The new year began with a big bang for start-ups in India. The Government of India announced a new strategy to support start-ups. A detailed action plan in this regard has been prepared by it. The Government has taken various measures to improve the ease of doing business and is also building an exciting and enabling environment for start-ups with the launch of the “Startup India” movement.
While this may not have an immediate impact, the mammoth inv
estment outlay and magnitude of infrastructure set-up required to establish and execute this ambitious plan will surely open up new avenues for foreign investment.
Towards the end of last year, authorities completely overhauled the policy with respect to external commercial borrowings. The new framework seeks to revise the existing framework keeping in view the macro-economic developments and the experience gained in administering the External Commercial Borrowing (ECB) regime over the last 10 years.
Rationale For the Changes.
The overarching principles of the revised framework are:
(i) A more liberal approach for (a) long-term foreign currency borrowings as the extended term makes repayments more sustainable and minimises roll-over risks for the borrower; (b) Indian Rupee (INR) denominated ECBs where the currency risk is borne by the lender.
(ii) Sovereign Wealth Funds, Pension Funds, and insurance companies included in the list of overseas lenders.
(iii) Reduced list of non-permissible end-use restrictions applicable to long-term ECBs & INR-denominated ECBs.
(iv) Small value ECBs with a Minimum Average Maturity of 3 years given a boost with an increase of limit to USD 50 million from the existing USD 20 million.
(v) List of infrastructure entities eligible for ECB aligned with Harmonised List of Government of India (vide Notification F. No. 13/06/2009-INF dated March 27, 2012, as amended/updated from time to time).
The revised ECB framework will comprise the following three tracks:
|Track I||:||Medium-term foreign currency denominated ECB with MAM of 3/5 years|
|Track II||:||Long-term foreign currency denominated ECB with M|
|Track III||:||Indian Rupee denominated ECB with MAM of 3/5 years|
While taking this route of borrowing, one must consider a number of parameters as a whole. As against a single list of parameters for all types of ECBs in the earlier regulations. The following parameters are separately classified for individual tracks:
- Minimum Average Maturity (MAM) Period
- Eligible borrowers
- Recognized lenders/investors
- Permitted end-uses
The compliance requirements are different for each of the above parameters in the individual tracks. Further, there are notes below the parameters for specific situations.
Cut-off Time For Switchover.
A transitional period up to March 31, 2016, has been allowed to ECBs contracted till the commencement of the revised framework and in respect of special schemes which are to end by March 31, 2016. Entities raising ECB under the extant framework can raise the said loans by March 31, 2016, provided the agreement in respect of the loan is already signed by the date the new framework comes into effect. For raising of ECB under the following carve-outs, the borrowers will, however, have time up to March 31, 2016. The loan agreement and obtain the Loan Registration Number (LRN) from the Reserve Bank by this date:
- ECB facility for working capital by airlines companies;
- ECB facility for consistent foreign exchange earners under the USD 10 billion Scheme; and
- ECB facility for low-cost affordable housing projects (low-cost affordable housing projects as defined in the extant Foreign Direct Investment policy)
The revised framework has been devised to make it in line with various Government initiatives to make India an improved destination for foreign investment. However, its success will depend on the manner in which it is utilised by the intended users (new or existing). As well as effective implementation by the authorities.
Further, in view of the categorisation of ECBs into tracks, it becomes critical to understand the category applicable to a given loan or situation. Undertake the corresponding compliance in order to proceed. As it was with the previous framework, the primary responsibility for ensuring that the ECB is in compliance with the applicable guidelines is that of the borrower concerned.
The guidelines have a sunset period of one year after which it will be reviewed on the experience and evolving macro-economic situation.