By Anita Baid (firstname.lastname@example.org)
[Posted on April 27, 2020 and updated on April 30, 2020]
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has been vigilantly taking necessary measures and steps to mitigate the economic impact of Covid-19 and preserve financial stability. The capital market of our country has also been exposed to the disruption. The liquidity strains on mutual funds (MFs) has intensified for the high-risk debt MF segment due to redemption or closure of some debt MFs. This was witnessed when Franklin Templeton Mutual Fund announced the winding up of six yield-oriented, managed credit funds in India, effective April 23, citing severe market dislocation and illiquidity caused by the coronavirus. Sensing the need of the hour and in order to ease the liquidity pressures on MFs, RBI has announced a special liquidity facility for Mutual Funds (SLF-MF) of Rs. 50,000 crore.
Under the SLF-MF, the RBI shall conduct repo operations of 90 days tenor at the fixed repo rate. The SLF-MF is on-tap and open-ended, wherein banks shall submit their bids to avail funding on any day from Monday to Friday (excluding holidays) between 9 AM and 12.00 Noon. The scheme shall be open from April 27, 2020 till May 11, 2020 or up to utilization of the allocated amount, whichever is earlier. An LAF Repo issue will be created every day for the amount remaining under the scheme after deducting the cumulative amount availed up to the previous day from the sanctioned amount of Rs. 50,000 crores. The bidding process, settlement and reversal of SLF-MF repo would be similar to the existing system being followed in case of LAF/MSF. Further, the RBI will further review the timeline and amount, depending upon market conditions.
As per the press release, the RBI will provide funds to banks at lower rates and banks can avail funds for exclusively meeting the liquidity requirements of mutual funds in the following ways:
- extending loans, and
- undertaking outright purchase of and/or repos against the collateral of investment grade corporate bonds, commercial papers (CPs), debentures and certificates of Deposit (CDs) held by MFs.
Accordingly, the funds availed by banks from the RBI at the repo window will be used to extend loans to MFs, buy outright investment grade corporate bonds or CPs or CDs from them or extend the funds against collateral through a repo.
The RBI has further vide its notification dated April 30, 2020, extended the regulatory benefits under the SLF-MF scheme to all banks, irrespective of whether they avail funding from the RBI or deploy their own resources under the scheme. Banks meeting the liquidity requirements of MFs by any of the aforesaid methods, shall be eligible to claim all the regulatory benefits available under SLF-MF scheme without the need to avail back to back funding from the RBI under the SLF-MF.
It is important to note that in terms of regulation 44(2) of the SEBI (Mutual Funds) Regulations, 1996, a MF shall not borrow except to meet temporary liquidity needs of the MFs for the purpose of repurchase, redemption of units or payment of interest or dividend to the unit holders and, further, the mutual fund shall not borrow more than 20% of the net asset of the scheme and for a duration not exceeding six months.
As per the aforesaid SEBI regulations, MFs should normally meet their repurchase/redemption commitments from their own resources and resort to borrowing only to meet temporary liquidity needs. Therefore, under the SLF-MF scheme as well banks will have to be judicious in granting loans and advances to MFs only to meet their temporary liquidity needs for the purpose of repurchase/redemption of units within the ceiling of 20% of the net asset of the scheme and for a period not exceeding 6 months. While banks will decide the tenor of lending to /repo with MFs, the minimum tenor of repo with RBI will be for a period of three months.
Similar to the incentives given to the banks in case of LTRO schemes, the following shall be available for banks extending funding under the SLF-MF-
- the liquidity support availed under the SLF-MF would be eligible to be classified as held to maturity (HTM) even in excess of 25% of total investment permitted
- Exposures under this facility will not be reckoned under the Large Exposure Framework (LEF)
- The face value of securities acquired under the SLF-MF and kept in the HTM category will not be reckoned for computation of adjusted non-food bank credit (ANBC) for the purpose of determining priority sector targets/sub-targets
- Support extended to MFs under the SLF-MF shall be exempted from banks’ capital market exposure limits.
The RBI’s move is much needed to ease the liquidity stress on the MF industry. However, as has been seen in the TLRTO 2.0 auctions, banks are taking a cautious approach before using this facility provided by RBI. However, it is expected that this will ensure easing of liquidity and also boost investor sentiment.
 With assets worth more than Rs 86,000 crore as of the end of March, Franklin Templeton is the ninth largest mutual fund in the country