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Special Liquidity Scheme – providing short term liquidity relief for NBFCs

Timothy Lopes | Senior Executive

Vinod Kothari Consultants

finserv@vinodkothari.com

In light of the disruption caused by the pandemic, the Government of India announced a Rs. 20 lakh crores economic stimulus package. The first of the several reforms were announced on 13th May, 2020 which announced the Emergency Credit Line, the partial credit guarantee scheme 2.0 (PCG 2.0), TLTRO 2.0 and much more.

The PCG 2.0 scheme permitted banks to purchase CPs and bonds issued by NBFCs/MFIs/HFCs. These purchases were then guaranteed by the Government of India up to 20% of the first loss. For more details of the scheme see our write up here.

The announcement also proposed launching a Rs. 30,000 crores “Special Liquidity Scheme” for NBFCs/HFCs including MFIs. The Cabinet approved this scheme on 20th May, 2020[1].

On 1st July, 2020, RBI has released the details of the Special Liquidity Scheme[2]. The scheme is intended to avoid potential systemic risk to the financial sector. The scheme seems to be a short term relief for NBFCs acting as a bail-out package for near term maturity debt instruments. The scheme is intended to supplement the existing measures already introduced by the Government.

The scheme will provide liquidity to eligible NBFCs defined in the notification which is similar to the eligibility criteria specified under the PCG 2.0 scheme. The Government will implement the scheme through SBICAP which is a subsidiary of SBI. SBICAP has set up a SPV called SLS Trust to manage the operations. More details about the trust can be found on the website of SBICAP[3].

Under the scheme, the SPV will purchase the short-term papers from eligible NBFCs/HFCs.  RBI will provide liquidity to the Trust depending on actual purchases by the Trust. The utilisation of proceeds from the scheme will be only towards the sole purpose of extinguishing existing liabilities.

Eligible instruments

Instruments eligible for the scheme are relatively short term. The scheme specifies that CPs and NCDs with a residual maturity of not more than three months (90 days) and rated as investment grade will be eligible instruments. These dates, however, may be extended by Government of India. The SPV would invest in securities either from the primary market or secondary market subject to the conditions mentioned in the Scheme.

The actual investment decisions will be taken by the Investment Committee of the SPV.

Validity of the Scheme

The scheme is available only up to 30th September, 2020 as the SPV will cease to make purchases thereafter and would recover all the dues by 31st December, 2021 or any other date subsequently modified.

Investment by the SPV

The SPV set up under the scheme comprises of an investment committee. The investment committee will decide the amount to be invested in a particular NBFC/HFC. The FAQs available on the website of SBICAPs specifies that the Trust shall invest not more than Rs. 2000 crores on any one NBFC/HFC subject to them meeting conditions specified in the scheme. The Trust may have allocation up to 30% to NBFCs/HFCs with asset size of Rs. 1000 crores or less.

Rate of Return and collateral

Rate of Return (RoR) and other specifics under the scheme will likely be based on mutual negotiation between the NBFCs and the trust. According to the FAQs, the yield on securities invested by SPV shall be decided by the Investment Committee subject to the provisions of the scheme.

The Trust may also require an appropriate level of collateral from the NBFCs/ HFCs as specified under the FAQs.

Conclusion

The scheme is a welcome move likely to provide sufficient liquidity to the NBFC sector for the near term and act as a bail-out package for their short term liabilities.

The press release dated 20th May, 2020, approving the Special Liquidity Scheme states that “Unlike the Partial Credit Guarantee Scheme which involves multiple bilateral deals between various public sector banks and NBFCs, requires NBFCs to liquidate their current asset portfolio and involves flow of funds from public sector banks, the proposed scheme would be a one-stop arrangement between the SPV and the NBFCs without having to liquidate their current asset portfolio. The scheme would also act as an enabler for the NBFC to get investment grade or better rating for bonds issued. The scheme is likely to be easier to operate and also augment the flow of funds from the non-bank sector.”

Our related write ups may be viewed below –

http://vinodkothari.com/2020/05/pcg-scheme-2-0-for-nbfc-pooled-assets-bonds-and-commercial-paper/

http://vinodkothari.com/2020/05/guaranteed-emergency-line-of-credit-understanding-and-faqs/

http://vinodkothari.com/2020/05/self-dependent-india-measures-concerning-the-financial-sector/

http://vinodkothari.com/2020/04/would-the-doses-of-tltro-really-nurse-the-financial-sector/

[1] https://pib.gov.in/PressReleasePage.aspx?PRID=1625310

[2] https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/NotificationUser.aspx?Id=11925&Mode=0

[3] https://www.sbicaps.com/index.php/sls-trust/

Covered bonds and the COVID disruption

-Vinod Kothari

finserv@vinodkothari.com

Last year, the European Covered Bonds Council celebrated 250th anniversary of covered bonds[1]. That year also marked a substantial increase in global volumes of covered bonds issuance, which had been flat for the past few years. However, no one, joining the 250 years’ celebration, would have the COVID disruption in mind

With a history of more than 250 years now, covered bonds would have withstood various calamities and disruptions, both economic and natural, over the years. Covered bonds have not seen defaults over all these years. Will they be able to sustain the COVID disruption as well, given the fact that the major countries where they have been used extensively, have all suffered COVID casualties or infections, in varying degrees? In addition to the challenging credit environment, covered bonds will also be put to another question – does this device of refinancing mortgages in Europe hold the answer to sustaining continuous funding of home loans, thereby mitigating the impact of the crisis?

While, over the years, the instrument has been talked about (and less practiced) in lots of jurisdictions over the world, EU countries are still the bastion for covered bonds. About 82% of the world’s Euro 2.50 trillion dollar outstanding covered bonds are issued by EU entities.

European banks’ dependence on covered bond funding

European banks have a substantial dependence on covered bonds. Germany, where covered bonds have widely been regarded as a “fixture of German banking”, account for nearly 32% of the total capital market funding. In some countries, albeit with smaller bank balance sheets, the number goes up to as high as 78 – 81% [See Graph].

Figure 1  source: https://www.spglobal.com/_media/documents/spglobalratings_spglobalratings-coveredbondsprimer_jun_20_2019.pdf

If covered bonds were to prove resilient to the crisis, the investors’ confidence in these bonds, which have so had several regulatory privileges such as lower risk weights, will stand justified. On the other hand, if the bonds were to prove as brittle as some of their issuing banks, the claim to 250 years of unblemished vintage will be put to question.

Robustness of covered bonds

Covered bonds have a dual recourse feature – the issuer, and the underlying pool, in that order. Covered bonds are generally issued by mortgage-lending banks in Europe. Therefore, a default of covered bonds may occur only the issuing banks face the risk of default. Even if that were to happen, the extent of over-collateralisation in the cover pool may be sufficient to hold the bondholders safe. The recourse that the bondholders have against the loan pool is further strengthened by inherent support in a mortgage loan in form of the LTV ratio.

After the Global Financial Crisis and the introduction of Basel III norms, the capital of EU banks has generally strengthened. Data published by European Central Bank shows that European banks have a common equity tier 1 [CET 1] ratio of about 14.78%, as against the regulatory minimum of 4.5%. Therefore, the issuer banks seem to be poised to withstand pressure on the performance.

Past instances of default

Robustness of covered bonds is not the only factor which has kept them standing over all these years – another very important factor is sovereign support. European sovereigns have been sensitive to the important of covered bonds as crucial to maintain the flow of funds to the housing sector, and hence, they have tried to save covered bonds from defaulting.

In the period 1997 to 2019, out of covered bonds, there have been 33 instances of default by covered bond issuers, in various other on-balance sheet liabilities. However, these issues did not default on their covered bonds[2].

There are several regulatory incentives for covered bonds. Central banks permit self-issued covered bonds to be used as collateral for repo facilities. ECB also permits covered bonds as a part of its purchase program. In addition, there are preferential risk weights for capital requirements.

Rating downgrades in covered bonds correlate with sovereign downgrades

Rating agency Moody’s reports [16th April, 2020 report][3] that the potential for rating downgrades for covered bonds was strongly correlated with the ratings of sovereigns. “for countries with Aaa country ceilings, the average 12-month downgrade rate between 1997 and 2019 was 6.5% for covered bonds and 15.5% for covered bond issuers. However, in countries with lower country

ceilings, representing lower sovereign credit quality, the average 12-month downgrade rate increased to 24% for covered bonds and 25% for covered bond issuers”.

Rating agency Fitch also had a similar observation – stating that the rating downgrades for covered bonds were mostly related to sovereign downgrades, as in case of Greece and Italy.

Risk of downgrades in covered bonds

Risk of downgrades in covered bonds arises mainly from 2 reasons: weakening health of issuer banks, and quality of the underlying mortgage pools. Mortgage pools face the risks of reducing property prices, strain on urban incomes and increase in unemployment levels, etc. Over-collateralisation levels remain a strength, but unlike in case of MBS, covered bonds lean primarily on the health of the issuer banks. As long as the bank in question has adequate capital, the chances that it will continue to perform on covered bonds remain strong.

At the loan level, LTV ratios are also sufficiently resilient. Moody’s report suggests that in several jurisdictions, the LTV ratios for European covered bonds are less than 60%.

Additionally, in several European jurisdictions, the regulatory requirement stipulate non-performing loans either to be replaced by performing loans, or not to be considered for the purpose of collateral pool.

Unused notches of rating upliftment

A covered bond rating may rise by several notches, because of a combination of factors, including issuer resolution framework, jurisdictional support, and collateral support[4]. Either because of the strength of the pool, or because of the legislation support, or because of both. However, in any case the issuer’s credit rating is already strong, say, AAA, the notching up that could potentially have come has not been used at all. This is what is referred to as “unused notches”.

In order to assess the ability of covered bonds to withstand the pressure on the issuer bank’s rating will be the extent of unused notches of rating upliftment. In a report dated 25th March, 2020[5], rating agency S&P gave data about unused notches of rating upliftment of covered bonds in several jurisdictions. These ranged between 1 to 6 in many countries, thus pointing to the ability of the covered bond issuances to withstand rating pressures.

Conclusion

We are at the cusp of the disruption in global economies caused by the COVID pandemic. Any assessment of the impact of the crisis on capital market instruments may verge on being speculative. However, current signals are that the 250 years of history of performance does not face the risk of a collapse.

Links to our other resources on covered bonds –

http://vinodkothari.com/wp-content/uploads/Introduction-to-Covered-Bonds-by-Vinod-Kothari.pdf

vinodkothari.com/wp-content/uploads/covered-bonds-article-by-vinod-kothari.pdf

[1] 29th August, 1769, Frederick the Great of Prussia signed an order permitting the issuance of a landowners’ cooperative.  It was in 1770 that the first German pfandbrief was issued. Going by this, the 250th anniversary should actually be this year.

[2] See Moody’s report here: https://www.moodys.com/researchdocumentcontentpage.aspx?docid=PBS_1117861

[3] https://www.moodys.com/researchdocumentcontentpage.aspx?docid=PBS_1221857

[4] Rating agency Standard and Poor’s, for example, considers at least 2 notches for resolution framework, three notches for jurisdictional support, and four notches for collateral support.

[5] https://www.spglobal.com/ratings/en/research/articles/200325-global-covered-bonds-assessing-the-credit-effects-of-covid-19-11402802

Leasing: The way forward in the post COVID-19 world

Timothy Lopes, Senior Executive, Vinod Kothari Consultants

finserv@vinodkothari.com

The leasing market has always proven to be strong and growing in emerging as well as developed markets through all stages of an economic cycle. According to a US country survey report by White Clarke Group, the US equipment finance industry at the end of 2018 was roughly US$ 900 billion. This was expected to grow at around 3.9% during 2019.

COVID-19 has disrupted businesses and entities as much as it has affected personal lives. As businesses learn to live the new normal, there have to be lot of realization for acquisition of capital assets in time to come. Businesses will arguably find it much easier to connect their payment obligations to their own revenues, so as to have minimum stress and maximum focus on operations.

Demand for capital equipment, vehicles, software, etc. would have slowed down owing to covid disruption. This lower demand results from lower cash in hand to fund any outright equipment purchases. Going forward too, post the COVID-19 scenario, “buying” equipment, etc. would not be a feasible option.

Leasing on the other hand, has in the past proven to be a strong financing alternative even at times of a depression. During the great depression back in the 1930’s, companies that resorted to leasing out equipment and software performed rather well in stress scenarios. To take an example of IBM Corporation, which then derived well over half of its income from leasing, and of United Shoe Machinery Corporation, which distributed virtually all its machine products through leases while the US GDP took a major hit during the 1930-1935 period.

Figure – Leasing during the great depression (1930)

Source: Lease Financing and Hire Purchase, Fourth Edition 1996 by Vinod Kothari

 

Source: Bureau of Economic Affairs, US Department of Commerce

Under leasing plans, since the buyer does not have to put in any capital investment, he may be able to acquire equipment even during a period of depression. Thus, leasing serves to maintain the growth of a manufacturer’s sales during depressionary climate.[1]

Post COVID-19 scenario – Could leasing be the way forward?

Presently, the global economy has entered into recession which may be comparable to the situation back in the 1930s. It is unlikely that companies would be looking to purchase assets during the post COVID-19 scenario owing to several stress factors.

Thus, leasing equipment/ software/ vehicles, etc. should be the way to go during the depression scenario. Leasing allows one to structure the payments in such a way that the cashflows arising from the asset/ equipment will itself service the rentals associated with the asset/ equipment, which is the likely factor to increase the propensity to finance through leasing.

Properly structured, lease transactions have the potential to turn assets into services – enabling users to get to use assets without having to lock capital therein. It is our belief that leasing provides the way for users of capital equipment to acquire assets, keeping their businesses asset-light.

Further, according to a survey done on the impact of COVID-19 on lease financing by Equipment Leasing & Finance Foundation (ELFF), over the next four months, none of the respondents expect more access to capital to fund equipment acquisitions, while some of the survey respondents believe demand for leases and loans to fund capital expenditures (capex) will increase over the next four months.

The Monthly Confidence Index (MCI) for the Equipment Finance Industry, for the month of May, 2020 was at 25.8%, up from 22.3% in April, 2020.

Further, another report by ELFF suggests that capital investment will suffer due to the pandemic. Leasing, however, would enable the buyer to acquire an asset while not having to put in any capital investment.

Global leasing trends

Leasing volumes have seen strong growth across geographies over the 2002-2018 period. This is reflected by the volumes in major regions reported by the White Clarke Group: Global Leasing Report 2020 shown below –

Conclusion

Leasing would be a feasible solution in the upcoming recovery period. The cashflows generated from the asset on lease would service the rentals on the asset, thereby having the asset finance itself, considering that no one would be willing to put in any major capital investment in the times to come.

In India, the penetration of leasing has been fraction of a percentage, compared to global levels, where average penetration has been upwards of 20% consistently. Several factors, including tax disparities, have been responsible.

With innovation as the working tool, solutions may be designed to provide customers with effective asset acquisition solutions.

See our resources on leasing here –

http://vinodkothari.com/leasehome/

[1] Source – Lease Financing and Hire Purchase, Fourth Edition 1996 by Vinod Kothari

 

Implications of IBC Ordinance, 2020- Quick Round up

Resolution Division, 

(resolution@vinodkothari.com)

The President today signed in the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020 [‘Ordinance’] to implement the already-talked-about abatement of IBC filings for the period of the COVID disruption, and accordingly, amend the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 [‘Code’]. We analyse the Ordinance in quick bullet points –

Read more

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

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

Convening of AGM during COVID-19 crisis

-Will VC mode motivate the companies to call the AGM early?

Bunny Sehgal, corplaw@vinodkothari.com

Background

In view of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (‘MCA’) had come up with the circular dated April 08, 2020[1] providing certain relaxations from the provisions of Companies Act, 2013 (‘Act’) and rules made thereunder including conducting the extra-ordinary general meeting (‘EGM’ or ‘Meeting’) for passing the resolutions of urgent nature through video conferencing (‘VC’) and other audio visual means (‘OAVM’) till June 30, 2020. Further, in order to provide more clarity on the modalities to be followed by the companies for conducting EGM viz. manner of issuance of notice, voting by show of hands and postal ballot etc., another circular dated April 13, 2020[2] (Collectively referred to as ‘EGM Circulars’) was brought in force. In continuation to the aforesaid circulars and in view of the social distancing norms and other restrictions thereof, MCA provided an extension of 3 months for holding annual general meeting (‘AGM’) for the companies having the calendar year as the financial year vide its circular dated April 21, 2020[3].

Now, considering the representations of various stakeholders, MCA has issued a circular dated May 05, 2020 [4](‘AGM Circular’) in line with the relaxations provided under the EGM Circulars to hold AGMs through VC/ OAVM.

While the AGM Circular will draw its reference from the EGM Circulars in terms of the modalities, however, there are various issues worth discussing to understand the scope, impact and applicability for companies to call AGM during the COVID-19 crisis. This write-up focuses on some of the issues and also provides the comparison between both the EGM Circulars and AGM Circular.

Scope and applicability

The AGM Circular applies to all the AGMs to be called by companies within the calendar year 2020. Generally speaking all the companies will call their AGM for the financial year 2019-2020 in the calendar year 2020 only. Therefore, one may conclude that this AGM Circular can be availed by all the companies without any exception. Having said that, it is also pertinent to mention that a specific condition has been laid down for companies which are not mandated to provide e-voting facility, to call their AGMs under this AGM Circular.

Para B (I) of the AGM circular provides that such companies can conduct their AGM through VC or OAVM only if the company has in its record, the email-ids of at least half of its total number of members, who –

  • in case of a Nidhi, hold shares of more than one thousand rupees in face value or more than one per cent. of the total paid-up share capital, whichever is less;

 

  • in case of other companies having share capital, who represent not less than seventy-five per cent. of such part of the paid-up share capital of the company as gives a right to vote at the meeting;

 

  • in case of companies not having share capital, who have the right to exercise not less than seventy-five per cent. of the total voting power exercisable at the meeting

While the AGM Circular provides three classes of companies, most of the companies fall under the second class where two types of majority has been mentioned. The following flow chart represents the manner in which such classes of companies, as a pre-requisite will need to have the email-ids registered with themselves:

Further, while this AGM Circular is applicable on companies, other entities like public sector banks will not be covered under this circular. Seemingly, SEBI will have to provide some sort of similar relaxation to such entities.

Furthermore, while the AGM circular comes with the time frame to avail the AGM Circular within the calendar year 2020, however, considering the fact that there would be movement restrictions even after the lockdown is lifted, therefore, this added feature, seems to be of a permanent nature for the times to come under Indian legislation. Also, many countries like US and UK already allow this facility and other countries like Hong Kong, Austria, Belgium, Germany and Italy, etc. have started giving this facility post the outbreak of COVID-19.

Motivation to conduct AGM through VC/ OAVM

After the enforcement of the AGM Circular, the companies will be motivated to convene the AGM through VC/OAVM mode. The reasons for such a motivations are many, some of them are as follows:

  1. Less time consuming process;
  2. Operating convenience;
  3. Cost effectiveness;
  4. Environment friendly;
  5. Sooner getting the advantage of last audited accounts;

While there are many reasons to conduct the AGM through VC/OAVM mode, the only difficulty seems to be is the completion and audit of the annual accounts. Once the audit is done, the companies may proceed for convening the AGM through this mode.

Will Companies want to convene their AGM early?

This question in our view, should be in affirmative for various reasons as given below:

  • Saving in cost
  • Various provisions under the CA, 2013 and various other laws (especially which are applicable to NBFCs) provide exemptions or benefits to the companies based on the net worth or assets size as per the last audited financial statements. Some them include:
    • NBFCs having asset size is of ₹ 500 cr or more as per last audited balance sheet are considered as systemically important NBFCs;
    • Applicability of CSR provisions under section 135 of the CA, 2013;
    • Appointment of independent and woman director under section 149 of the CA, 2013;
    • Constitution of audit committee under section 177 of the CA, 2013;
    • Applicability of secretarial audit under section 204.
  • Early AGM would mean early declaration of dividend and therefore a step towards shareholder service.
  • The restrictions on gathering may still continue after lifting of the lock-down.

AGM Circular to cover both ‘Ordinary Business’ and ‘Special Business’

Para A(II) and B(IV) of the AGM Circular provides the type of business which will be transacted in the AGM through VC/OAVM. The text of the same is provided below:

“In such meetings, other than ordinary business, only those items of special business, which are considered to be unavoidable by the Board, may be transacted.”

While on the first reading of the para it seems that the AGM Circular will allow to convene the AGM by VC/OAVM only for the unavoidable special business. However, that should not be the intent of the lawmakers as an AGM without the ordinary business will have to be adjourned till such time the ‘Ordinary Business’ items are decided and concluded. Therefore, aforesaid para should be construed and interpreted in a manner to include the unavoidable special business along with the ordinary business items. Accordingly, in the light of aforesaid circular, the company may proceed with to pass the ordinary as well as unavoidable special business in their AGM.

Further, for items requiring right of representation like removal of auditors or directors, etc. cannot be conducted through VC/OAVM as mentioned under EGM Circular.

Meaning of the term ‘Unavoidable’

Both the AGM as well as the EGM Circulars use the term ‘unavoidable’ business matters. The term ‘unavoidable’ means something which cannot be deferred and should not be deferred. If a company is calling and conducting its AGM, there is no reason for the company to unnecessarily defer any item of business and call a separate meeting to deal with them. Therefore, no company would ideally call a separate meeting to decide on matters just because they were not requiring immediate action during the said year. Accordingly, based on the reason of exigency or business urgency, etc., the Board of the company has to decide on the matters which are unavoidable.

Comparison of the Circulars

A meeting of the shareholders’ which is required to be convened by the companies on an annual basis, on account of a statutory requirement is called as AGM. Whereas an EGM is required to be convened by a company when the approval of the shareholders’ is required on urgent matters. The AGM Circular provides that the framework and manner of issuing notices provided in the EGM Circulars shall be applicable mutatis mutandis for conducting the AGM. While both the meetings are of the shareholders only, however called and conducted with different mindset altogether. Accordingly, it is imperative to see the implications of the provisions of EGM Circulars on the AGM. A brief comparison of both circulars is provided below:

Sr. No. Heading Provisions under the EGM Circulars Provisions under AGM Circular
1.       Type of business Only the unavoidable business shall be transacted at the EGM (excluding ordinary business items and matters requiring right of representation). Only the unavoidable business in addition ordinary business shall be transacted at the AGM as discussed above.
2. Notice of the Meeting The notice of the Meeting may be given only through email registered with the company/depository participant/depository. The provisions of EGM Circular will be mutatis mutandis apply for convening the AGM.
 

For companies which are required to provide the e-voting facility

 

3. Content of the public notice under rule 20  of the Companies (Management and Administration) Rules, 2014 The following contents shall form part of the public notice for e-voting:

i.          a statement that the EGM shall be convened through VC or OAVM;

ii.          date and time of the EGM;

iii.          availability of notice on the website of the company and stock exchange, if required;

iv.          the manner in which the following can cast their votes:

a.      physical shareholders;  and

b.     who have not registered their email addresses with the company;

v.          the manner in which the persons can get their email addresses registered;

vi.          any other detail considered necessary by the company

 

The provisions of EGM Circular will be mutatis mutandis apply for convening the AGM.
1. Maintenance of recorded transcript The recorded transcript shall be maintained by the company. In case of public company, the recorded transcript shall also be made available on the website of the company. The provisions of EGM Circular will be mutatis mutandis apply for convening the AGM.
2. Minimum standards of VC/OVAM facility Ensure that the Meeting through VC/OAVM facility allows two way teleconferencing for the ease of participation of the members. The VC/OVAM facility must have a capacity to allow at least 1000 members to participate on first come first serve basis.

 

The provisions of EGM Circular will be mutatis mutandis apply for convening the AGM.
3. Time frame for VC/OVAM facility The VC/OVAM facility shall be kept open at least 15 minutes before the scheduled time of the EGM and shall not be closed till the expiry of 15 minutes after the conclusion of the scheduled time for EGM. The provisions of EGM Circular will be mutatis mutandis apply for convening the AGM.
4. Attendance through VC/OVAM Attendance of members through VC/OAVM shall be counted for quorum under section 103 of the Act. The provisions of EGM Circular will be mutatis mutandis apply for convening the AGM.
5. Voting by the members present in the Meeting The members who are present in the EGM through VC/OAVM facility and have not casted their vote through remote e-voting shall be allowed to vote through e-voting system. The provisions of EGM Circular will be mutatis mutandis apply for convening the AGM.
6. Election of chairman Unless the articles require any specific person to be appointed as a Chairman for the Meeting, the Chairman for the Meeting shall be appointed in the following manner:

i.          where there are less than 50 members present at the Meeting, the Chairman shall be appointed in accordance with section 104;

ii.          in all other cases, the Chairman shall be appointed by a poll conducted through the e-voting system during the Meeting.

 

The provisions of EGM Circular will be mutatis mutandis apply for convening the AGM.
7. E-voting facility during the Meeting The Chairman shall ensure that the facility of e-voting system is available for voting during the Meeting held through VC/OAVM.

 

The provisions of EGM Circular will be mutatis mutandis apply for convening the AGM.
8. Voting by the authorized representatives The representatives of the members may be appointed for the purpose of voting through remote e-voting or for participation and voting in the Meeting held through VC/OAVM. The provisions of EGM Circular will be mutatis mutandis apply for convening the AGM.
9. Role of Scrutinizer The company should be required appoint a scrutinizer in accordance with the applicable provisions of the CA, 2013 red with allied rules for enabling transparent voting free from any conflict of interest. Same as for EGM.
10. Attendance of independent director and the auditor At least one independent director (if is required to appointed), and the auditor or his authorized representative, shall attend such Meeting through VC/ OAVM. The provisions of EGM Circular will be mutatis mutandis apply for convening the AGM.
11. Notice issued prior to the EGM Circulars In case a notice for Meeting has been served prior to the date of the EGM Circulars, the framework proposed in this Circular may be adopted for the Meeting, in case the consent from members has been obtained in accordance with section 101(1) of the Act, and a fresh notice of shorter duration with due disclosures in consonance with this Circular is issued consequently. For companies which have already sent their notices for calling AGM, should be required to send out fresh notices containing the fact that meeting will conducted through VC/OAVM in terms of the AGM Circular.

 

In our view, the length of AGM notices can remain 21 days unless the same is called at a shorter notice.

12. Filing of resolutions All resolutions, passed in accordance with this mechanism shall be filed with the ROC within 60 days of the Meeting, clearly indicating therein that the mechanism provided herein along with other provisions of the Act and rules were duly complied with during such Meeting. The provisions of EGM Circular will be mutatis mutandis apply for convening the AGM.
 

For companies which are not required to provide the e-voting facility

 

1. Intimation to the members w.r.t the Meeting The company shall contact all the members whose e-mail addresses are not registered with the company over telephone/any other mode, before sending notice to all the members;

 

The provisions of EGM Circular will be mutatis mutandis apply for convening the AGM.
2. Content of the public notice Where the contact details of any of the members are not available with the company, it shall issue of public notice in vernacular language and vernacular newspaper in which the registered office is situated, & in English language and English newspaper having wide circulation in that district and electronic editions.

 

The following content shall form part of the public notice:

i.          a statement that the EGM shall be convened through VC or OAVM; and the company proposes to send the notice by email  at least 3 days from the date of publication of the public notice;

ii.          the details of the email address along with the phone number on which the members may contact for getting their e-mail addresses registered for participation and voting in the Meeting

 

The provisions of EGM Circular will be mutatis mutandis apply for convening the AGM.
3. Maintenance of recorded transcript The recorded transcript shall be maintained by the company. In case of public company, the recorded transcript shall also be made available on the website of the company. The provisions of EGM Circular will be mutatis mutandis apply for convening the AGM.
4. Minimum standards of VC/OVAM facility Ensure that the Meeting through VC/OAVM facility allows two way teleconferencing for the ease of participation of the members. The VC/OVAM facility must have a capacity to allow at least 500 members or members equal to total number of members, whichever is lower to participate on first come first serve basis.

 

The provisions of EGM Circular will be mutatis mutandis apply for convening the AGM.
5. Timeframe for VC/OVAM facility The VC/OVAM facility shall be kept open at least 15 minutes before the scheduled time of the EGM and shall not be closed till the expiry of 15 minutes after the conclusion of the EGM. The provisions of EGM Circular will be mutatis mutandis apply for convening the AGM.
6. Attendance through VC/OVAM Attendance of members through VC/OAVM shall be counted for quorum under section 103 of the Act. The provisions of EGM Circular will be mutatis mutandis apply for convening the AGM.
7. Designated e-mail address for voting. The company shall provide a designated e-mail address to all members at the time of sending the notice of Meeting so that the members can convey their vote, when a poll is required to be taken during the Meeting on any resolution, at such designated email address. The provisions of EGM Circular will be mutatis mutandis apply for convening the AGM.
8. Voting through registered e-mail only During the Meeting held through VC/OVAM facility, where a poll on any item is required, the members shall cast their vote on the resolutions only by sending their email addresses which are registered with the company. The said emails shall only be sent to the designated email address circulated by the company in advance. The provisions of EGM Circular will be mutatis mutandis apply for convening the AGM.
9. Election of chairman Unless the articles require any specific person to be appointed as a Chairman for the meeting, the Chairman for the Meeting shall be appointed in the following manner:

iii.          where there are less than 50 members present at the Meeting, the Chairman shall be appointed in accordance with section 104;

iv.          in all other cases, the Chairman shall be appointed by a poll conducted through the registered e-mail during the Meeting.

 

The provisions of EGM Circular will be mutatis mutandis apply for convening the AGM.
10. Voting by the authorized representatives The representatives of the members may be appointed for the purpose of voting through registered e-mail or for participation and voting in the Meeting held through VC/OAVM. The provisions of EGM Circular will be mutatis mutandis apply for convening the AGM.
11. Attendance of independent director and the auditor At least one independent director (if is required to appointed), and the auditor or his authorized representative, shall attend such Meeting through VC/ OAVM. The provisions of EGM Circular will be mutatis mutandis apply for convening the AGM.
12. Role of Scrutinizer The company may appoint a scrutinizer even though on a voluntary basis for enabling transparent voting free from any conflict of interest. Same as for EGM.
13. Declaration of voting results In case the counting of votes requires time, the said meeting may be adjourned and called later to declare the result. The provisions of EGM Circular will be mutatis mutandis apply for convening the AGM.
14. Notice issued prior to the EGM Circulars In case a notice for Meeting has been served prior to the date of the EGM Circulars, the framework proposed in this Circular may be adopted for the Meeting, in case the consent from members has been obtained in accordance with section 101(1) of the Act, and a fresh notice of shorter duration with due disclosures in consonance with this Circular is issued consequently. For companies which have already sent their notices for calling AGM, should be required to send out fresh notices containing the fact that meeting will conducted through VC/OAVM in terms of the AGM Circular.

 

In our view, the length of AGM notices can remain 21 days unless the same is called at a shorter notice.

15. Filing of resolutions All resolutions, passed in accordance with this mechanism shall be filed with the ROC within 60 days of the Meeting, clearly indicating therein that the mechanism provided herein along with other provisions of the Act and rules were duly complied with during such Meeting. The provisions of EGM Circular will be mutatis mutandis apply for convening the AGM.

Additional requirements to be complied with by the companies which are required to provide the e-voting facility:

  • Publication of a notice by way of newspaper advertisement before sending the notices and copies of the financial statements, etc., and specifying in the advertisement the following information.
    1. a statement that the AGM shall be convened through VC or OAVM;
    2. date and time of the AGM;
    3. availability of notice on the website of the company and stock exchange, if required;
    4. the manner in which the shareholders holding shares in physical mode, or who have not registered their email addresses with the company can cast their vote through remote e-voting or through the e-voting system during the meeting;
    5. the manner in which the persons can get their email addresses registered;
    6. the manner in which the members can give their mandate for receiving dividends directly in their bank accounts through the Electronic Clearing Service (ECS) or any other means;
    7. any other detail considered necessary by the company
  • Circulation of the board’s report, financial statements and other documents through e-mail instead of physical copies;
  • Where the company is unable to pay the dividend to any shareholder by the electronic mode, due to non-availability of the details of the bank account, the company shall upon normalization of the postal services, dispatch the dividend warrant/cheque to such shareholder by post;
  • Where the company has been permitted to conduct its AGM at its registered office, or at any other place as provided under section 96 of the Act, the company may in addition to holding such meeting with physical presence of some members, also provide the facility of VC or OAVM, to allow other members of the company to participate in such meeting.
  • The companies shall ensure that all other compliances associated with the provisions relating to general meetings viz making of disclosures, inspection of related documents/registers by members, or authorizations for voting by bodies corporate, etc as provided in the Act and the articles of association of the company are made through electronic mode.

Additional requirements to be complied with by the companies which are not required to provide the e-voting facility:

  • AGM may be conducted through the VC/OAVM facility only if the company which has the email addresses of at least half of its total number of members, in its records, and
    1. in case of a Nidhi, hold shares of more than 1000 rupees in face value or more than 1% of the total paid-up share capital, whichever is less;
    2. in case of other companies having share capital, hold at least 75% the paid-up share capital;
    3. in case of companies not having share capital, who have the right to exercise not less than 75% of the total voting power exercisable at the meeting.
  • The company shall take all necessary steps to register the email addresses of all persons who have not registered their email addresses with the company.
  • The board’s report, financial statements and other documents will be circulated through e-mail instead of physical copies;
  • The companies shall make adequate provisions for allowing the members to give their mandate for receiving dividends directly in their bank accounts through the Electronic Clearing Service (ECS) or any other means.
  • The company shall upon normalization of the postal services, dispatch the dividend warrant/cheque by post to the shareholders, whose bank accounts are not available.
  • The companies shall ensure that all other compliances associated with the provisions relating to general meetings viz making of disclosures, inspection of related documents/registers by members, or authorizations for voting by bodies corporate, etc as provided in the Act and the articles of association of the company are made through electronic mode.

Application for extension of AGM for certain companies

The companies which do not have calendar year as their financial year and are unable to conduct their AGM in accordance with the framework provided in AGM Circular may apply for the application for extension of AGM before the concerned Registrar of Companies under section 96 the Act.

Conclusion

Many companies which have already approved their AGM notices will have to make suitable changes therein in line with the said circular. Further, post the issue of this AGM Circular, most of the companies will be making their debut in conducting the AGM through VC/ OAVM and it will be interesting to see smooth convening amidst the crisis.

[1] http://mca.gov.in/Ministry/pdf/Circular14_08042020.pdf

[2]  http://www.mca.gov.in/Ministry/pdf/Circular17_13042020.pdf

[3] http://www.mca.gov.in/Ministry/pdf/Circular18_21042020.pdf

[4] http://www.mca.gov.in/Ministry/pdf/Circular20_05052020.pdf

http://vinodkothari.com/2020/04/conducting-general-meetings-through-vc-during-lockdown/

Link to similar articles:

  1. FAQ on conducting AGM through video conferencing
  2. General Meeting by Video Conferencing – recognising the inevitable  
  3. FAQ on general meeting through VC
  4. Can companies offer VC facility 

More articles related to corporate laws available here: http://vinodkothari.com/category/corporate-laws/

Regulator’s move to repair the NBFC sector

-Mridula Tripathi

(finserv@vinodkothari.com)

The evolving impact on people’s health has casted a threat on their livelihoods, the businesses in which they work, the wider economy, and therefore the financial system. The outbreak of this pandemic is nothing like the crisis faced by the economies in the year 2007-08 and imperils the stability of the financial system. The market conditions have forced traders to take aggressive steps exposing the system to great volatility thereby resulting in crashing asset values. Combating the pandemic and safeguarding the economy, the financial sectors across the globe have witnessed numerous reforms to hammer the aftermaths of the global crisis. Read more