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

Vinod Kothari Consultants P Ltd (finserv@vinodkothari.com)

 

The partial credit enhancement (PCE) Scheme of the Government[1], for purchase by public sector banks (PSBs) of NBFC/HFC pools, has been discussed in our earlier write-ups, which can be viewed here and here.

This document briefly puts the potential approach of the rating agencies for rating of the pools for the purpose of qualifying for the Scheme.

Brief nature of the transaction:

  • The transaction may be summarised as transfer of a pool to a PSB, wherein the NBFC retains a subordinated piece, such that the senior piece held by the PSB gets a AA rating. Thus, within the common pool of assets, there is a senior/junior structure, with the NBFC retaining the junior tranche.
  • The transaction is a structured finance transaction, by way of credit-enhanced, bilateral assignment. It is quite similar to a securitisation transaction, minus the presence of SPVs or issuance of any “securities”.
  • The NBFC will continue to be servicer, and will continue to charge servicing fees as agreed.
  • The objective to reach a AA rating of the pool/portion of the pool that is sold to the PSB.
  • Hence, the principles for sizing of credit enhancement, counterparty (servicer) risk, etc. should be the same as in case of securitisation.
  • The coupon rate for the senior tranche may be mutually negotiated. Given the fact that after 2 years, the GoI guarantee will be removed, the parties may agree for a stepped-up rate if the pool continues after 2 years. Obviously, the extent of subordinated share held by the NBFC will have to be increased substantially, to provide increased comfort to the PSB. Excess spread, that is, the excess of actual interest earned over the servicing fees and the coupon may be released to the seller.
  • The payout of the principal/interest to the two tranches (senior and junior), and utilisation of the excess spread, etc. may be worked out so as to meet the rating objective, provide for stepped-up level of enhancement, and yet maintain the economic viability of the transaction.
  • Bankruptcy remoteness is easier in the present case, as pool is sold from the NBFC to the PSB, by way of a non-recourse transfer. Of course, there should be no retention of buyback option, etc., or other factors that vitiate a true sale.
  • Technically, there is no need for a trustee. However, whether the parties need to keep a third party for ensuring surveillance over the transaction, in form of a monitoring agency, may be decided between the parties.

Brief characteristics of the Pool

  • For any meaningful statistical analysis, the pool should be a homogenous pool.
  • Surely, the pool is a static pool.
  • The pool has attained seasoning, as the loans must have been originated by 31st March, 2019.
  • In our view, pools having short maturities (say personal loans, short-term loans, etc.) will not be suitable for the transaction, since the guarantee and the guarantee fee are on annually declining basis.

Data requirement

The data required for the analysis will be same as data required for securitisation of a static pool.

Documentation

  • Between the NBFC and the PSB, there will be standard assignment documentation.
  • Between the Bank and the GoI:
    • Declaration that requirements of Chapter 11 of the GFR have been satisfied.
    • Guarantee documentation as per format given by GOI

[1] http://pib.gov.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=192618

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

Vinod Kothari (vinod@vinodkothari.com)

The so-called partial credit enhancement (PCE) for purchase of NBFC/HFC pools by public sector banks (PSBs) may, if meaningfully implemented, be a win-win for all. The three primary players in the PCE scheme are NBFCs/HFCs (let us collectively called them Originators), the purchasing PSBs, and the Government of India (GoI). The Scheme has the potential to infuse liquidity into NBFCs while at the same time giving them advantage in terms of financing costs, allow PSBs to earn spreads while enjoying the benefit of sovereign guarantee, and allow the GoI to earn a spread of 25 bps virtually carrying no risks at all. This brief write-ups seeks to make this point.

The details of the Scheme with our elaborate questions and answers have been provided elsewhere.

Modus operandi

Broadly, the way we envisage the Scheme working is as follows:

  1. An Originator assimilates a pool of loans, and does tranching/credit enhancements to bring a senior tranche to a level of AA rating. Usually, tranching is associated with securitisation, but there is no reason why tranching cannot be done in case of bilateral transactions such as the one envisaged here. The most common form of tranching is subordination. Other structured finance devices such as turbo amortisation, sequential payment structure, provisions for redirecting the excess spread to pay off the principal on senior tranche, etc., may be deployed as required.
  2. Thus, say, on a pool of Rs 100 crores, the NBFC does so much subordination by way of a junior tranche as to bring the senior tranche to a AA level. The size of subordination may be worked, crudely, by X (usually 3 to 4) multiples of expected losses, or by a proper probability distribution model so as to bring the confidence level of the size of subordination being enough to absorb losses to acceptable AA probability of default. For instance, let us think of this level amounting to 8% (this percentage, needless to say, will depend on the expected losses of respective pools).
  3. Thus, the NBFC sells the pool of Rs 100 crores to PSB, retaining a subordinated 8% share in the same. Bankruptcy remoteness is achieved by true sale of the entire Rs 100 crore pool, with a subordinated share of 8% therein. In bilateral transactions, there is no need to use a trustee; to the extent of the Originator’s subordinated share, the PSB is deemed to be holding the assets in trust for the Originator. Simultaneously, the Originator also retains excess spread over the agreed Coupon Rate with the bank (as discussed below).
  4. Assuming that the fair value (computation of fair value will largely a no-brainer, as the PSB retains principal, and interest only to the extent of its agreed coupon, with the excess spread flowing back to the Originator) comes to the same as the participation of the PSB – 92% or Rs 92 crores, the PSB pays the same to the Originator.
  5. PSB now goes to the GoI and gets the purchase guaranteed by the latter. So, the GoI has guaranteed a purchase of Rs 92 crores, taking a first loss risk of 10% therein, that is, upto Rs 9.20 crores. Notably, for the pool as a whole, the GoI’s share of Rs 9.20 crores becomes a second loss position. However, considering that the GoI is guaranteeing the PSB, the support may technically be called first loss support, with the Originator-level support of Rs 10 crores being separate and independent.
  6. However, it is clear that the sharing of risks between the 3 – the Originator, the GoI and the Bank will be as follows:
  • Losses upto first Rs 8 crores will be taken out of the NBFC’s first loss piece, thereby, implying no risk transfer at all.
  • Losses in excess of Rs 8 crores, but upto a total of Rs 17.20 crores (the GoI guarantee is limited to Rs 9.20 crores), will be taken by GoI.
  • It is only when the loss exceeds Rs 17.20 crores that there is a question of the PSB being hit by losses.
  1. Thus, during the period of the guarantee, the PSB is protected to the extent of 17.2%. Note that first loss piece at the Originator level has been sized up to attain a AA rating. That will mean, higher the risk of the pool, the first loss piece at Originator level will go up to protect the bank.
  2. The PSB, therefore, has dual protection – to the extent of AA rating, from the Originator (or a third party with/without the Originator, as we discuss below), and for the next 10%, from the sovereign.
  3. Now comes the critical question – what will be the coupon rates that the PSB may expect on the pool.
    1. The pool effectively has a sovereign protection. While the protection may seem partial, but it is a tranched protection, and for a AA-rated pool, a 10% thickness of first loss protection is actually far higher than required for the highest degree of safety. What makes the protection even stronger is that the size of the guarantee is fixed at the start of the transaction or start of the financial year, even though the pool continues to amortise, thereby increasing the effective thickness.
    2. Assume risk free rate is R, and the spreads for AAA rated ABS are R +100 bps. Assume that the spreads for AA-rated ABS is R+150 bps.
    3. Given the sovereign protection, the PSB should be able to price the transaction certainly at less than R +100 bps, because sovereign guarantee is certainly safer than AAA. In fact, it should effectively move close to R, but given the other pool risks (prepayment risks, irregular cashflows), one may expect pricing above R.
    4. For the NBFC, the actual cost is the coupon expected by the PSB, plus 25bps paid for the guarantee.
    5. So as long as the coupon rate of the pool for the NBFC is lower than R+75 bps, it is an advantage over a AAA ABS placement. It is to be noted that the NBFC is actually exposing regulatory and economic capital only for the upto-AA risk that it holds.

Win-win for all

If the structure works as above, it is a win-win for all:

  • For the GoI, it is a neat income of 25 bps while virtually taking no real risks. There are 2 strong reasons for this – first, there is a first loss protection by the Originator, to qualify the pool for a AA rating. Secondly, the guarantee is limited only for 2 years. For any pool, first of all, the probability of losses breaching a AA-barrier itself will be close to 1% (meaning, 99% of the cases, the credit support at AA level will be sufficient). This becomes even more emphatic, if we consider the fact that the guarantee will be removed after 2 years. The losses may pile up above the Originator’s protection, but very unlikely that this will happen over 2 years.
  • For the PSB, while getting the benefit of a sovereign guarantee, and therefore, effectively, investing in something which is better than AAA, the PSB may target a spread close to AAA.
  • For the NBFC, it is getting a net advantage in terms of funding cost. Even if the pricing moves close to AAA ABS spreads, the NBFC stands to gain as the regulatory capital eaten up is only what is required for a AA-support.

The overall benefits for the system are immense. There is release of liquidity from the banking system to the economy. Depending on the type of pools Originators will be selling, there may be asset creation in form of home loans, or working capital loans (LAP loans may effectively be that), or loans for transport vehicles. If the GoI objective of buying pools upto Rs 100000 crores gets materialised, as much funding moves from banks to NBFCs, which is obviously already deployed in form of assets. The GoI makes an income of Rs 250 crores for effectively no risk.

In fact, if the GoI gains experience with the Scheme, there may be very good reason for lowering the rating threshold to A level, particularly in case of home loans.

Capital treatment, rating methodologies and other preparations

To make the Scheme really achieve its objectives, there are several preparations that may have to come soon enough:

  • Rating agencies have to develop methodologies for rating this bilateral pool transfer. Effectively, this is nothing but a structured pool transfer, akin to securitisation. Hence, rating methodologies used for securitisation may either be applied as they are, or tweaked to apply to the transfers under the Scheme.
  • Very importantly, the RBI may have to clarify that the AA risk retention by Originators under the Scheme will lead to regulatory capital requirement only upto the risk retained by the NBFC. This should be quite easy for the RBI to do – because there are guidelines for securitisation already, and the Scheme has all features of securitisation, minus the fact that there is no SPV or issuance of “securities” as such.

Conclusion

Whoever takes the first transaction to market will have to obviously do a lot of educating – PSBs, rating agencies, law firms, SIDBI, and of course, DFS. However, the exercise is worth it, and it may not take 6 months as envisaged for the GoI to reach the target of Rs 1 lakh crores.


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RBI to strengthen corporate governance for Core Investment Companies.

Vinod Kothari

As a part of the Bi-monthly Monetary Policy on 6th June, 2019, the RBI’s review of Development and Regulatory Policies [https://rbi.org.in/Scripts/BS_PressReleaseDisplay.aspx?prid=47226] proposed to set up a working group to strengthen the regulatory framework for core investment companies (CICs). The RBI states: “Over the years, corporate group structures have become more complex involving multiple layering and leveraging, which has led to greater inter-connectedness to the financial system through their access to public funds. Further, in light of recent developments, there is a need to strengthen the corporate governance framework of CICs. Accordingly, it has been decided to set up a Working Group to review the regulatory guidelines and supervisory framework applicable to CICs.”

Core investment companies are group holding vehicles, which hold equities of operating or financial companies in a business group. These companies also give financial support in form of loans to group companies. However, CICs are barred from dealing with companies outside the group or engaging in any other business operation.

Currently as per the data as on 30th April, 2019, there are only 58 registered CICs in the country. There may be some unregistered CICs as well, since those not having “public funds” do not require registration.

If a CIC is not holding “public funds” (a broad term that includes bank loans, inter-corporate deposits, NCDs, CP, etc.), the CIC is exempt from registration requirement. Presumably such CICs are also excluded from any regulatory sanctions of the RBI as well. However, it is quite common for CICs to access bank loans or have other forms of debt for funding their investments. Such CICs require registration and come under the regulatory framework of the RBI, if their assets are worth Rs 100 crores or more.

Corporate governance norms applicable to systemically important NBFCs are currently not applicable to CICs.

The RBI has observed that CICs are engaged in layering of leverage. This observation is correct, as very often, banks and other lenders might have lent to CICs. The CICs, with borrowed money, use the same for infusing capital at the operating level below, which, once again, becomes the basis for leveraging. Thus, leveraged funds become basis for leverage, thereby creating multiple layers of leverage.

While agreeing with the contention of the RBI, one would like to mention that currently, the regulatory definition of CICs is so stringent that many of the group holding companies qualify as “investment companies” (now, credit and investment companies) and not CICs. There is a need to reduce the qualifying criteria for definition of CICs to 50% of investments in equities of group companies. This would ensure that a large number of “investment companies” will qualify as CICs, based on predominance of their investments, and would be viewed and regulated as such.

Prominent among the registered CICs are entities like Tata Sons, L&T Finance Holdings, JSW Investments, etc. The extension of corporate governance norms to CICs is unlikely to benefit any, but impact all.

The Reserve Bank has accordingly constituted the Working Group to Review Regulatory and Supervisory Framework for Core Investment Companies on 3rd July, 2019 [https://rbidocs.rbi.org.in/rdocs/PressRelease/PDFs/PR43DDEE37027375423E989F2C08B3491F4F.PDF]. The Terms of Reference (ToR) of the Working Group are given below:

  • To examine the current regulatory framework for CICs in terms of adequacy, efficacy and effectiveness of every component thereof and suggest changes therein.
  • To assess the appropriateness of and suggest changes to the current approach of the Reserve Bank of India towards registration of CICs including the practice of multiple CICs being allowed within a group.
  • To suggest measures to strengthen corporate governance and disclosure requirements for CICs
  • To assess the adequacy of supervisory returns submitted by CICs and suggest changes therein
  • To suggest appropriate measures to enhance RBI’s off-sight surveillance and on-site supervision over CICs.
  • Any other matter incidental to the above.

As per the press release, the Working Group shall submit its report by October 31, 2019.

NBFCs get another chance to reinstate NOF

By Falak Dutta, (finserv@vinodkothari.com)

Since the Sarada scam in 2015, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had been on high alert and had been subsequently tightening regulations for NBFCs, micro-finance firms and such other companies which provide informal banking services. As of December 2015, over 56 NBFC licenses were cancelled[1]. However, recently in light of the uncertain credit environment (recall DHFL and IF&LS) among other reasons, RBI has cancelled around 400 licenses [2]in 2018 primarily due to a shortfall in Net Owned Funds (NOF)[3] among other reasons. The joint entry of the Central Govt. regulators and RBI to calm the volatility in the markets on September 21st, 2018 after an intra-day fall of over 1000 points amid default concerns of DHFL warrants concern. Had it been two isolated incidents the regulators and Union government would have been unlikely to step in. The RBI & SEBI issued a joint statement on September saying they were prepared to step in if market volatility warrants such a situation. This suggests a situation which is more than what meets the eye.

Coming back to NBFCs, over half of the cancelled NBFC licenses in 2018 could be attributed to shortfall in NOFs. NOF is described in Section 45 IA of the RBI Act, 1934. It defines NOF as:

1) “Net owned fund” means–

(a) The aggregate of the paid-up equity capital and free reserves as disclosed in the latest

Balance sheet of the company after deducting therefrom–

(i) Accumulated balance of loss;

(ii) Deferred revenue expenditure; and

(iii) Other intangible assets; and

(b) Further reduced by the amounts representing–

(1) Investments of such company in shares of–

(i) Its subsidiaries;

(ii) Companies in the same group;

(iii) All other non-banking financial companies; and

(2) The book value of debentures, bonds, outstanding loans and advances

(including hire-purchase and lease finance) made to, and deposits with,–

(i) Subsidiaries of such company; and

(ii) Companies in the same group, to the extent such amount exceeds ten per cent of (a) above.

At present, the threshold amount that has to be maintained is stipulated at 2 crore, from the previous minimum of 25 lakhs. Previously, to meet this requirement of Rs. 25 lakh a time period of three years was given. During this tenure, NBFCs were allowed to carry on business irrespective of them not meeting business conditions. Moreover, this period could be extended by a further 3 years, which should not exceed 6 years in aggregate. However, this can only be done after stating the reason in writing and this extension is in complete discretion of the RBI. The failure to maintain this threshold amount within the stipulated time had led to this spurge of license cancellations in 2018.

However, the Madras High Court judgement dated 29-1-2019 came as a big relief to over 2000 NBFCs whose license had been cancelled due a delay in fulfilling the shortfall.

 

THE JUDGEMENT[4]

The regulations

On 27-3-2015 the RBI by notification No. DNBR.007/CGM(CDS)-2015 specified two hundred lakhs rupees as the NOF required for an NBFC to commence or carry on the business. It further stated that an NBFC holding a CoR and having less than two hundred lakh rupees may continue to carry on the business, if such a company achieves the NOF of one hundred lakh rupees before 1-04-2016 and two hundred lakhs of rupees before 1-04-2017.

The Petitioner’s claim

The petition was filed by 4 NBFCs namely Nahar Finance & Leasing Ltd., Lodha Finance India Ltd., Valluvar Development Finance Pvt. Ltd. and Senthil Finance Pvt. Ltd. for the cancellation of CoR[5] against the RBI. The petitioners claim that they had been complying with all the statutory regulations and regularly filing various returns and furnishing the required information to the Registrar of Companies. These petitions were in response to the RBI issued Show Cause Notices to the petitioners proposing to cancel the CoR and initiate penal action. The said SCNs were responded to by the petitioners contending that they had NOF of Rs.104.50 lakhs, Rs.34.19 lakhs, Rs.79.50 lakhs and Rs.135 lakhs respectively, as on 31.03.2017.

Valluvar Development Finance also sent a reply stating that they had achieved the required NOF on 23-10-2017, attaching a certificate from the Statutory Auditor to support its claim. The other petitioners however submitted that due to significant change in the economy including the policies of the Govt. of India during the fiscal years 2016-17 and 2017-18 like de-monetization and implementation of Goods & Services Tax, the entire working of the finance sector was impaired and as such sought extension of time till 31-03-2019 to comply with the requirements.

Now despite seeking extension of time, having given explanations to the SCNs, the CoRs were cancelled without an opportunity for the NBFCs to be heard.

 

The Decision

It was argued that there is a remedy provided against the cancellation of the CoRs, the petitioners had chosen to invoke Article 226 contending violation of the principles of justice. The proviso to Section 45-IA(6) relates to the contentions in regards to cancellation of the CoRs.

“45-IA. Requirement of registration and net owned fund –

(3) Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-section (1), a non-banking financial company in existence on the commencement of the Reserve Bank of India (Amendment) Act, 1997 and having a net owned fund of less than twenty five lakhs rupees may, for the purpose of enabling such company to fulfill the requirement of the net owned fund, continue to carry on the business of a non-banking financial institution–

(i) for a period of three years from such commencement; or

(ii) for such further period as the Bank may, after recording the reasons in writing for so doing, extend,

subject to the condition that such company shall, within three months of fulfilling the requirement of the net owned fund, inform the Bank about such fulfillment:

Provided further that before making any order of cancellation of certificate of registration, such company shall be given a reasonable opportunity of being heard.

(7) A company aggrieved by the order of rejection of application for registration or cancellation of certificate of registration may prefer an appeal, within a period of thirty days from the date on which such order of rejection or cancellation is communicated to it, to the Central Government and the decision of the Central Government where an appeal has been preferred to it, or of the Bank where no appeal has been preferred, shall be final:

Provided that before making any order of rejection of appeal, such company shall be given a reasonable opportunity of being heard.

The decision was taken on two grounds. First, the statute specifically provides for an opportunity of personal hearing besides calling for an explanation. The amended provision is very particular that opportunity of being personally heard is mandatory, as the very amendment relates to finance companies, which are already carrying on business also. Not affording this opportunity would cripple the business of the petitioners.

Second, the amended section provides NBFCs sufficient time to enhance their NOF by carrying on business and comply with the notifications. For the aforesaid reasons, the orders by the RBI requires interference. Resultantly, the respondents (RBI authorities) are directed to restore the CoR of the petitioners and also extend the time given to the petitioners.

 

CONCLUSION

This was a landmark hearing in the case of NBFCs as they had been under increasing pressure as of recent times. Many NBFCs can now apply for restoration of their licenses and might already have. The case doesn’t just stand the case for NOF conflicts but will also ring in the minds of regulators in the future, compelling greater caution and concern. The last statement of the judgement stands apt here. The brief sentence read,” Consequently connected miscellaneous petitions are closed.”

[1] https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/economy/finance/rbi-cancels-license-of-56-nbfcs-bajaj-finserv-gives-away-license/articleshow/50045835.cms?from=mdr

[2] https://www.businessinsider.in/indias-central-bank-has-scrapped-the-licenses-of-nearly-400-nbfcs-so-far-this-year/articleshow/65698193.cms

[3] https://www.firstpost.com/business/ilfs-dhfl-shocks-may-be-temporary-triggers-but-the-bad-news-for-indian-financial-markets-do-not-end-there-5248071.html

[4] https://enterslice.com/learning/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Madras-high-court-Judgement-on-NBFC-License-Cancellation.pdf

[5] Certificate of Registration

Section 94B: Thin capitalization rules may impede operations of NBFCs, by Nidhi Bothra & Kanishka Jain, 24th May, 2017

Genesis of the thin capitalization rules

The genesis of the thin capitalization rules lies in the distinction between tax treatment of debt and equity.  A company typically finances its projects either through equity and debt or mixture of both, equity being costly in terms of cost and ownership is less attractive than the debt financing where interest is a deductible expense. Debt is not only less expensive to service, it also reduces tax liabilities and enhances return on equity.

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