Recently PNB Housing Finance announced a “preferential issue” of shares, through which the Carlyle Group will acquire a controlling interest in the company. A proxy advisor has issued a report asking public shareholders to vote against the proposed investment. The report argues that the price at which Carlyle will be investing in the company belies the company’s true value. As an alternative to a preferential issue, the report suggests that the company should have considered a “rights issue” in which all shareholders will be entitled to participate. In this context, it is important to consider whether a preferential issue and a rights issue are, in fact, comparable options for fundraising and accordingly, if there is merit in the allegation of poor corporate governance that has been levelled against the target company’s board of directors.
Treatment of ‘Inter-Connected’ Transactions under Indian Competition Law
Under the Competition Act, 2002, transactions that qualify as a ‘combination’, are required to be notified to, and approved by, the Competition Commission of India (the “CCI”) prior to completion, unless any exemptions apply. If addition, all transactions that are ‘inter-connected’ with such ‘combination’, are also required to be notified to the CCI in a single application along with the combination. This applies irrespective of the inter-connected transaction being exempt from notification requirement on a standalone basis, and the inter-connected transaction may not be completed prior to receipt of the CCI’s approval. However, the identification and treatment of such ‘inter-connected’ transactions is fraught with uncertainty. This note aims to provide an overview of the existing Indian merger control framework and identify certain issues often faced by stakeholders in this regard.
Sharing of Unpublished Price Sensitive Information on WhatsApp and “Innocent Tippee” Liability
In 2020, a set of orders were issued by the SEBI in which the SEBI imposed penalties on certain individuals for forwarding WhatsApp messages with details of companies’ earnings ahead of formal announcements. These individuals received such messages on WhatsApp groups that they were a part of, and forwarded such messages as they had received them. The SEBI refused to accept the defense that the information shared was simply market chatter that was “heard on the street” and was not unpublished price sensitive information (“UPSI”). The SEBI’s orders were recently overruled by the Securities Appellate Tribunal (“SAT”). The SAT ruled that information could be considered UPSI only when a person in receipt of such information had knowledge that it was UPSI.
Does the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 Safeguard Third-party Rights in the Course of Attachment of Properties?
A key feature of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (the “Act”) is the power of the investigating agency under the Act, i.e., the Directorate of Enforcement (the “ED”), to provisionally attach any property believed to be involved in money laundering for an initial period up to 180 days from the date of such attachment. This provision ensures that proceeds that are obtained directly or indirectly from the offences noted under the Act (“scheduled offences”) are not dealt with in any manner so as to frustrate proceedings relating to the confiscation of such proceeds under the Act. Ex facie, this provision appears to be in direct conflict with the rights of bona fide third-parties such as banks, mortgagees, transferee, and lessee etc. who may otherwise have a lawful interest in a property alleged to be involved in money laundering and had no knowledge of such involvement at the time of acquisition of interest in such property. In light of this apparent conflict, does the Act adequately safeguard the rights of such third-parties who have a lawful interest in a property provisionally attached by the ED?
Residuary Jurisdiction of the National Company Law Tribunal under Section 60(5) of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016: A Brief Analysis
Pursuant to Section 60(5) of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 the National Company Law Tribunal is bestowed with wide jurisdiction to decide: (i) ‘any’ application or proceeding against a corporate debtor; (ii) ‘any’ claim made by or against a corporate debtor including claims by or against its subsidiaries; and (iii) ‘any’ questions of priority or ‘any’ question of law or facts, arising out of or in relation to insolvency resolution or liquidation proceedings of the corporate debtor. Are there any limits to such jurisdiction of the National Company Law Tribunal?
Case Note: Judgement of the Supreme Court in the Essar Steel Case
By a judgment dated November 15, 2019, the Supreme Court of India in the case of Committee of Creditors of Essar Steel India Limited v. Satish Kumar Gupta and Others delivered its final verdict on the acquisition of Essar Steel India Limited under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016. The proceedings under the IBC in relation to the acquisition of Essar Steel lasted for more than two years and laid down precedents on several questions arising out of the then newly introduced insolvency legislation in India. This paper is a comment on this judgment. It critically analyses the decision of the Supreme Court and the impact of the judgment on insolvency law in India.
Tata-Mistry Case: A Bittersweet Victory for the Tata Group
On March 26, the Supreme Court delivered its verdict in a matter that has grabbed headlines for more than four years. Two prominent business groups, historically inter-connected with each other in multiple ways, have engaged in a no-holds-barred battle that by all accounts will be a significant marker in the history of corporate India. It started at a board meeting of Tata Sons on Oct. 24, 2016, when Cyrus Mistry was removed by the board of directors from his position as executive chairman. This led to a series of cascading events that ultimately ended up in the courts.
The Conundrum of “Unpublished Information” under the Insider Trading Regulations
The SEBI’s Insider Trading Regulations prohibit trading in listed securities when in possession of unpublished price-sensitive information (“UPSI”). Therefore one question which invariably needs to be addressed in such matters is whether the information that was alleged to be UPSI was “unpublished”. In a recent order issued by the SEBI in February 2021, Future Corporate Resources Private Limited, Mr. Kishori Biyani and certain other persons (together, the “Noticees”) were held to be in violation of the Insider Trading Regulations. It was alleged that the Noticees traded in shares of Future Retail Limited when in the possession of UPSI. The Noticees argued, inter alia, that the information that was alleged to be UPSI was already in the public domain in the form of media reports. This argument was rejected by the SEBI. It was not the first time that such an argument was made. It will likely not be the last. However, the backdrop is that the original 1992 regulations, and then the amendments in 2002 and 2015, have taken divergent approaches on this point. It has also not helped that the orders of adjudicatory authorities on this point have been inconsistent.
SPACs: A ReNew-ed Interest in US Listings
In 2020, over $80 billion was raised in the US from more than 200 SPACs (special purpose acquisition companies), with SPAC IPOs comprising over 50% of US IPOs. While Indian laws have been amended to facilitate cross-border mergers, regulatory and taxation challenges restrict the ability of the parties to efficiently merge an Indian company with the SPAC. The parties’ objectives could therefore be met through externalisation and structuring within the scope of Indian regulations. Apart from the regulatory and taxation challenges involved in a US listing through the SPAC route, Indian companies should also be prepared for compliance with a stringent governance, internal controls, accounting and disclosure regime. Several Indian technology companies have plans to go public. It remains to be seen how many will opt for the SPAC route, which has increasingly emerged as an attractive option for companies around the world particularly in the technology and ESG sectors. In the meanwhile, the SPAC alternative could also well be explored by Indian regulators as a route for listing in India with appropriate safeguards.