recognized stock exchange during the twenty six weeks preceding the relevant date; or
  2. the average of the weekly high and low of the volume weighted average prices of the related equity shares quoted on a recognized stock exchange during the two weeks preceding the relevant date.

The computation of the prices as per the above stated regulation will lead to a wide gap between the pricing at the beginning of the twenty-six week period and the current price when the company raises funds.

During this time of stock market crises, the stock prices of many companies have dropped sharply from their respective all-time high values recorded 6 months back. Further, in the cases where the market price is lower than the minimum price calculated as per ICDR Regulations for preferential issue, the promoters will be discouraged to acquire shares under preferential allotment as they will end up paying higher values.

Due to the challenges faced by the economy in view of COVID-19, the trading prices of the listed companies have gone down sharply. Accordingly, the price determined under ICDR Regulations may not be a motivating factor for the promoters to subscribe to the additional shares though, elimination of the costs involved in a public offer may compensate the same.

However, to curb the above situation, SEBI in its Board meeting held on June 25, 2020, has proposed an additional option to the existing pricing methodology for preferential issuance as under:

In case of frequently traded shares, the price of the equity shares to be allotted pursuant to the preferential issue shall be not less than higher of the following:

  1. the average of the weekly high and low of the volume weighted average price of the related equity shares quoted on the recognized stock exchange during the twelve weeks preceding the relevant date; or
  2. the average of the weekly high and low of the volume weighted average prices of the related equity shares quoted on a recognized stock exchange during the two weeks preceding the relevant date.

The new option will consider the weighted average price of equity shares preceding 12 weeks instead of the preceding 26 weeks and therefore reflect the accurate price during the pandemic period.  This may prove to be the solution to above crises,making fundraising through preferential issue easier for the corporates and simultaneously encouraging the promoters as well to infuse funds.

Compliances for preferential issue to promoters under PIT Regulations

Considering the fact that promoter is one of the designated person as per the SEBI (Prohibition of Insider Trading) Regulations, 2015 (‘PIT Regulations’), the companies, in addition to the procedural requirements for preferential issue prescribed under the Companies Act, 2013, ICDR Regulations and other applicable laws, shall also comply with the provisions of PIT Regulations.

Closure of trading window in case of preferential allotment

Designated persons and their immediate relatives shall not trade in securities when the trading window is closed. The trading restriction period shall apply from the end of every quarter till 48 hours after the declaration of financial results.

Further, the trading window shall also be closed when the compliance officer determines that a designated person (DP) or class of designated persons can reasonably be expected to have possession of unpublished price sensitive information (UPSI). Therefore, the trading window shall be closed and communicated to all DPs as soon as the date/notice of board meeting to approve issue of share via preferential allotment is finalized upto 2nd trading day after communication of the decision of the Board to the Stock Exchanges.

Accordingly, promoter/ class of promoters acquiring shares under preferential issue shall conduct all their dealings in the securities of the company only in a valid trading window i.e. once the trading widow is open subject to the pre-clearance norms prescribed under PIT Regulations and the Code of Conduct for prevention of insider trading of the Company.

Concluding Remarks

Given the lack of liquidity in the market, the proposed amendments maybe seen as an opportunity for target companies to raise capital from its promoters. Further, promoters can also infuse funds through equity issuance and will be able to increase their shareholding in the target company without the formalities of making the open offer.

Having said that since the market might take some time to recover, this relaxation provides a gateway for promoters to avoid open offer requirements which would otherwise have involved compliance burden on the promoter. However, the pricing factor may seem to be the only hindrance or a demotivation for actually availing this relaxation which seems to be resolved through the new pricing method proposed by SEBI in its Board meeting.

[1]To view the notification, click here

[2]https://www.sebi.gov.in/media/press-releases/jun-2020/sebi-board-meeting_46929.html

Other reading materials on the similar topic:

  1. ‘SEBI revisits Takeover Code’ can be viewed here
  2. ‘Takeover Code 2011’ can be viewed here
  3. ‘Decoding Takeover Code’ can be viewed here
  4. Our other articles on various topics can be read at: http://vinodkothari.com/

Email id for further queries: corplaw@vinodkothari.com

Our website: www.vinodkothari.com

Our Youtube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCgzB-ZviIMcuA_1uv6jATbg

A Guide to Disclosure on COVID-19 related impacts

| SEBI seeks transparency from listed entities in times of COVID crises

Shaifali Sharma | Vinod Kothari and Company

corplaw@vinodkothari.com

Introduction

The impact of COVID-19 on companies is evolving rapidly not only in India but all over the world. In times of increased volatility and uncertainty in the capital market, detailed information regarding any material impact on the company’s business will not only assist the investors in making informed investment decisions but will also be fundamental formarket integrity and functioning.

Pursuant to the requirements of Listing Regulations, many listed entities have made disclosures, primarily intimating shutdown of operations owing to the pandemic and the resultant lockdowns. However, such probable information may be relatively less relevant and investors are more interested to know where these companies stand today, what are their estimated future impacts, strategiesadopted by these companies for addressing the effects of COVID-19, etc.

Given the information gaps in the market, SEBI, highlighting the importance of timely and adequate disclosures to investors and other stakeholders, issued an advisory[1]on May 20, 2020 (‘Advisory’), asking all the listed entities to evaluate the impact of COVID-19 on their business, performance and financials, both qualitatively and quantitatively, and disseminated the same to the stock exchange.

This article discuss in detail the disclosure requirements under Listing Regulations and provides a quick guide for the listed entities in evaluating and disclosing impact of pandemic on their business.

Existing disclosure norms under Listing Regulations on impact of COVID-19

The existing requirements prescribed under Listing Regulations in relation to the disclosure of impact of COVID-19 on listed entities are summarized below.The same is applicable to the following entities:

  • companies listed with specified securities i.e. equity shares and convertible securities
  • companies listed with Non-convertible Debt Securities (NCDs) and/or Non-Convertible Redeemable Preference Shares (NCRPSs)
Entities having specified securities listed Entities having NCDs/NCRPS listed
What is the disclosure requirements prescribed under Listing Regulations?
The events can be divided into two broad categories a. Deemed Material Events and b. Material Events based on application of materiality criteria as provided in Regulation 30(4).

In the first category, the events specified in Para A of Part A of Schedule III get covered and requires mandatorily disclosure on the occurrence and in the second category, events under Para B are disclosed based on the application of the guidelines for materiality prescribed under sub-regulation (4) of Regulation 30.

Unlike Regulation 30, Regulation 51 does not provide for any test of materiality.

Part B of Schedule III requires disclosure of all information either,

  • having bearing on the performance/ operation of the listed entity; or
  • is price sensitive; or
  • shall affect the payment of  interest/ dividend on NCDs/ NCRPSs; or
  • shall affect the  redemption of NCDs/ NCRPSs.
Whether disclosure on COVID impact required by Listing Regulations?
Yes.

Disclosure w.r.t. disruption of operations of any one or more units or division of a listed entity due to natural calamity (earthquake, flood, fire etc.), force majeure or events such as strikes, lockouts etc. falls under second category.

Therefore, disruption of operations due to COVID-19 is required only if the same is considered material after applying the materiality guidelines.

Yes.

Since disruption caused by COVID may be said to have the aforesaid effects.

What are the actionables as per Listing Regulations?
In terms of sub- regulation (5) of Regulation 30, the Board of Directors (BoD) is required to authorize one or more KMPs for the purpose of determining materiality. Therefore, such authorized KMP(s) shall determine if the impact of COVID on company’s operations is material based on the criteria prescribed under sub-regulation (4) and the policy framed by company for said purpose.

On determination of the materiality, the same shall be disclosed to stock exchange and also host the disclosure on company’s website.

For this category of companies, the law does not provide for the similar requirements as provided for companieshaving specified securities listed eg. framing of policy, determination of materiality by Board authorized person etc. Therefore, the disruption caused by COVID-19 shall be intimated to the stock exchanges(s) as per Regulation 51 of the Listing Regulations.

In this case, disclosure on website is not mandatory; however, company may do so for better reach of information to investors and stakeholders.

When is the disclosure required?
Regulation 30 provides for disclosure as soon as reasonably possible, but not later than 24 hours from the occurrence of the event. The guidance on when an event is said to have occurred has been provided in SEBI Circular[2] dated September 09, 2015. In terms of the said Circular, the same would depend upon the timing when the listed entity became aware of the event/information or as soon as, an officer of the entity has, or ought to have reasonably come into possession of the information in the course of the performance of his duties. Regulation 51 provides for prompt dissemination i.e. as soon as practically possible and without any delay and that the information shall be given first to the stock exchange(s) before providing the same to any third party.
What all disclosures have been suggested by SEBI vide its Circular dated September 09, 2015?
As per SEBI circular dated September 09, 2015, companies shall disclose:

At the time of occurrence of disruption:

  • expected quantum of loss/ damage caused at the time of occurrence of the event;
  • whether loss/damage covered by insurance or not including amount
  • estimated impact on the production/operations
  • factory/unit where  the  lock  out  takes  place  with reasons

Regularly, till complete normalcy is restored

  • Insurance   amount   claimed   and   realized   by   the   listed   entity   for   the loss/damage;
  • actual amount of damage caused
  • details of steps taken to restore normalcy and impact on production/operations, financials of the entity
Though the said Circular refers to only Regulation 30, however, the same requirements should apply to this category of companies also which should additionally disclose the impact on servicing of interest/ dividend/ redemption etc.

Similar disclosure requirement are prescribed for entities which has listed its Indian Depository Receipts, Securitized Debt Instruments and Security Receipts where all information which is price sensitive or having bearing on the performance/ operation of the listed entity and other material event as prescribed under Chapter VII, VIII, VIIIA read with Schedule III of the Listing Regulations shall be disclosed

Disclosure requirements as per SEBI Advisory

As mentioned earlier, SEBI Advisory is an addition to the above requirements of Listing Regulations. Though, one may argue that the Advisory is recommendatory in nature and it does not mandate the companies to make the disclosure, however, in our view, the same is not a mere recommendation. Keeping this in mind, the probable questions that one can have with respect to SEBI Advisory have been captured below:

What is the intention of the SEBI behind issuing such Advisory?

As mentioned in the SEBI Advisory, the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic and the consequent nationwide lockdown has lead to distortions in the market due to the gaps in information available about the operations of a listed entity and therefore, it is important for a listed entity to ensure that all available information about the impact of pandemic on the company and its operations is communicated in a timely and cogent manner to its investors and stakeholders.

These disclosures ensure transparency and will provide investors an opportunity to make an accurate assessment of the company. So, the idea behind the disclosures is to give an equal access to the information to all the stakeholders at large.

Which all entities are covered by SEBI Advisory?

Due to the COVID-19, a global pandemic, all kinds of businesses are impacted in one way or another. Unlike the Listing Regulations, SEBI Advisory does not differentiate the disclosure requirements for the companies listed with specified securities and companies listed with NCDs/NCRPS, and the Advisory is applicable to all the listed entities.

Whether the requirements of Advisory are mandatory for listed entities?

Considering the purpose of making fair and timely disclosure of any material impact on the companies, the disclosures as mentioned in the Advisory shall be treated as mandatory in nature.

Whether disclosure required if the thresholds as set out in company’s materiality policy are not met?

The materiality of an event is generally measured in terms of thresholds laid down by the companies in their ‘policy for determination of materiality’ however, such criteria should not be considered as an absolute test to determine the materiality of an event like COVID pandemic

In times of the ongoing crises, investors would be interested to know all the inside information about the impact of pandemic on the company’s business operations, financial results, future strategies, etc. i.e. every qualitative or quantitative factors.

Since every person is doing an assessment of the impact of the crisis, it is intuitive to say that the management of the companies must also have done some assessment. Considering that the idea is to provide general and equal access to the information to all the stakeholders at large, the management must disclose every positive/negative/neutral impact of the crises on the company, irrespective of the fact that it qualifies the prescribed materiality threshold or not.

What if there no impact on the business caused by the pandemic? Whether the same is also required to be disclosed?

In our view, not getting affected by the pandemic at the time when the entire world is otherwise getting affected is also material. Therefore, the disclosure shall have to be made.

Further, it is not always necessary that the pandemic will have to have a negative impact e.g. decrease in sales volume. For example, companies in pharmaceutical sector or in the sector of manufacturing of essential items such as, mask, sanitizer etc. will have a boost in sales, thereby carrying a positive impact on them.

Whether Board meeting is required to be conducted in this regard? Or will the company be required to wait till the Board decision to make the disclosure?

While an internal assessment is required at the management level, however, a Board meeting is not mandatory to be conducted. Yes, the estimates already made may be changed at a later stage which may be disclosed at that stage again.

Is it ok to say for the management to take a position that they have not analyzed the impact of the crisis?

Considering the current risk and challenges as a result of COVID-19, it is very unlikely to say that companies have not done any internal assessment to determine the current and potential impact on the company’s financial and business operations.

What are the steps involved in making the disclosure?

Step 1: Evaluate the impact of the pandemic on the business, performance and financial

Before making any disclosure to the stock exchange(s), the management of the company must properly assess the impact of COVID-19 on its business, performance and financials, both qualitative and quantitative impact.

Step 2: Dissemination of impact of pandemic to stock exchange

The following information shall be disseminated to the stock exchange:

  1. Impact of the pandemic on the business;
  2. Ability to maintain operations including factories/ units/ office spaces functioning and closed down;
  3. Schedule, if any for restarting the operations;
  4. Steps taken to ensure smooth functioning of the operations;
  5. Estimation of future impact on the operations;
  6. Details of impact on the listed entity’s
    • capital and financial resources;
    • profitability;
    • liquidity position;
    • ability to service debt and other financing arrangements;
    • assets;
    • internal financial reporting and control;
    • supply chain
    • demand for its products/services;
  7. Existing contracts/agreements where non-fulfilment of the obligations byany party will have significant impact on the listed entity’s business;
  8. Any other information as the entity may determine to be relevant and material;

While making the above disclosure to stock exchanges, entities shall also adopt the principle of disclosure and transparency prescribed under Regulation 4(2)(e) of the Listing Regulations.

Who is responsible to evaluate and make disclosures to the stock exchange(s)? What is the role of the Board in the process of assessment and/or disclosure?

  1. Responsibility of KMP(s) as per Listing Regulations

Pursuant to Regulation 30 of the Listing Regulations, the KMP(s), as may be authorized by the Board, is responsible to determine the materiality of the impact of pandemic on the company based on the on the guidelines for materiality and the materiality policy of the company and disclose the same to the stock exchange

  1. Role of Board in the assessment of other material qualitative and quantitative impacts

Considering the language of the Advisory issued by SEBI, in addition to the KMPs authorized to test the materiality, the Board will also have a role in determining the COVID impact as the same requires disclosure in which management intervention may be necessary, e.g. future plans for business continuity, capability of running the business smoothly, material changes expected during the year, impact of the financial position etc.

However, as discussed above, a Board level discussion is not a prerequisite of making the disclosure.

Is there any timeline prescribed for making disclosers to the stock exchange(s)?

There is no specific timeline provided in the Advisory for making disclosures, however, in the present situation, the disclosure is required to be made as soon as an assessment is done on the probable impact by the management.

Whether the disclosures a one-time requirement for the listed entities?

Since the operations of the company will recommence soon, question arises if the companies should continue with its assessment and disclosure process. As stated in Advisory, to have continuous information about the impact of COVID-19, listed entities may provide regularupdates, as and when there are material developments. Further, since the disclosures will be made based on estimates, any changein those estimates or the actual position shall also be disclosed in regular intervals.

Therefore, disclosure is required not only at the time of occurrence but also on a continuous basis till the normalcy of the situation.

Whether impact on an unlisted subsidiary company shall also be disclosed? 

To get an overall view of company’s performance, we always evaluate consolidated figures. Sometimes, company’s standalone performance is strong as compared to its performance at consolidated level. Accordingly, if the pandemic’s impact on unlisted subsidiary is such that it is having a material impact at the group level, the same shall be disclosed to the stock exchange.

Whether effects of COVID-19 be also reported in Financial Results?

In the coming days, companies will be disclosing their quarterly and yearly financial results. This time, however, investors will be interested inknowing the impact of COVID-19 on the company’s financial positions. Therefore, while submitting financial statements under Regulation 33 of the Listing Regulations, companies should mention about the impact of the CoVID-19 pandemic on their financial statements.

What will be the consequences for not complying with the SEBI Advisory?

Since no separate penal provisions are prescribed under the Advisory, non- compliance of the same may not lead to any penal consequences.

What is the global position as regards disclosure of COVID impact?

Market regulators worldwide have taken various steps to ensure transparency related to the impacts of the pandemic on the listed companies. In United States, the Securities Exchange Commission has issued guidance[3] regarding disclosure and other securities law obligations that companies should consider w.r.t the COVID-19 and related business and market disruptions. Similarly, for listed companies and auditors in Hong Kong, the Securities and Futures Commission and the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong Limited issued a joint press release[4] in relation to the disclosure requirements in response to the COVID-19 outbreak

Our write-up giving an insightful analysis on the said SEBI advisory drawing an inference from the global perspective can be viewed here

What kind of information be disclosed to the stock exchange?

The table below is a quick guide for the listed entities in determining and disclosing the impact of COVID-19 on their businesses:

 

Sr. No. Subject of Assessment and Disclosure Broad Contents (Illustrative list)

 

I.                     Current status (both financial and operating status)

 

  • Status of closure and reopening of branches/units/ stores in different parts
  • Areas in which the company is operating
  • Current liquidity position
  • Impact on productions, sales, profits, stock prices, credit rating, assets, etc.
  • Internal financial reporting and control
  • Impact in capital and financial resources
  • Current trading and outlook
  • Impact on working staff
  • Layoffs during the period
  • Areas of business most impacted
  • Status of business in other countries (say China)
  • Delay of important projects
  • Suspension of dividends
  • Impact of Government imposed measure/restrictions (e.g. for logistic companies, border closures may impact ability to operate)

 

II.                  Steps taken to address effects of COVID Steps taken to:

  • reduce business/operating cost or cost cutting measures adopted
  • conserve cash and ensure liquidity
  • secure safety of employeesensure business continuity
  • address the immediate impact and ensure future positioning
III.               Future operational and financial status (estimates)
  • Estimation of future impact on the operations
  • Estimated trends in demand for its products/services
  • Expected financial resource needsFuture expectations of financial and operating conditions
  • Any material impairment (e.g. impairment of goodwill)
  • Forecasts for the year
  • Material changes expected during the year
  • Business continuity plans
  • Future operating/ financial long-terms or short-term  strategies to address future risk/challenges
  • Other forward-looking disclosures
IV.               Company Specific Focusing on the sectors in which the company deals in, the impact of crises varies from company to company and shall be assessed accordingly. For example:

  • Closure of unit/factory/company
  • Breach of contract significantly impacting the company’s business

 

The above list is illustrative but not exhaustive and each company will need to carefully assess COVID-19’s impact and related material disclosure obligations.  

Concluding Remarks

In light of the effects and uncertainties created by COVID-19, disclosure about shutdowns and safety measures against COVID will not help the investors in making an informed assessment about the company’s financial position. Timely and adequate information about company’s current operational and financial status with future plans to address the effects of COVID-19 will better equip the investors to make an investment decision. Therefore, the Advisory should not be considered as a mere recommendation of SEBI as a transparent communication by the companies will allow the investors and other stakeholders to evaluate current and expected impact of COVID-19 on company’s businesses, financial and operating conditions and future estimated performance.

[1]https://www.sebi.gov.in/legal/circulars/may-2020/advisory-on-disclosure-of-material-impact-of-covid-19-pandemic-on-listed-entities-under-sebi-listing-obligations-and-disclosure-requirements-regulations-2015_46688.html

[2]https://www.sebi.gov.in/legal/circulars/sep-2015/continuous-disclosure-requirements-for-listed-entities-regulation-30-of-securities-and-exchange-board-of-india-listing-obligations-and-disclosure-requirements-regulations-2015_30634.html

[3] https://www.sec.gov/corpfin/coronavirus-covid-19

[4] https://www.hkex.com.hk/-/media/HKEX-Market/Listing/Rules-and-Guidance/Other-Resources/Listed-Issuers/Joint-Statement-with-SFC/20200204news.pdf

Other reading materials on the similar topic:

  1. ‘Listed company disclosures of impact of the Covid Crisis: Learning from global experience’ can be viewed here
  2. ‘Resources on virtual AGMs’ can be viewed here
  3. ‘COVID-19 – Incorporated Responses | Regulatory measures in view of COVID-19’ can be viewed here
  4. Our other articles on various topics can be read at: http://vinodkothari.com/

Email id for further queries: corplaw@vinodkothari.com

Our website: www.vinodkothari.com

Our Youtube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCgzB-ZviIMcuA_1uv6jATbg

IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON FINANCIAL CONTRACTS

-Richa Saraf

[richa@vinodkothari.com]

With the outbreak of COVID pandemic, there have been several instances wherein parties are running to court for various reliefs, whether to obtain injunction from invocation of bank guarantee or to seek extension of letter of credit, but mostly to seek declaration that COVID is a force majeure event and therefore, there is an impossibility of performance of the obligations. While some regulatory relief has been provided by regulators such as RBI, by allowing moratorium on loan repayments/ asset deterioration[1], and SEBI has provided relaxation on disclosure requirements[2], for other matters, the judiciary has been quite proactive in delivering judgments. Below we discuss the impact of COVID-19 on financial contracts.

Read more

Guaranteed Emergency Line of Credit: Understanding and FAQs

-Financial Services Division (finserv@vinodkothari.com)

The Finance Minister has, in the month of May, 2020, announced a slew of measures as a part of the economic stimulus package for self-reliant India. Among various schemes introduced in the package, one was the Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme (ECLGS, ‘Scheme’), which intends to enable the flow of funds to MSMEs. This is the so-called Rs 300000 crore scheme.

Under this Scheme the GoI, through a trust, will guarantee loans provided by banks and Financial Institutions (FIs) to MSMEs and MUDRA borrowers. 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 crisis.

Based on the information provided by the Finance Minister about this Scheme, the press release issued in this regard and the scheme documents issued subsequently, we have prepared the below set of FAQs. There is also a set of FAQs prepared by NCGTC – we have relied upon these as well.

In brief, the Guaranteed Emergency Line of Credit [GECL] is a scheme whereby a lender [referred to as Member Lending Institution or MLI in the Scheme] gives a top-up loan of 20% of the outstanding facility as on 29th February, 2020. This top up facility is entirely guaranteed by NCGTC. NCGTC is a special purpose vehicle formed in 2014 for the purpose of acting as a common trustee company to manage and operate various credit guarantee trust funds.

[Vinod Kothari had earlier recommended a “wrap loan” for restarting economic activity – http://vinodkothari.com/2020/04/loan-products-for-tough-times/. The GECL is very close to the idea of the wrap loan.]

Essentially, the GECL will allow lenders to provide additional funding to business entities. The additional funding will run as a separate parallel facility, along with the main facility. The GECL loan will have its own term, moratorium, EMIs, and may be rate of interest as well. Of course, the GECL will share the security interest with the original facility, and will rank pari passu, with the main facility, both in terms of cashflows as in terms of security interest.

The major questions pertaining to the GECL are going to be about the eligible borrowers to whom GECL may be extended, and the allocation of cashflows and collateral with the main facility. Operationally, issues may also centre round the turnaround time, after disbursement, for getting the guarantee cover, and whether the guarantee cover shall be in batch-processed, or processed loan-by-loan. Similarly, there may be lots of questions about how to encash claims on NCGTC.

Eligible Lenders and eligible borrowers

1.      What is the nature of GECL?

The GECL shall be an additional working capital term loan (in case of banks and FIs), and additional term loan (in case of NBFCs) provided by the MLIs to Eligible Borrowers. The GECL facility may run upto 20% of the loan outstanding on 29th February, 2020.

The meaning of “working capital term loan” is that the amount borrowed may be used for general business purposes by the borrower.

2.      Who are the MLIs/eligible lenders under the Scheme?

For the purpose of the Scheme MLIs/eligible lenders include:

I.   All Scheduled Commercial Banks. Other banks such as RRBs, co-operative banks etc. shall not be eligible lenders.

II.   Financial Institutions (FIs), defined under section 45-I(c) of the RBI Act, 1934. The term all-India Financial Institutions” now includes Exim Bank, NABARD, SIDBI and NHB, none of which are extending primary loans. Hence, the term “financial institutions” as per sec. 45I (c) of the RBI Act will essentially refer to NBFCs, covered below..

III.    Non-Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs), registered with the RBI and which have been in operation for a period of 2 years as on 29th February, 2020.

3.      What is the meaning of NBFC having been in operation for 2 years? Are we referring to 2 years from the date of incorporation of the Company, or 2 years from the date of getting registration with the RBI as an NBFC, or 2 financial years?

The language of the scheme indicates that the NBFC must be in operation for 2 years (and not financial years) as on 29th February, 2020. Thus, the period of 2 years shall be counted from the starting of operations after getting registration as an NBFC.

Usually, the RBI while granting registration requires the NBFC to start operations within a period of six months of getting registration. It also requires the NBFC to intimate to RBI that it has commenced operations. Logically, the 2 years’ time for starting of operations should be read from the date of commencement of operations

4.      Does the NBFC have to be a systemically important company? Or any NBFC, whether SI or not, will qualify?

The asset size of the NBFC would not matter. The NBFC must only hold a valid certificate of registration issued by RBI in order to be eligible under the scheme (and in operation for 2 years). Thus, whether SI or not, any NBFC will qualify.

5.      Is it necessary that the NBFC must be registered with the RBI?

Yes, the eligibility criteria specifically requires the NBFC to be registered.

6.      Will the following qualify as MLIs?

  • HFCs: HFCs fall under the definition of financial institutions provided under the eligibility criteria for lenders. While HFCs essentially grant home loans, HFCs are permitted to have other types of loans within a limit of 50% of their assets. Hence, if the HFC has facilities that qualify for the purpose of the Scheme, an HFC will also qualify as MLI. This is further clarified in the FAQs 44 as well.
  • MFIs: MFIs are a class of NBFCs and thus, eligible as MLIs. However, it is to be seen if the nature of loans granted by the MFI will be eligible for the purpose of the Scheme.
  • CICs: CICs again are a class of NBFCs and thus, eligible as MLIs. However, they can grant loans to their group companies only.
  • Companies giving fin-tech credit to consumers: The nature of the loan will mostly be by way of personal loans or consumer credit. While the lender may qualify, but the facility itself may not.
  • Gold loan companies: Mostly, the loan is a personal loan and does not relate to a business purpose. Hence, the loan will not qualify.

7.      Is it possible for a bank to join as co-lender in case of a loan given by an NBFC? To be more precise, the primary loan is on the books of the NBFC. Now, the NBFC wants to give the GECL facility along with a bank as a co-lender. Is that possible?

In our view, that should certainly be possible. However, in our view, in that case, the rate of interest charged to the borrower should be the blended rate considering the interest rate caps for the bank [9.25%] and the NBFC [14%].

8.      Who are the eligible borrowers (Eligible Borrower or Borrower)?

The Eligible Borrowers shall be entities fulfilling each of the following features :

  • Nature of the activity/facility: Our understanding is that Scheme is meant only for business loans. Hence, the nature of activity carried by the entity must be a business, and the facility must be for the purpose of the business.
  • Scale of business: Business enterprises or MSMEs. The term MSME has a wide definition and we are of the view that it is not necessary for the borrower to be registered for the purpose of MSME Development Act. Please see our detailed resources on the meaning of MSMEs here: http://vinodkothari.com/2020/05/resources-on-msme/.In addition, the word “business enterprises” is also a wide term – see below.
  • Existing customer of the MLI: The borrower must be an existing customer of the MLI as on 29th Feb., 2020. That is, there must be an existing facility with the borrower.
  • Size of the existing facility: The size of the existing facility, that is, the POS, as on 29th Feb. 2020, should be upto Rs 25 crores.
  • Turnover for FY 2019-20: The turnover of the Eligible Borrower, for financial year 2019-20, should be upto Rs 100 crores. In most cases, the financial statements for FY 2019-20 would not have been ready at the time of sanctioning the GECL. In that case, the MLI may proceed ahead based on a borrower’s declaration of turnover.
  • GST registration: Wherever GST registration is mandatory, the entity must have GST registration.
  • Performance of the loan: As on 29th Feb., 2020, the existing facility must not be more than 59 DPD.
  • Further, Business Enterprises / MSMEs would include loans covered under Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana extended on or before 29.2.2020, and reported on the MUDRA portal. All eligibility conditions including the condition related to Days past due would also apply to PMMY loans.

9.      Who are eligible Mudra borrowers?

Mudra borrowers are micro-finance units who have availed of loans from Banks/NBFCs/MFIs under the Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojna (PMMY) scheme.

10.   Do Eligible Borrowers have to have any particular organisational form, for example, company, firm, proprietorship, etc?

No. There is no particular organisational form for the Eligible Borrower. It may be a company, firm, LLP, proprietorship, etc.

Note that the Scheme uses the expression: “all Business Enterprises / MSME institution borrower accounts”. From the use of the words “business enterprises” or “institution borrower account”, it may be contended that individuals are excluded. In Para 7 of the Operational Guidelines on the website of NCGTC, it is mentioned that “Loans provided in individual capacity are not covered under the Scheme”. However, the very same para also permits a business run as a proprietorship as an eligible case of business enterprise.

It seems there is a confusion between a business owned/run by an individual, and a loan taken in individual capacity. The latter will presumably mean a loan for personal purposes, such as a home loan, loan against consumer durables, car loan or personal loan. As opposed to 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”.

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.

11.   What is the meaning of the term “business enterprise” which is defined as one of the Eligible Borrowers?

The term “ business enterprise” has been used repetitively in the Scheme, and is undefined. In our view, its meaning should be the plain business meaning– enterprises which are engaged in any business activity. The word “business activity” should be taken broadly, so as to give an extensive and purposive interpretation to fulfil the intent of the Scheme. Clearly, the Scheme is intended to encourage small businesses which are the backbone of the economy and which may help create “self reliant” India.

Having said this, it should be clear that the idea of the Scheme is not to give loans for consumer durables, personal use vehicles, consumer loans, personal loans, etc. While taking the benefit of the Scheme, the MLI should bear in mind that the intent of the lending is to spur economic activity. There must be a direct nexus between the granting of the facility and economic/business activity to be carried by the Eligible Borrower.

12.   One of the Eligible Borrowers is an MSME. Is it necessary that the entity is registered i.e. has a valid Udyog Aadhaar Number, as required under the MSMED Act?

The eligibility criteria for borrowers does not specifically require the MSMEs to be registered under the MSMED Act. Thus, an unregistered MSME may also be an Eligible Borrower under the scheme.

13.   For the borrowers to give a self-declaration of turnover for FY 2019-20, is there a particular form of declaration?

There is no particular form. However, we suggest something as simple as this:

To whomsoever it may concern

Sub: Declaration of Turnover

I/ We………………………………….. (Name of Authorized Signatory), being ……………………..(Designation) of …………………………………………………. (Legal Name as per PAN) do hereby state that while the financial statements for the FY 2019-20 have not still been prepared or finalised, based on our records, the turnover of the abovementioned entity/unit during the FY 2019-2 will be within the value of Rs 100 crores.

 

Signed ………….            Date:…………………

14.   One of the important conditions for the Eligible Borrower is that the Borrower must not be an NPA, or SMA 2 borrower. For finding the DPD status of the existing facility, how do we determine the same in the following cases?

●       My EMIs are due on 10th of each month. On 10th Feb., 2020, the borrower had two missing EMIs, viz., the one due on 10th Jan. 2020 and the one due on 10th Feb., 2020. Is the Borrower an Eligible Borrower on 29th Feb., 2020?

The manner of counting DPD is – we need to see the oldest of the instalments/ principal/interest due on the reckoning date. Here, the reckoning date is 29th Feb. On that date, the oldest overdue instalment is that of 10th Jan. This is less than 59 DPD. Hence, the borrower is eligible.

●      My EMIs are due on the 1st of each month. The borrower has not paid the EMIs due on 1st Jan. and 1st Feb., 2020. Is the Borrower an Eligible Borrower on 29th Feb., 2020?

On the reckoning date, the oldest instalment is that of 1st Jan. 2020. Since the reckoning date is 29th Feb., we will be counting only one two dates – 1st Jan and 29th Feb. The time lag between the two adds to exactly 59 days. The borrower becomes ineligible if the DPD status is more than 59 days. Hence, the borrower is eligible.

15.   Is the Scheme restrictive as to the nature of the existing facility? Can the GECL be different from the existing facility?

It does not seem relevant that the GECL should be of the same nature/type or purpose as the primary facility. We have earlier mentioned that the purpose of the GECL is to support the business/economic activity of the borrower.

However, there may be issues where the existing facility itself would not have been eligible for the Scheme. For instance, if the existing facility was a car loan to a business entity (say, an MSME), can the GECL  be eligible if the same is granted for working capital purposes? Intuitively, this does not seem to be covered by the Scheme. Once again, the intent of the Scheme is to provide “further” or additional funding to a business. Usually, the so-called further or additional funding for a business may come from a lender who had facilitated business activity by the primary facility.

Hence, in our view, the primary as well as the GECL facility should be for business purposes.

16.   Is there a relevance of the residual tenure of the primary facility? For example, if the primary facility is maturing within the next 6 months, is it okay for the MLI to grant a GECL for 4 years?

There does not seem to be a correlation between the residual term of the primary facility and the tenure of the GECL facility. The GECL seems to be having a term of 4 years, irrespective of the original or residual term of the primary facility.

Of course, the above should be read with our comments above about the primary facility as well as the GECL to be for business purposes.

17.   A LAP loan was granted to a business entity.  The loan was granted against a self-owned house, but the purpose of the loan was working capital for the retail trade business carried by the borrower. Will this facility be eligible for GECL?

Here, the purpose of the loan, and the nature of collateral supporting the loan, are different, but what matters is the end-use or purpose of the loan. The collateral is a self-occupied house. But that does not change the  purpose of the loan, which is admittedly working capital for the retail trade activity.

Hence, in our view, the facility will be eligible for GECL, subject to other conditions being satisfied.

 18.   I have an existing borrower B, who is a single borrower as on 29th Feb 2020. I now want to grant the GECL loan to C, who would avail the loan as a co-borrower with B. Can I lend to B and C as co-borrowers?

It seems that even loans extended to co-obligors or co-applicants also qualify.

We may envisage the following situations:

  • The primary facility was granted to B and C. B is an Eligible Borrower. The GECL is now being granted to B and C. This is a good case for GECL funding, provided B remains the primary applicant. In co-applications, the co-borrowers have a joint and several obligations, and the loan documentation may not make a distinction between primary and secondary borrower. However, one needs to see the borrower who has utilised the funding.
  • The primary facility was granted to B who is an Eligible Borrower. The GECL is now being granted to B and C. This is a good case for GECL funding if B is the primary applicant. See above for the meaning of “primary” applicant.
  • The primary facility was granted to B, who is a director of a company, where C, the company, joined as a co-applicant. C is an Eligible Borrower. The GECL is now being granted to C. This is a good case for GECL funding since the GECL funding is to Cm and C is an Eligible Borrower.

19.   When can GECL be sanctioned? Is there a time within which the GECL should be sanctioned?

The Scheme shall remain in operation till 31st October, 2020, or till such time as the maximum amount of loans covered by NCGTC reaches Rs 300000 crores. Accordingly, it can be inferred that the GECL must be sanctioned during the period of the operation of Scheme, that is during the period from May 23, 2020 to 31st October, 2020, or till an amount of Rs. 3 lakh crore is sanctioned under GECL, whichever is earlier.

20.   How can an MLI keep track of how much is the total amount of facilities guaranteed by NCGTC?

Understandably, there may be mechanisms of either dissemination of the information by NCGTC, or some sort of a pre-approval of a limit by NCGTC.

21.   Whether the threshold limit of outstanding credit of Rs. 25 crores, will have to be seen across all the lenders, the borrower is currently dealing with, or with one single lender?

The Scheme specifically mentions that the limit of Rs. 25 crores shall be ascertained considering the borrower accounts of the business enterprises/MSMEs with combined outstanding loans across all MLIs. For the purpose of determining whether the combined exposure of all MLIs is Rs 25 crores or not, the willing MLI may seek information about other loans obtained by the borrower.

22.   For the threshold limit of outstanding credit of Rs. 25 crores, are we capturing only eligible borrowings of the borrower, or all debt obligations?

Logically, all business loans, that is, loans/working capital facilities or other funded facilities availed for business purposes should be aggregated. For instance:

  • Unfunded facilities, say, L/Cs or guarantees, do not have to be included.
  • Non-business loans, say, car loans, obtained by the entity do not have to be included as the same are not for business purposes.

23.   What is the meaning of MSME? Is it necessary that the Eligible Borrower should be meeting the definition of MSME as per the Act?

The Scheme uses the term MSME, but nowhere has the Scheme made reference to the definition of MSME under the MSMED Act, 2006. Therefore, it does not seem necessary for the Eligible Borrower to have registration under the MSMED Act. Further, even if the entity in question is not meeting the criteria        of MSME under the Act, it may still be satisfying the criteria of “business enterprise” with reference to turnover and borrowing facilities. Hence, the reference to the MSMED Act seems unimportant.

However, for the purpose of ease of reference, we are giving below the meaning of MSME as per the definition of MSMEs provided in the MSMED Act, 2006 (‘Act’):

Enterprise Manufacturing sector [Investment in plant and machinery (Rs.)] Service sector [Investment in equipment (Rs.)]
Small Not exceeding 25 lakhs Not exceeding 10 lakhs
Micro Exceeding 25 lakhs but does not exceed 5 crores Exceeding 10 lakhs but does not exceed 2 crores
Medium Exceeding 5 crores but not exceeding 10 crores Exceeding 2 crores but does not exceed 5 crores

 

The above definition has been amended by issue of a notification dated June 1, 2020. As per the amendment such revised definition shall be applicable with effect from July 01, 2020. Accordingly, w.e.f. such date, following shall be the definition of MSMEs:

Enterprise Investment in plant and machinery or equipment (in Rs.) Turnover (in Rs.)
Micro Upto 1 crore Upto 5 crores
Small Upto 10 crores Upto 50 crores
Medium Upto 50 crores Upto 250 crores

24.   The existing schemes laid down by the CGTMSE, CGS-I and CGS-II, cover the loans extended to MSE retail traders. Will the retail traders be eligible borrowers for this additional facility?

The Scheme states that a borrower is eligible if the borrower has –

(i) total credit outstanding of Rs. 25 Crore or less as on 29th Feb 2020;

(ii) turnover for 2019-20 was upto Rs. 100 Cr;

(iii) The borrower has a GST registration where mandatory.

Udyog Aadhar Number (UAN) or recognition as MSME is not required under this Scheme.

Hence, even retail traders fulfilling the eligibility criteria above would be eligible under the scheme.

25.   If the borrower does not have any existing credit facility as on 29th February, 2020, will it still be able to avail fresh facility(ies) under this Scheme?

Looking at the clear language of the Scheme, it seems that existence of an outstanding facility is a prerequisite to avail credit facility under the Scheme. The intent of the Scheme is to provide additional credit facility to existing borrowers.

26.   I have a borrower to whom i have provided a sanction before 29th February, 2020; however, no disbursement could actually take place within that date. Will such a borrower qualify for the Scheme?

Since the amount of GECL is related to the POS as on 29th Feb., 2020, there is no question of such a borrower qualifying.

27.   The Scheme seems to refer to the facility as a “working capital term loan” in case of banks/FIs and “additional term loan” in case of NBFCs. Does that mean the MLIs cannot put any end-use restrictions on utilisation of the facility by the Eligible Borrowers?

It is counter-intuitive to think that the MLI cannot put end-use restrictions. Ensuring that the funds lent by the MLI are used for the purpose for which the facility has been extended is an essential prudential safeguard for a lender. It should be clear that the additional facility has been granted for restarting business, following the disruption caused by the COVID crisis. There is no question of the lender permitting the borrower to use the facility for extraneous or irrelevant purposes.

Terms of the GECL Facility

28.   What are the major terms of the GECL Facility?

The major terms are as follows:

  • Amount of the Facility: Up to 20% of the POS as on 29th Feb., 2020. Note that the expression “upto” implies that the MLI/borrower has discretion in determining the actual amount of top up funding, which may go upto 20%.
  • Tenure of the Facility: 4 years. See below about whether the parties have a discretion as to tenure.
  • Moratorium: 12 months. During the moratorium, both interest and principal will not be payable. Hence, the first payment due under the top up facility will be on the anniversary of the facility.
  • Amortisation/repayment term: 36 months.
  • Mode of repayment: While the Scheme says that the principal shall be payable in 36 installments, it should not mean 36 equal instalments of principal. The usual EMI, wherein the instalment inclusive of interest is equated, works well in the financial sector. Hence, EMI structure may be adopted. However, if the parties prefer equated repayment of principal, and the interest on declining balances, the same will also be possible. Note that in such case, the principal at the end of 12 months will have the accreted interest component for 12 months’ moratorium period as well.
  • Collateral: The Scheme says that no additional collateral shall be asked for the purposes of the GECL. In fact, given the sovereign guarantee, it may appear that no additional collateral is actually required. [However, see comment below on dilution of the collateral as a result of the top-up funding].
  • Rate of interest: The rate of interest is capped as follows – In case of banks/ – Base lending rate + 100 bps, subject to cap of 9.25% p.a. In case of NBFCs, 14% p.a.
  • Processing/upfront fees: None

29.   As regards the interest rate, is it possible that the MLI has the benefit under any interest rate subvention scheme as well?

Yes. This scheme may operate in conjunction with any interest rate subvention scheme as well.

30.   Is the tenure of the GECL facility non-negotiably fixed at 4 years or do the parties have discretion with respect to the same? For example, if the borrower agrees to a term of 3 years, is that possible?

It seems that the Scheme has a non-negotiable tenure of 4 years. Of course, the Scheme document does say the parties may agree to a prepayment option, without any prepayment penalty. However, in view of the purpose of the Scheme, that is, to restart business activity in the post-COVID scenario, it does not seem as if the purpose of the Scheme will be accomplished by a shorter loan tenure.

31.   Is it possible for MLI to lend more than 20%, but include only 20% for the benefit of the guarantee?

Minus the Scheme, nothing stopped a lender from giving a top-up lending facility on a loan. Therefore, the wrapped portion of the GECL facility is 20% of the loan, but if the lender so wishes to give further loan, there is nothing that should restrain the lender from doing so.

32.   The Scheme document provides that the collateral for the primary loan shall be shared pari passu with the GECL facility. What does the sharing of the collateral on pari passu basis mean?

Para 11 of the Scheme document says: “…facility granted under GECL shall rank pari passu with the existing credit facilities in terms of cash flows and security”. The concept of pari passu sharing of the security, that is, the collateral, may create substantial difficulties in actual operation, since the terms of repayment of the primary facility and the GECL facility are quite divergent.

To understand the basic meaning of pari passu sharing, assume there is a loan of Rs 100 as on 29th Feb., 2020, and the MLI grants an additional loan of Rs 20 on 1st June, 2020. Assume that the value of the collateral backing the primary loan is Rs 125. As and when the GECL is granted, the value of this collateral will serve the benefit of the primary loan as well as the GECL facility. In that sense, there is a dilution in the value of the security for the primary loan. This, again, is illogical since the primary does not have a sovereign wrap, while the GECL facility has.

What makes the situation even worse is that due to amortizing nature of the primary loan, and the accreting nature of the GECL facility during the moratorium period, the POS of the primary facility will keep going down, while the POS of the GECL facility will keep going up. It may also be common that the primary facility will run down completely in a few months (say 2 years), while the GECL facility is not even half run-down. In such a situation, the benefit of the collateral will serve the GECL loan, in proportion to the amount outstanding of the respective facilities. Obviously, when the primary facility is fully paid down, the collateral serves the benefit of the GECL facility only.

33.   The Scheme provides that the primary facility and the GECL facility shall rank pari passu, in terms of cash flows. What is the meaning of pari passu sharing of cashflows?

The sharing of cashflows on pari passu basis should mean, if there are unappropriated payments made by the borrower, the payment made by the borrower should be split between the primary facility and the GECL facility on proportionate basis, proportional to the respective amounts falling/fallen due.

For instance, in our example taken in Q 15 above, assume the borrower makes a payment in the month of July 2020. The entire payment will be taken to the credit of the primary loan since the GECL loan is still in moratorium.

Say, in the month of July 2021, an aggregate payment is made by the borrower, but not sufficient to discharge the full obligation under the primary facility and the GECL facility. In this case, the payment made by the borrower will be appropriated, in proportion to the respective due amounts (that is, due for the month or past overdues) for the primary facility and the GECL facility.

34.   Given the fact that the payments for the GECL are still being collected by the MLI, who also has a running primary facility with the same borrower, is there any obligation on the part of the MLI to properly appropriate the payments received from the borrower between the primary and the GECL facility?

Indeed there is. The difficulty arises because there are two facilities with the borrower, one is naked, and the other one wrapped. The pari passu sharing of cashflows will raise numerous challenges of appropriation. Since the claim is against the sovereign, there may be a CAG audit of the claims settled by the NCGTC.

35.   The Scheme document says that the charge over the collateral has to be created within 3 months from the date of disbursal. What is the meaning of this?

If the existing loan has a charge securing the loan, and if the same security interest is now serving the benefit of the GECL facility as well, it will be necessary to modify the charge, such that charge now covers the GECL facility as well. As per Companies Act, the time for registration of a modification is thirty days, and there is an additional time of ninety days.

36.   Say the primary loan is a working capital loan given to a business and has a residual tenure of 24 months. The loan is secured by a mortgage of immovable property. Now, GECL facility is granted, and the same has a tenure of 48 months. After 24 months, when the primary loan is fully discharged, can the borrower claim the release of the collateral, that is, the mortgage?

Not at all. The grant of the GECL facility is a grant of an additional facility, with the same collateral. Therefore, until the GECL loan is fully repaid, there is no question of the borrower getting a release of the collateral.

37.   Should there be a cross default clause between the primary loan and the GECL loan?

In our view, the collateral is shared by both the facilities on pari passu basis. Hence, there is no need for a cross default clause.

38.   What are the considerations that should prevail with the borrower/MLI while considering the quantum of the GECL facility?

The fact that the GECL facility is 100% guaranteed by the sovereign may encourage MLIs to consider the GECL facility as risk free, and go aggressively pushing lending to their existing borrowers. However, as we have mentioned above, the pari passu sharing of the collateral results into a dilution of collateral for the primary facility. Hence, MLIs should use the same time-tested principles of lending in case of GECL as well – capacity, collateral, etc.

For the borrower as well, the borrower eventually has to pay back the loan. In case of NBFCs, the loan is not coming cheap – it is coming at a cost of 14%. While for the lender, the risk may be covered by the sovereign guarantee, the risk of credit history impairment for the borrower is still the same.

Hence, we suggest both the parties to take a considered call. For the lender, the consideration should still be the value of the collateral, considering the amount of the top up facility. In essence, the top up facility does not mechanically have to be 20% -the amount may be carefully worked out.

39.   Does the disbursal of the GECL facility have to be all in cash, or can it be adjusted partly against the borrower’s obligations, say for any existing overdues? Can it be partly given to MLI as a security deposit?

While the disbursal should appropriately be made by the MLI upfront, if the borrower uses the money to settle existing obligations with the MLI, that should be perfectly alright.

40.   In case the borrower has multiple loan accounts with multiple eligible lenders, how will such borrower avail facility under GECL?
It is clarified that a borrower having multiple loan accounts with multiple lenders can avail GECL. The GECL will have to be availed either through one lender or each of the current lenders in proportion depending upon the agreement between the borrower and the MLI.

Further, In case the borrower wishes to take from any lender an amount more than the proportional 20% of the outstanding credit that the borrower has with that particular lender, a No Objection Certificate (NOC) would be required from all other lenders.

Lender-Borrower documentation

41.   The Scheme has consistently talked about an opt-out facility for the GECL scheme. What exactly is the meaning of the opt-out facility?

In our understanding, the meaning is, except for those borrowers who opt out of the facility, the lender shall consider the remaining borrowers as opting for the facility. However, there cannot be a case of automatic lending, as a loan, after all, is a mutual obligation of the borrower towards the lender. Hence, there has to be explicit agreement on the part of the borrower with the lender.

Of course, a wise borrower may also want to negotiate a rate of interest with the lender.

42.   What documentation are we envisaging as between the MLI and the borrower?

At least the following:

  1. Additional loan facility documentation, whether by a separate agreement, or annexure to the master facility agreement executed already by the borrower.
  2. Modification of charge.

Income recognition, NPA recognition, risk weighting and ECL computation

43.   During the period of the moratorium on the GECL facility, will income be recognised?

Of course, yes. In case of lenders following IndAD 109, the income will be recognised at the effective interest rate. In case of others too, there will be accrual of income.

44.   Once we give a GECL loan, we will have two parallel facilities to the borrower – the primary loan and the GECL loan. Can it be that one of these may become an NPA?

The GECL loan will have a moratorium of 12 months – hence, nothing is payable for the first 12 months. The primary facility may actually be having upto 59 DPD overdues at the very start of the scheme itself. Hence, it is quite possible that the primary facility slips into an NPA status.

As a rule, if a facility granted to a borrower has become an NPA, then all facilities granted to the same borrower will also be characterised as NPAs.

Therefore, despite the 100% sovereign guarantee, the facility may still be treated as an NPA, unless there is any separate dispensation from the RBI.

45.   If the GECL facility becomes an NPA, whether by virtue of being tainted due to the primary loan or otherwise, does it mean the MLI will have to create a provision?

As regards the GECL facility, any provision is for meeting the anticipated losses/shortfalls on a delinquent loan. As the GECL is fully guaranteed, in our view, there will be no case for creating a provision.

46.   Will there be any expected credit loss [ECL] for the GECL facility?

In view of the 100% sovereign guarantee, this becomes a case of risk mitigation. In our view, this is not a case for providing for any ECL.

47.   Will the 40 bps general loss provision for standard assets have to be created for the GECL loans too?

Here again, our view is that the facility is fully sovereign-guaranteed. Hence, there is no question of a prudential build up of a general loss provision as well. The RBI should come out with specific carve out for GECL loans.

48.   Will capital adequacy have to be created against GECL assets?

The RBI issued a notification on June 22, 2020 stating that since the facilities provided under the Scheme are backed by guarantee from GoI, the same shall be assigned 0% risk weight, in the books of MLIs.

Guarantor and the guarantee

49.   Who is the guarantor under the Scheme?

The Guaranteed Emergency Credit Line (GECL) or the guarantee under the Scheme shall be extended by National Credit Guarantee Trustee Company Limited (NCGTC, ‘Trust’).

50.   What is National Credit Guarantee Trustee Company Ltd (NCGTC)?

NCGTC is a trust set up by the Department of Financial Services, Ministry of Finance to act as a common trustee company to manage and operate various credit guarantee trust funds. It is a company incorporated under the Companies Act, 1956.

51.   What is the role of NCGTC?

The role of NCGTC is to serve as a single umbrella organization which handles multiple guarantee programmes of the GoI covering different cross-sections and segments of the economy like students, micro entrepreneurs, women entrepreneurs, SMEs, skill and vocational training needs, etc.

Presently, NCGTC manages 5 credit guarantee schemes that deal with educational loans, skill development, factoring, micro units etc.

52.   To what extent will the guarantee be extended?

The guarantee shall cover 100% of the eligible credit facility.

53.   Whether the guarantee will cover both principal and interest components of the credit facility?

Yes, the Scheme shall cover both the interest as well as the principal amount of the loan.

54.   What will be the guarantee fee?

The NCGTC shall charge no guarantee fee from the Member Lending Institutions (MLIs) in respect of guarantee extended against the loans extended under the Scheme.

55.   Are eligible lenders required to be registered with the NCGTC to become MLIs?

Usually, eligible lenders under such schemes are required to enter into an agreement with the trust extending the guarantee, to become their members. In this scheme, the eligible lenders are required to provide an undertaking to the NCGTC, in the prescribed format, in order to become MLIs.

56.   What is the procedure for obtaining the benefit of guarantee under the Scheme?

The MLI shall, within 90 days from a borrower account under the scheme turning NPA,  inform the date on which such account turned NPA. On such intimation, NCGTC shall pay 75% of the guaranteed amount to the MLI i.e. 75% of the default amount.

The rest 25% shall be paid on conclusion of recovery proceedings or when the decree gets time barred, whichever is earlier.

Securitisation, direct assignment and co-lending

57.   The loan, originated by the NBFC, has been securitised. Is it possible for the NBFC to give a GECL facility based on the POS of the securitised loan?

On the face of it, there is nothing that stops a lender from giving a further facility, in addition to the one that has been securitised. However, in the present case, there will be modification of the existing charge document, whereby the charge will be extended to the top up GECL loan as well. This amounts to a dilution of the security available for the primary loan. In our view, this will require specific consent of the PTC investors, through the trustee.

Note that FAQ 35 by NCGTC seems to be talking about off-balance sheet facility. Many securitisation transactions are actually on the balance sheet.

58.   The loan, originated by the NBFC, has been assigned to the extent of 90% to a bank. Is it possible for the NBFC to give a GECL facility based on the POS of the partly-assigned loan?

Same reasoning as above. Here again, FAQ 40 by NCGTC is talking about the entity on whose books the loan currently is. NCGTC’s view about the loan being on the books of a lender is seemingly overshadowed by accounting concepts which have drastically changed over time. For example, a loan which has been a matter of a DA transaction is actually partly on the books of the original lender, and partly on the books of the assignee. One cannot expect the assignee to be giving the additional line of credit, as the assignee is, practically speaking, a mere passive investor. The assignee does not have the franchise/relation with the borrower, which the originator has. To contend that the assignee bank should extend the additional facility is actually to deny the facility to the borrower completely, for no fault of the borrower and for no gain for the system. Since it is the original lender who maintains the relation with the borrower, it is original lender only who may extend the facility.

59.   Is it possible for the NBFC to originate the GECL facility, and securitise/assign the same? Will the assignee have the benefit of the GoI guarantee?

There is nothing in the Scheme for assignment of the benefit of guarantee. Typically, unless the guarantee agreement says to the contrary, the benefit of a security or guarantee is assignable along with the underlying loan. However, the guarantee agreement between NCGTC and the lender will be critical in determining this.

Our answer as above stands indicated by FAQ no 41 by NCGTC.

[1] https://pib.gov.in/PressReleasePage.aspx?PRID=1625306

[2] http://www.dcmsme.gov.in/publications/circulars/cate-12-6.pdf

[3] https://udyogaadhaar.gov.in/Web/doc/Activities_NIC_CodesNotAllowed.PDF

[4] The scheme earlier required the MSMEs to obtain UAN (i.e. get registered) in order to avail benefit under the same. However the same was recently done away with through a notification issued on February 5, 2020. Link to the notification- https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/NotificationUser.aspx?Id=11803&Mode=0

[5] https://www.cgtmse.in/files/CGS-I.pdf

 

Our related write-ups may be referred here:

 

PCG Scheme 2.0 for NBFC pooled assets, bonds and commercial paper

-Financial Service Division (finserv@vinodkothari.com)

The write-up below covers version 2.0 of the Partial Credit Guarantee Scheme [PCG Scheme, or PCGS, or simply, the Scheme; version 2 is referred to herein as PCG 2.0 for the sake of distinction from its earlier version, which we refer to PCGS 1.0].

PCGS 1.0 was announced by the Finance Minister, during the Union Budget 2019-20, introducing a partial credit guarantee scheme so as to extend relief to NBFCs during the on-going liquidity crisis. The proposal laid down in the Budget was a very broad statement. On 13th August, 2019 the Ministry of Finance came out with a Press Release to announce the notification in this regard, dated 10th August, 2019, laying down specifics of the scheme.

PCGS 1.0 was only a moderate success, as literally no transactions were conducted under the Scheme until November, 2019. Various stakeholders[1] represented to the MOF to remove the bottlenecks in the structure. Subsequently, on 11th December, 2019, the Union Cabinet approved amendments[2] to the Scheme (Amendments).

The scheme,  known as “Partial Credit Guarantee offered by Government of India (GoI) to Public Sector Banks (PSBs) for purchasing high-rated pooled assets from financially sound Non-Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs)/Housing Finance Companies (HFCs)”, is referred to, for the purpose of this write, as  “the Scheme”.

PCGS 2.0 was introduced by the Finance Minister as a part of her Rs 20-lakh Crore stimulus package, announced on 13th May, 2020 to provide liquidity to NBFCs, HFCs and MFIs with low credit rating. The Union Cabinet approved the sovereign portfolio guarantee of up to 20% of first loss for purchase of Bonds or Commercial Papers (CPs) with a rating of AA and below (including unrated paper with original/ initial maturity of up to one year) issued by NBFCs/ MFCs/MFIs, by Public Sector Banks through an extension of the PCGS 1.0. PCGS 2.0 has been put in the form of FAQs as well as press-release on the website of the Ministry of Finance.

While PCGS 1.0 was intended to address the temporary liquidity crunch faced by solvent HFCs/ NBFCs, PCGS 2.0 is premised on the continuing problems faced by NBFCs/HFCs/MFIs. The Press Release of the GoI says: “COVID-19 crisis and consequent lockdown restrictions are likely to have a negative impact on both collections and fresh loan disbursements, besides a deleterious effect on the overall economy. This is anticipated to result not only in asset quality issues for the NBFC/ HFC/ MFI sector, but also low loan growth as well as higher borrowing costs for the sector, with a cascading effect on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) which borrow from them. While the RBI moratorium provides some relief on the assets side, it is on the liabilities side that the sector is likely to face increasing challenges. The extension of the existing Scheme will address the liability side concerns. In addition, modifications in the existing PCGS will enable wider coverage of the Scheme on the asset side also. Since NBFCs, HFCs and MFIs play a crucial role in sustaining consumption demand as well as capital formation in small and medium segment, it is essential that they continue to get funding without disruption, and the extended PCGS is expected to systematically enable the same.”

 PCGS 2.0 covers both the asset side as well as the liability side. PCGS 1.0 was limited to the asset side, for guaranteeing the purchase of “pooled assets” from NBFCs. PCGS 2.0 covers the liability side as well – permitting banks to purchase CPs/ bonds issued by NBFCs/HFCs/MFIs (Finance Companies). Therefore, both the banks as well as Finance Companies will have to make a careful comparison between pool assignments, versus liability issuance. We intend to provide a comparative view of the same in our analysis below.

In this write-up we have tried to answer some obvious questions that could arise along with potential answers. This write-up should be read in conjunction with our earlier write ups on the PCGS 1.0 here.

Scope of applicability

  1. When does this scheme come into force?

The Scheme was originally introduced on 10th August, 2019 and has been put to effect immediately. The modifications in the Scheme were made applicable with effect from 11th December, 2019.

PCGS 2.0 was announced by the GoI vide a note dated 20th May, 2020.

  1. Currently, the Scheme has two distinct elements – purchase of asset pools, and purchase of CPs/bonds issued by finance companies. How do these different funding options compare for both the finance companies, and the investing banks?

PCGS 2.0 has added the CP/bond element into the Scheme basically for providing short-term, sovereign-guaranteed liquidity support for redeeming liabilities maturing within 6 months from the date of issue of the CP/bonds. Therefore, the CP/bond guarantee is essentially a liability management option.

On the other hand, the asset pool purchase gives ability to NBFCs to release liquidity locked in assets, and gives them long-term resources for on-lending.

CP is typically issued for a tenure upto 12 months. Bonds for the purpose of the Scheme are also short-term bonds, with a maturity of 9 to 18 months. Hence, in either case, the finance company is simply shifting its existing redemption liability by 9 to 18 months.

Asset pools will have a minimum rating requirement, whereas in case of short-term paper issuance, there is a maximum rating requirement. In fact, PSBs are allowed to purchase unrated paper as well, if the tenure is within 12 months.

A tabular comparison between pool purchases and paper purchase may run as follows:

Pool Purchases Paper Purchases
Nature of the transaction Sale of pool of loans by finance companies to PSBs. PSBs get a first loss guarantee from GoI Acquisition of a pool of CP/bonds (paper) by PSBs, issued by finance companies. PSBs get a first loss guarantee from GoI
Eligible finance companies NBFCs and HFCs. MFIs are not eligible MFIs are also eligible
Purpose/purport of the transaction The finance company refinances its pool, thereby releasing liquidity. The liquidity can be used for on-lending The purported use of the funding is for meeting an imminent liability redemption. The issuance of the paper is connected with liabilities maturing within next 6 months.

The liability itself may be either repayment of a term loan, redemption of any debt security, or otherwise.

Rating requirement Minimum rating of BBB+ Maximum rating of AA. Unrated paper also qualifies
Tenure of the loans/paper There is no stipulation of the tenure of the underlying loans. The guarantee is valid for a period of 24 months only. Paper should have maturity of 9 to 18 months.
Extent of cover by GoI 10% of the pool purchased by PSBs 20% of the portfolio of paper purchased by the PSBs
Ramp up period Loan pools may be acquired upto 31st March, 2021 Paper may be acquired within 3 months
Impact on asset liability mismatch Repayment of the pool is on a pass-through basis to the PSB. Hence, there is no ALM Repayment will be on a bullet maturity basis. Hence, there will be an ALM issue.
Bankruptcy remoteness Pool purchases take exposure on the underlying pool, and are therefore, bankruptcy-remote qua the NBFC. Paper purchase is paper issued by the NBFC and hence, the PSB takes exposure in the issuer.

2A.  Will bonds or CPs issued in secondary market be eligible for purchase under the Scheme?
The Scheme specifically mentions that the bonds/CPs issued by financial companies shall be eligible assets to be purchased under the Scheme. The term ‘issue’ clearly indicates that the bonds/CPs shall be purchased from the primary market only.

  1. How long will this Scheme continue to be in force?

Originally, PCGS 1.0 was supposed to remain open for 6 months from the date of issuance of this Scheme or when the maximum commitment of the Government, under this Scheme, is achieved, whichever is earlier. However, basis the Amendments discussed above, the Scheme was extended till 20th June, 2020. The Amendments also bestowed  upon the Finance Minister power to extend the tenure by upto 3 months.

PCGS 2.0 has two distinct elements – (a) Purchase of Pooled assets; (b) Purchase of bonds/CPs issued by Finance companies. For Part (a), that is, purchase of pooled assets, the Scheme is now extended to 31st March, 2021. For purchase of paper by the PSBs, the PSB has to acquire the paper within 3 months of the announcement. Taking the announcement date of the Scheme to be 20th May, the paper should be acquired by the PSBs within 20th August, 2020.

  1. Who is the beneficiary of the guarantee under the Scheme – the bank or the NBFC?

The bank (and that too, PSB only) is the beneficiary. The NBFC is not a party to the transaction of guarantee. This is true both for pool purchases as well as paper purchases.

  1. Does a bank buying pools from NBFCs/HFCs (Financial Entities) automatically get covered under the Scheme?

No. Since a bank/ Financial Entities may not want to avail of the benefit of the Scheme, the Parties will have to opt for the benefit of the guarantee. The bank will have to enter into specific documentation, following the procedure discussed below.

  1. In case of Paper Purchases, is the guarantee applicable to paper issued by different finance companies?

Yes. The guarantee is for a portfolio of finance company paper acquired by the PSB. For example, a PSB buys the following paper issued by different finance companies:

X Ltd    bonds with maturity of 18 months      Rs 200 crores

Y Ltd    CP having maturity of 9 moths           Rs 100 crores

C Ltd   bonds having maturity of 12 moths    Rs 450 crores

D Ltd   CP having maturity of 6 months         Rs 50 crores

Total portfolio                                                  Rs 800 crores

The bank may get the entire paper, adding to Rs 800 crores, guaranteed by GoI. The guaranteed amount is Rs 800 crores, and the maximum loss payable by the GoI is 20%, that is, Rs 160 crores.

  1. What is the relevance of pooling of paper, in case of paper purchases?

In case of paper purchases, the guarantee is on a pool of paper, that is, on an aggregate basis. In all such aggregation transactions, unless the pool becomes granular, the first loss guarantee may become highly inadequate.

For example, in the illustration taken in Q5 above, the loss is limited to Rs 160 crores, being 20% of the guaranteed amount. If the bonds issued by C Ltd default, Rs 450 crores would be in default, while the guarantee by the GoI will be only upto Rs 160 crores.

In the same case, had the total portfolio of Rs 800 crores were, say, to consist of 10 issuances of Rs 80 crores each, 2 out of the 10 issuers will be fully covered by the guarantee. Though the conditions of a binomial distribution are inapplicable in the present case (as the pool has a high level of correlation risk), but the probability of more than 2 defaults in a pool of 10 issues seems much lower than the probability of a major issuer out of a non-granular pool defaulting. Hence, PSBs, in their own interest, may want to build up a granular pool consisting of several issuers.

Of course, the ramp up time for all that is highly inadequate – only 3 months from the scheme announcement. From past experience, it should be clear that that much time is lost even in dissemination of understanding  – from MOF to SIDBI to the PSBs, and more so because of communication difficulties in the present situation.

  1. What does the Bank have to do to get covered by the benefit of guarantee under the Scheme?

The procedural aspects of the guarantee under the Scheme are discussed below.

  1. Is the guarantee specifically to be sought for each of the asset pools acquired by the Bank or is it going to be an umbrella coverage for all the eligible pools acquired by the Bank?

The operational mechanism requires that there will be separate documentation every time the bank wants to acquire a pool from a financial entity in accordance with the Scheme. Hence it appears that the guarantee is for a pool from a specific finance company.

In case of paper purchases, the situation is different – there, the guarantee is for a pool of paper issued by different finance companies.

  1. How does this Scheme, relating to asset pool purchases, rank/compare with other schemes whereby banks may participate in originations done by NBFCs/HFCs?

The RBI has lately taken various initiatives to promote participation by banks in the originations done by NBFCs/ HFCs. The following are the available ways of participation:

  • Direct assignments
  • Co-lending
  • Loans for on-lending
  • Securitisation

Direct assignments and securitisation have been there in the market since 2012, however, recently, once the liquidity crisis came into surface, the RBI relaxed the minimum holding period norms in order to promote the products.

Co-lending is also an alternative product for the co-origination by banks and NBFCs. In 2018, the RBI also released the guidelines on co-origination of priority sector loans by banks and NBFCs. The guidelines provide for the modalities of such originations and also provide on risk sharing, pricing etc. The difficulty in case of co-origination is that the turnaround time and the flexibility that the NBFCs claimed, which was one of their primary reasons for a competitive edge, get compromised.

The third product, that is, loans for on-lending for a specific purpose, has been in existence for long. However, recent efforts of RBI to allow loans for on-lending for PSL assets have increased the scope of this product.

This Scheme, though, is meant to boost specific direct assignment transactions, but is unique in its own way. This Scheme deviates from various principles from the DA guidelines and is, accordingly, intended to be an independent scheme by itself.

The basic use of the Scheme is to be able to conduct assignment of pools, without having to get into the complexity of involving special purpose vehicles, setting enhancement levels only so as to reach the desired ratings as per the Scheme. The effective cost of the Financial Entities doing assignments under the Scheme will be (a) the return expected by the Bank for a GoI-guaranteed pool; plus (b) 25 bps. If this effectively works cheaper than opting for a similar rated pool on a standalone basis, the Scheme may be economically effective.

  1. How does this Scheme, relating to paper purchases, rank/compare with other schemes whereby PSBs may provide liquidity to NBFCs/HFCs/MFIs?

The Scheme should be compared with Special Liquidity Scheme for NBFCs/HFCs. From the skeletal details available [https://pib.gov.in/PressReleasePage.aspx?PRID=1625310], the Special Liquidity Scheme may allow an NBFC/HFC to issue debt instruments by a rating notch-up, based on partial guarantee given by the SPV to be set up for this purpose.

It may seem that the formation of the SPV as well as implementation of the Special Liquidity Scheme may take some time. In the meantime, if a finance company has immediate liquidity concerns for some maturing debt securities, it may use the PCG scheme.

However, a fair assessment may be that the PCGS 2.0 will be largely useful for pool purchases, rather than paper purchases. This is so because in case of paper purchases, the ramp up period of 3 months will elapse very soon, giving PSBs very little time to approach SIDBI for getting limits. In any case, the ramp up of the pool of paper has to happen first, before the PSB can get the guarantee. This may demotivate PSBs from committing to buy the paper issued by finance companies.

  1. Is the Scheme for Pool Purchases an alternative to direct assignment covered by Part B of the 2012 Guidelines, or is it by itself an independent option?

While intuitively one would have thought that the Scheme is a just a method of risk mitigation/facilitation of the DA transactions which commonly happen between banks and Financial Entities, there are several reasons based on which it appears that this Scheme should be construed as an independent option to banks/ Financial Entities:

  • This Scheme is limited to acquisition of pools by PSBs only whereas direct assignment is not limited to either PSBs or banks.
  • This Scheme envisages that the pool sold to the banks has attained a BBB+ rating at the least. As discussed below, that is not possible without a pool-level credit enhancement. In case of direct assignments, credit enhancement is not permissible.
  • Investments in direct assignment are to be done by the acquirer based on the acquirer’s own credit evaluation. In case of the Scheme, the acquisition is obviously based on the guarantee given by the GoI.
  • There is no question of an agreement or option to acquire the pool back after its transfer by the originator. The Scheme talks about the right of first refusal by the NBFC if the purchasing bank decides to further sell down the assets at any point of time.

Therefore, it should be construed that the Scheme is completely carved out from the DA Guidelines, and is an alternative to DA or securitisation. The issue was clarified by the Reserve Bank of India vide its FAQs on the issue[3].

  1. Is this Scheme applicable to Securitisation transactions as well?

Assignment of pool of assets can be happen in case of both direct assignment as well as securitisation transaction. However, the intention of the present scheme is to provide credit enhancements to direct assignment transactions only. The Scheme does not intend to apply to securitisation transactions; however, the credit enhancement methodology to be deployed to make the Scheme work may involve several structured finance principles akin to securitisation.

  1. In case of Paper Purchases, does the PSB have the benefit of security from underlying assets?

In case of CP, the same is unsecured; hence, the question of any security does not arise. In case of bonds, security may be obtained, but given the short-term nature of the instrument, and the fact that the security is mostly by way of a floating charge, the security creation may not have much relevance.

  1. Between a bond and a CP, what should a PSB/finance company prefer?

The obvious perspective of the finance company as well as the bank may be to go for the maximum tenure permissible, viz., 18 months. CP has a maturity limitation. Hence, the obvious choice will be to go for bonds.

  1. A finance company has maturity liabilities over the next few months. However, it has sufficient free assets also. Should it prefer to sell a pool of assets, or for a short-term paper issuance?

The question does not have a straight answer. In case the finance company goes for paper issuance, it keeps its assets still available, may be for using the same for a DA/securitisation transaction. However, from the viewpoint of flexibility in use of the funds, as also the elimination of ALM risk, a finance company should consider opting for the pool sale option.

16A. As per the Scheme documents pertaining to Paper Purchase, the issuance of Paper may be done for repaying liabilities. What is the construct of the term “liability”? Can it, for example, include payment to securitisation investors?

Securitisation is a self-liquidating liability which liquidates based on the pool cashflows. The issuer does not repay securitisation liability. However, the facility may otherwise be used for payment of any of the financial obligations of the issuer.

Risk transfer

  1. The essence of a guarantee is risk transfer. So how exactly is the process of risk transfer happening in case of pool purchases?

The risk is originated at the time of loan origination by the Financial Entities. The risk is integrated into a pool. Since the transaction is a direct assignment (see discussion below), the risk transfer from the NBFC to the bank may happen either based on a pari passu risk sharing, or based on a tranched risk transfer.

The question of a pari passu risk transfer will arise only if the pool itself, without any credit enhancement, can be rated BBB+. Again, there could be a requirement of a certain level of credit enhancements as well, say through over-collateralisation or subordination.

Based on whether the share of the bank is pari passu or senior, there may be a risk transfer to the bank. Once there is a risk transfer on account of a default to the bank, the bank now transfers the risk on a first-loss basis to the GoI within the pool-based limit of 10%.

  1. How does the risk transfer happen in case of paper purchase?

In case of paper purchase, the risk will arise in case of “failure to service on maturity”. As we discussed earlier, it is presumed that the paper will have a bullet maturity. Hence, if the finance entity is not able to redeem the paper on maturity, the PSB may claim the money from the GoI, upto a limit of 20% for the whole of the pool.

  1. Let us say, at the time of original guarantee for Paper Purchase, the Pool of paper had a total exposure of Rs 800 crores. Out of the same, Rs 100 crores has successfully been redeemed by the issuer. Is it proper to say that the guarantee now stands reduced to 20% of Rs 700 crores?

No. The guarantee is on a first loss basis for the whole pool, amounting to Rs 800 crores. Hence, the guaranteed amount will remain 20% of Rs 800 crores.

  1. What is the maximum amount of exposure, the Government of India is willing to take through this Scheme?

Under this Scheme, the Government has agreed to provide (a) 10% first loss guarantee to pool purchase; and (b) 20% guarantee for paper purchases. The total exposure of the Govt has been fixed at a cap of ₹ 10,000 crores.

With the 20% first loss cover in case of paper, it may be seem that the paper will eat the up the total capacity under the Scheme fast. However, as we have discussed above, we do not expect the paper purchases will materalise to a lot of extent in view of the ramp up time of 3 months.

  1. What does 10% first loss guarantee in case of Pool Purchase signify?

Let us first understand the meaning for first loss guarantee. As the name suggests, the guarantor promises to replenish the first losses of the financier upto a certain level. Therefore, a 10% first loss guarantee would signify that any loss upto 10% of the total exposure of the acquirer in a particular pool will be compensated by the guarantor.

Say for example, if the size of pool originated by NBFC N is Rs. 1000 crores, consisting of 1000 borrowers of Rs. 1 crore each. The terms of the guarantee say that the PSB may make a claim against the GoI once the PSB suffers a loss on account of the loan being 91 DPD or more.

Since the GoI is guaranteeing the losses suffered by the PSB, one first needs to understand the terms between the PSB and the finance company. Quite likely, the finance company will have to provide at least 2 pool level enhancements to lift the rating of the pool sold to the bank to the BBB+ level – excess spread, and some degree of over-collateralisation or first loss support. Hence, to the extent the loans in the pool go delinquent, but are taken care of by the excess spread present in the pool, or the over-collateralisation/first loss support available in the pool, there is no question of any loss being transferred to the PSB. If there is no loss taken by the PSB, there is no question of reaching out to the GoI for the guarantee. It is only when the PSB suffers a loss that the PSB will reach out to the GoI for making payment, in terms of the guarantee.

  1. When is a loan taken to have defaulted, in case of Pool Purchases, for the purpose of the Scheme?

Para D of the Scheme suggests that the loan will be taken as defaulted when the interest and/or principal is overdue by more than 90 days. It further goes to refer to crystallisation of liability on the underlying borrower. The meaning of “crystallisation of liability” is not at all clear, and is, regrettably, inappropriate. The word “crystallisation” is commonly used in context of floating charges, where the charge gets crystallised on account of default. It is also sometimes used in context of guarantees where the liability is said to crystallise on the guarantor following the debtor’s default. The word “underlying borrower” should obviously mean the borrower included in the pool of loans, who always had a crystallised liability. In context, however, this may mean declaration of an event of default, recall of the loan, and thereby, requiring the borrower to repay the entire defaulted loan. 

  1. On occurrence of “default” as above, will be the Bank be able to claim the entire outstanding from the underlying borrower, or the amount of defaulted interest/principal?

The general principle in such cases is that the liability of the guarantor should crystallise on declaration of an event of default on the underlying loan. Hence, the whole of the outstanding from the borrower should be claimed from the guarantor, so as to indemnify the bank fully. As regards subsequent recoveries from the borrower, see later.

  1. Does the recognition of loss by the bank on a defaulted loan have anything to do with the excess spreads/interest on the other performing loans? That is to say, is the loss with respect to a defaulted loan to be computed on pool basis, or loan-by-loan basis?

A reading of para D would suggest that the claiming of compensation is on default of a loan. Hence, the compensation to be claimed by the bank is not to be computed on pool basis. However, any pool-level enhancement, such as excess spread or over-collateralisation, will have to be exhausted first.

  1. Can the guarantee be applicable to a revolving purchase of loans by the bank from the NBFC, that is, purchase of loans on a continuing basis?

No. The intent seems clearly to apply the Scheme only to a static pool.

  1. If a bank buys several pools from the same NBFC, is the extent of first loss cover, that is, 10%, fungible across all pools?

No. The very meaning of a first loss cover is that the protection is limited to a single, static pool.

  1. What will the 20% first loss guarantee in case of Paper Purchase signify?

The meaning of first loss guarantee will be the same in case of Paper Purchases, as in case of Pool Purchases. The difference is clearly the lack of granularity in case of Paper purchases, as the exposure is on the issuer NBFC, and not the underlying borrower.

Hence, if the issuer NBFC fails to redeem the paper on maturity, the PSB shall be entitled to claim payment from the guarantor.

  1. From the viewpoint of maximising the benefit of the guarantee in case of Pool Purchase, should a bank try and achieve maximum diversification in a pool, or keep the pool concentric?

The time-tested rule of tranching of risks in static pools is that in case of concentric, that is, correlated pools, the limit of first loss will be reached very soon. Hence, the benefit of the guarantee is maximised when the pool is diversified. This will mean both granularity of the pool, as also diversification by all the underlying risk variables – geography, industry or occupation type, type of property, etc.

  1. Is the same principle of pool diversification applicable to a Paper purchase also?

Yes, absolutely. The guarantee is a tranched-risk cover, upto a first loss piece of 20%. In case of all tranched risk cover, the benefit can be maximised only if the risk is spread across a granular pool.

  1. Can or should the Scheme be deployed for buying a single loan, or a few corporate loans?

First, the reference to pools obviously means diversified pools. As regards pools consisting of a few corporate loans, as mentioned above, the first loss cover will get exhausted very soon. The principle of tranching is that as correlation/concentricity in a pool increases, the risk shifts from lower tranches to senior tranches. Hence, one must not target using the Scheme for concentric or correlated pools.

  1. In case of Pool Purchases, on what amount should the first loss guarantee be calculated – on the total pool size or the total amount of assets assigned?

While, as we discussed earlier, there is no applicability of the DA Guidelines in the present case, there needs to be a minimum skin in the game for the selling Financial Entity. Whether that skin in the game is by way of a pari passu vertical tranche, or a subordinated horizontal tranche, is a question of the rating required for attaining the benefit of the guarantee. Therefore, if we are considering a pool of say ₹ 1000 crores, the originator should retain at least ₹ 100 crores (applying a 10% rule – which, of course, will depend on the rating considerations) of the total assets in the pool and only to the extent the ₹ 900 crores can be assigned to the purchasing bank.

The question here is whether the first loss guarantee will be calculated on the entire ₹ 1000 crores or ₹ 900 crores. The intention is guarantee the purchasing banks’ share of cash flows and not that retained by the originator. Therefore, the first loss guarantee will be calculated on ₹ 900 crores in the present case.

Scope of the GoI Guarantee

  1. In case of Pool Purchases, does the guarantee cover both principal and interest on the underlying loan?

The guarantee is supposed to indemnify the losses of the beneficiary, in this case, the bank. Hence, the guarantee should presumably cover both interest and principal.

  1. Does the guarantee cove additional interest, penalties, etc.?

Going by Rule 277 (vi) of the GFR, the benefit of the guarantee will be limited to normal interest only. All other charges – additional interest, penal interest, etc., will not be covered by the guarantee.

  1. In case of Paper Purchases, what all does the guarantee cover?

Once again, the guarantee seems to be for the maturiing amount, as also the accumulated interest.

  1. How do the General Financial Rules of the Government of India affect/limit the scope of the guarantee?

Para 281 of the GFR provides for annual review of the guarantees extended by the Government. The concerned department, DFS in the present case, will conduct review of the guarantees extended and forward the report to the Budget Division. However, if the Government can take any actions based on the outcome of the review is unclear.

Bankruptcy remoteness

  1. Does the transaction of assignment of pool from the Financial Entity to the bank have to adhere to any true sale/bankruptcy remoteness conditions?

The transaction must be a proper assignment, and should achieve bankruptcy remoteness in relation to the Financial Entity. Therefore, all regular true sale conditions should be satisfied.

  1. Can a Financial Entity sell the pool to the bank with the understanding that after 2 years, that is, at the end of the guarantee period, the pool will be sold back to the NBFCs?

Any sale with either an obligation to buyback, or an option to buy back, generally conflicts with the true sale requirement. Therefore, the sale should be a sale without recourse. However, retention of a right of first refusal, or right of pre-emption, is not equivalent to option to buy back. For instance, if, after 2 years, the bank is desirous of selling the pool at its fair value, the NBFC may have the first right of buying the same. This is regarded as consistent with true sale conditions.

  1. If off-balance sheet treatment from IFRS/Ind-AS viewpoint at all relevant for the purpose of this transaction?

No. Off balance sheet treatment is not relevant for bankruptcy remoteness.

  1. Is the Pool Purchase transaction subject to bankruptcy risk of the issuer finance company?

Yes, absolutely. There is no bankruptcy remoteness in case of paper purchases.

Short term bond instrument regulations

  1. What are the specific regulations to be complied with in case of PAPER issuance?

The issuing NBFC/HFC will have to comply with the provisions of Companies Act, 2013. Additionally, depending on the tenure and nature of the PAPER, the regulations issued by RBI for money market instruments shall also be applicable.

  1. Given the current regulatory framework for short term instruments, is it possible to issue unrated instruments with maturity less than 12 months?

As per the RBI Master Directions for Money Market Instruments, the issuers is required to obtain credit rating for issuance of CP from any one of the SEBI registered CRAs. Further, it is prescribed that the minimum credit rating shall be ‘A3’ as per rating symbol and definition prescribed by SEBI.

Similarly, in case of NCD issuance with tenure upto one year, there is a requirement to obtain credit rating from one of the rating agencies. Further, the minimum credit rating shall be ‘A2’ as per rating symbol and definition prescribed by SEBI.

Buyers and sellers

  1. Who are eligible buyers under this Scheme?

Both in case of Pool Purchases as also Paper Purchases, only Public Sector Banks are eligible buyers of assets under this Scheme. Therefore, even if a Private Sector Bank acquires eligible assets from eligible sellers, guarantee under this Scheme will still not be available.

This may be keeping in view two points – first, the intent of the Scheme, that is, to nudge PSBs to buy pools from Financial Entities. It is a well-known fact that private sector banks are, as it is, actively engaged in buying pools. Secondly, in terms of GFR of the GoI, the benefit of Government guarantee cannot go to the private sector. [Rule 277 (vii)] Hence, the Scheme is restricted to PSBs only.

  1. Who are eligible sellers under the Scheme in case of Pool purchases?

The intention of the Scheme is to provide relief from the stress caused due to the ongoing liquidity crisis, to sound HFCs/ NBFCs who are otherwise financially stable. The Scheme has very clearly laid screening parameters to decide the eligibility of the seller. The qualifying criteria laid down therein are:

  • NBFCs registered with the RBI, except Micro Financial Institutions or Core Investment Companies
  • HFCs registered with the NHB
  • The NBFC/ HFC must have been able to maintain the minimum regulatory capital as on 31st March, 2019, that is –
    • For NBFCs – 15%
    • For HFCs – 12%
  • The net NPA of the NBFC/HFC must not have exceeded 6% as on 31st March, 2019
  • The NBFC/ HFC must have reported net profit in at least one out of the last two preceding financial years, that is, FY 2017-18 and FY 2018-19.
  • The Original Scheme stated that the NBFC/ HFC must not have been reported as a Special Mention Account (SMA) by any bank during the year prior to 1st August, 2018. However, the Amendment even allows NBFC/HFC which may have slipped during one year prior to 1st August, 2018 shall also be allowed to sell their portfolios under the Scheme.
  1. Who are eligible issuers under the Scheme in case of PAPER purchases?

The intention of the Scheme is to provide relief from the stress caused due to the ongoing liquidity crisis, the eligible issuers are as follow:

  • NBFCs registered with the RBI except Government owned NBFCs
  • All MFIs which are members of a Self-Regulatory Organisation (SRO) recognized by RBI shall be eligible for purchase of Bonds/ CPs.
  • HFCs registered with the NHB except Government owned HFCs.
  1. In case of pool purchases, can NBFCs of any asset size avail this benefit?

Apparently, the Scheme does not provide for any asset size requirement for an NBFC to be qualified for this Scheme, however, one of the requirements is that the financial institution must have maintained the minimum regulatory capital requirement as on 31st March, 2019. Here it is important to note that the requirement to maintain regulatory capital, that is capital risk adequacy ratio (CRAR), applies only to systemically important NBFCs.

Only those NBFCs whose asset size exceeds ₹ 500 crores singly or jointly with assets of other NBFCs in the group are treated as systemically important NBFCs. Therefore, it is safe to assume that the benefits under this Scheme can be availed only by those NBFCs which – a) are required to maintain CRAR, and b) have maintained the required amount of capital as on 31st March, 2019, subject to the fulfillment of other conditions.

  1. In case of issuance of bonds/commercial papers, is there a similar capital requirement?

There is no such condition in case of bond and CP issuance.

  1. In case of pool purchases, the eligibility criteria for sellers state that the financial institution must not have been reported as SMA-1 or SMA-2 by any bank any time during 1 year prior to 1st August, 2018– what does this signify?

As per the prudential norms for banks, an account has to be declared as SMA, if it shows signs of distress without slipping into the category of an NPA. The requirement states that the originator must not have been reported as an SMA-1 or SMA-2 any time during 1 year prior to 1st August, 2018, and nothing has been mentioned regarding the period thereafter.

Therefore, if a financial institution satisfies the condition before 1st August, 2018 but becomes SMA-1 or SMA-2 thereafter, it will still be eligible as per the Scheme. The whole intention of the Scheme is to eliminate the liquidity squeeze due to the ILFS crisis. Therefore, if a financial institution turns SMA after the said date, it will be presumed the financial institution has fallen into a distressed situation as a fallout of the ILFS crisis.

Eligible assets

  1. What are the eligible assets for the Scheme in case of Pool Purchases?

The Scheme has explicitly laid down qualifying criteria for eligible assets and they are:

  • The asset must have originated on or before 31st March, 2019.
  • The asset must be classified as standard in the books of the NBFC/ HFC as on the date of the sale.
  • The original Scheme stated that the pool of assets should have a minimum rating of “AA” or equivalent at fair value without the credit guarantee from the Government. However, through the Amendment, the rating requirement has been brought down to BBB+.
  • Each account under the pooled assets should have been fully disbursed and security charges should have been created in favour of the originating NBFCs/ HFCs.
  • The individual asset size in the pool must not exceed ₹ 5 crore.
  • The following types of loans are not eligible for assignment for the purposes of this Scheme:
    • Revolving credit facilities;
    • Assets purchased from other entities; and
    • Assets with bullet repayment of both principal and interest
    • Pools consisting of assets satisfying the above criteria qualify for the benefit of the guarantee. Hence, the pool may consist of retail loans, wholesale loans, corporate loans, loans against property, or any other loans, as long as the qualifying conditions above are satisfied.
  1. Should the Scheme be deployed for assets for longer maturity or shorter maturity?

Utilising the Scheme for pools of lower weighted average maturity will result into very high costs – as the cost of the guarantee is computed on the original purchase price.

Using the Scheme for pools of longer maturity – for example, LAP loans or corporate loans, may be lucrative because the amortisation of the pool is slower. However, it is notable that the benefit of the guarantee is available only for 2 years. After 2 years, the bank will not have the protection of the Government’s guarantee.

  1. If there are corporate loans in the pool, where there is payment of interest on regular basis, but the principal is paid by way of a bullet repayment, will such loans qualify for the benefit of the Scheme?

The reference to bullet repaying loans in the Scheme seems similar to those in DA guidelines. In our view, if there is evidence/track record of servicing, in form of interest, such that the principal comes by way of a bullet repayment (commonly called IO loans), the loan should still qualify for the Scheme. However, negatively amortising loans should not qualify.

  1. Is there any implication of keeping the cut-off date for originations of loans to be 31st March, 2019?

This Scheme came into force with effect from 10th August, 2019 and remained open till 30th June, 2020. The original Scheme also had this cut-off of 31st March, 2019.

Due to the extension, though the timelines have been extended by one year till 31st March, 2021, however, the cut off date has not changed. Therefore, in our view, this scheme will hold good only for long tenure loans, such as mortgage loans.

  1. Is there any maximum limit on the amount of loans that can be assigned under this Scheme?

Yes, the Scheme has put a maximum cap on the amount of assets that can be assigned and that is an amount equal to 20% of the outstanding standard assets as on 31st March, 2019, however, the same is capped to ₹ 5000 crores.

  1. Is there a scope for assigning assets beyond the maximum limits prescribed in the Scheme?

Yes, the Scheme states that any additional amount above the cap of ₹ 5,000 crore will be considered on pro rata basis, subject to availability of headroom. However, from the language, it seems that there is a scope for sell down beyond the prescribed limit, only if the eligible maximum permissible limit gets capped to ₹ 5,000 crores and not if the maximum permissible limit is less than ₹ 5000 crores.

The following numerical examples will help us to understand this better:

Total outstanding standard assets as on 31st March, 2019 ₹ 20,000 crores ₹ 25,000 crores ₹ 30,000 crores
Maximum permissible limit @ 20% ₹ 4,000 crores ₹ 5,000 crores ₹ 6,000 crores
Maximum cap for assignment under this Scheme ₹ 5,000 crores ₹ 5,000 crores ₹ 5,000 crores
Amount that can be assigned under this Scheme ₹ 4,000 crores ₹ 5,000 crores ₹ 5,000 crores
Scope for further sell down? No No Yes, upto a maximum of ₹ 1,000 crores

 

  1. When will it be decided whether the Financial Entity can sell down receivables beyond the maximum cap?

Nothing has been mentioned regarding when and how will it be decided whether a financial institution can sell down receivables beyond the maximum cap, under this Scheme. However, logically, the decision should be taken by the Government of India of whether to allow further sell down and closer towards the end of the Scheme. However, we will have to wait and see how this unfolds practically.

  1. What are the permissible terms of transfer under this Scheme?

The Scheme allows the assignment agreement to contain the following:

  • Servicing rights – It allows the originator to retain the servicing function, including administrative function, in the transaction.
  • Buy back right – It allows the originator to retain an option to buy back its assets after a specified period of 12 months as a repurchase transaction, on a right of first refusal basis. Actually, this is not a right to buy back, it is a right of first refusal which the NBFC/ HFC may exercise if the purchasing bank further sells down the assets. See elsewhere for detailed discussion

Rating of the Pool in case of Pool Purchases

  1. The Scheme requires that the pool must have a rating of BBB+ before its transfer to the bank. Does that mean there be a formal rating agency opinion on the rating of the pool?

Yes. It will be logical to assume that SIDBI or DFS will expect a formal rating agency opinion before agreeing to extend the guarantee. 

  1. The Scheme requires the pool of assets to be rated at least BBB+, what does this signify?

As per the conditions for eligible assets, the pool of assets to be assigned under this Scheme must have a minimum rating of “BBB+” or equivalent at fair value prior to the guarantee from the Government.

There may be a question of expected loss assessment of a pool. Initially, the rating requirement was pegged at “AA” or higher and there was an apprehension that the originators might have to provide a substantial amount of credit enhancement in order to the make the assets eligible for assignment under the Scheme. Subsequently, vide the Amendments, the rating has been brought down to BBB+. The originators may also be required to provide some level of credit enhancements in order to achieve the BBB+ rating.

Unlike under the original Scheme, where the rating requirement was as high as AA, the intent is to provide guarantee only at AA level, then the thickness of the guarantee, that is, 10%, and the cost of the guarantee, viz., 25 bps, both became questionable. The thickness of support required for moving a AA rated pool to a AAA level mostly is not as high as 10%. Also, the cost of 25 bps for guaranteeing a AA-rated pool implied that the credit spreads between AA and a AAA-rated pool were at least good enough to absorb a cost of 25 bps. All these did not seemed and hence, there was not even a single transaction so far.

But now that the rating requirement has been brought down to BBB+, it makes a lot of sense. The credit enhancement level required to achieve BBB+ will be at least 4%-5% lower than what would have been required for AA pool. Further, the spread between a BBB+ and AAA rated pool would be sufficient to cover up the guarantee commission of 25 bps to be incurred by the seller in the transaction.

Here it is important to note that though the rating required is as low as BBB+, but there is nothing which stops the originator in providing a better quality pool. In fact, by providing a better quality pool, the originator will be able to fetch a much lower cost. Further, since, the guarantee on the pool will be available for only first two years of the transaction, the buyers will be more interested in acquiring higher quality pools, as there could be possibilities of default after the first two years, which is usually the case – the defaults increase towards the end of the tenure.

57A. Will investment grade debt paper of NBFCs/HFCs/MFIs be determined without adjustments for the COVID scenario considering the grading may have been downgraded?
As per the Scheme, the rating of debt paper as on date of transaction would apply. In this regard, a circular issued by SEBI on March 30, 2020 maybe considered, which directs rating agencies to not consider delay in repayments owing to the lockdown as ‘default’. Thus, the rating issued by the credit rating agencies would already adjust the delays owing to COVID disruptions.

Risk weight and capital requirements

  1. Can the bank, having got the Pool guaranteed by the GoI, treat the Pool has zero% risk weighted, or risk-weighted at par with sovereign risk weights?

No. for two reasons –one the guarantee is only partial and not full. Number two, the guarantee is only for losses upto first 2 years. So it is not that the credit exposure of the bank is fully guaranteed 

  1. What will be the risk weight once the guarantee is removed, after expiry of 2 years?

The risk weight should be based on the rating of the tranche/pool, say, BBB+ or better.

Guarantee commission

  1. Is there a guarantee commission? If yes, who will bear the liability to pay the commission?

As already discussed in one of the questions above, the Scheme requires the originators to pay guarantee commission of 25 basis points on the amount of guarantee extended by the Government. Though the originator will pay the fee, but the same will be routed through purchasing bank.

  1. The pool is amortising pool. Is the cost of 25 bps to be paid on the original purchase price?

From the operational details, it is clear that the cost of 25 bps is, in the first instance, payable on the original fair value, that is, the purchase price.

Invocation of guarantee and refund

  1. When can the guarantee be invoked in case of Pool Purchases?

The guarantee can be invoked any time during the first 24 months from the date of assignment, if the interest/ principal has remained overdue for a period of more than 90 days.

  1. When can the guarantee be invoked in the case of Paper Purchases?

There is no maximum time limit in case of Paper Purchases. Hence, the guarantee can be invoked upto maturity. The maximum maturity, of course, is limited to 18 months. 

  1. In case of Pool Purchases, can the purchasing bank invoke the guarantee as and when the default occurs in each account?

Yes. The purchasing bank can invoke the guarantee as and when any instalment of interest/ principal/ both remains overdue for a period of more than 90 days. 

  1. In case of PAPER Purchases, can the purchasing bank invoke the guarantee as and when the default occurs?

Assuming the instruments will have bullet repayment of principal, the answer is yes. 

  1. To what extent can the purchasing bank recover its losses through invocation of guarantee?

When a loan goes bad, the purchasing bank can invoke the guarantee and recover its entire exposure from the Government. It can continue to recover its losses from the Government, until the upper cap of 10% of the total portfolio is reached. However, the purchasing bank will not be able to recover the losses if – (a) the pooled assets are bought back by the concerned NBFCs/HFCs or (b) sold by the purchasing bank to other entities. 

  1. Within how many days will the purchasing bank be able to recover its losses from the Government?

As stated in the Scheme, the claims will be settled within 5 working days. 

  1. In case of pool purchase, what will happen if the purchasing bank recovers the amount lost, subsequent to the invocation of guarantee?

If the purchasing bank, by any means, recovers the amount subsequent to the invocation of the guarantee, it will have to refund the amount recovered or the amount received against the guarantee to the Government within 5 working days from the date of recovery. However, if the amount recovered is more than the amount received as guarantee, the excess collection will be retained by the purchasing bank. 

  1. In case of PAPER Purchase, what will happen if the purchasing bank recovers the amount lost, subsequent to the invocation of guarantee?

If the purchasing bank, by any means, recovers the amount subsequent to the invocation of the guarantee, it will have to refund the amount recovered or the amount received against the guarantee to the Government within 5 working days from the date of recovery. However, if the amount recovered is more than the amount received as guarantee, the excess collection will be retained by the purchasing bank.

Modus operandi

  1. What will be the process for a bank to obtain the benefit of the guarantee?

While the Department of Financial Services (DFS) is made the administrative ministry for the purpose of the guarantee under the Scheme, the Scheme involves the role of SIDBI as the interface between the banks and the GoI. Therefore, any bank intending to avail of the guarantee has to approach SIDBI.

  1. Can you elaborate on the various procedural steps to be taken to take the benefit of the guarantee?

The modus operandi of the Scheme is likely to be as follows:

  • An NBFC approaches a bank with a static pool, which, based on credit enhancements, or otherwise, has already been uplifted to a rating of BBB+ or above level.
  • The NBFC negotiates and finalises its commercials with the bank.
  • The bank then approaches SIDBI with a proposal to obtain the guarantee of the GOI. At this stage, the bank provides (a) details of the transaction; and (b) a certificate that the requirements of Chapter 11 of General Financial Rules, and in particular, those of para 280, have been complied with.
  • SIDBI does its own evaluation of the proposal, from the viewpoint of adherence to Chapter 11 of GFR and para 280 in particular, and whether the proposal is in compliance with the provisions of the Scheme. SIDBI shall accordingly forward the proposal to DFS along with a specific recommendation to either provide the guarantee, or otherwise.
  • DFS shall then make its decision. Once the decision of DFS is made, it shall be communicated to SIDBI and PSB.
  • At this stage, PSB may consummate its transaction with the NBFC, after collecting the guarantee fees of 25 bps.
  • In case of PAPER Purchase, the NBFC/HFC shall have to comply with the extant regulations for issuance of bonds/CPs, under Companies Act, 2013 and as issued by the regulators- RBI or NHB, as the case may be.
  • PSB shall then execute its guarantee documentation with DFS and pay the money by way of guarantee commission.
  1. Para 280(i)(a) of the GFR states that there should be back-to-back agreements between the Government and Borrower to effect to the transaction – will this rule be applicable in case of this Scheme?

Para 280 has been drawn up based on the understanding that guarantee extended is for a loan where the borrower is known by the Government. In the present case, the guarantee is extended in order to partially support a sale of assets and not for a specific loan, therefore, this will not apply.

Miscellaneous

  1. Is there any reporting requirement?

The Scheme does provide for a real-time reporting mechanism for the purchasing banks to understand the remaining headroom for purchase of such pooled assets. The Department of Financial Services (DFS), Ministry of Finance would obtain the requisite information in a prescribed format from the PSBs and send a copy to the budget division of DEA, however, the manner and format of reporting has not been notified yet. 

  1. What are to-do activities for the sellers to avail benefits under this Scheme?

Besides conforming to the eligibility criteria laid down in the Scheme, the sellers will also have to carry out the following in order to avail the benefits:

  • The Asset Liability structure should restructured within three months to have positive ALM in each bucket for the first three months and on cumulative basis for the remaining period;
  • At no time during the period for exercise of the option to buy back the assets, should the CRAR go below the regulatory minimum. The promoters shall have to ensure this by infusing equity, where required.

 

Other related articles-

Government Credit enhancement scheme for NBFC Pools: A win-win for all

GOI’s attempt to ease out liquidity stress of NBFCs and HFCs: Ministry of Finance launches Scheme for Partial Credit Guarantee to PSBs for acquisition of financial assets

Government credit enhancement for NBFC pools: A Guide to Rating agencies

http://vinodkothari.com/2019/09/partial-credit-guarantee-scheme/

 

[1] Including Indian Securitisation Foundation

[2] https://pib.gov.in/PressReleseDetailm.aspx?PRID=1595952

[3] https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/FAQView.aspx?Id=131

 

Listed company disclosures of impact of the Covid Crisis: Learning from global experience

Munmi Phukon & Ambika Mehrotra

corplaw@vinodkothari.com

Introduction

The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has issued an Advisory on 20th May, 2020[1] for listed entities  advising them to evaluate the impact of the COVID 19 pandemic on their business and disseminate the same to stock exchanges.

Read more