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.


Disinvestment: Lessons from the Past and the Road Ahead

Although the Government fell short of its disinvestment targets for the financial year ending March 31, 2021, the finance minister, in her budget speech, has promised the completion of several key disinvestment transactions in the next financial year. Completing disinvestment proposals has historically proven to be challenging on account of different factors. These factors include regulatory hurdles, conflicting expectations from different stakeholders, litigation risks and uncertainty in post-closing arrangements. Learning from such experiences and anticipating the challenges that lie ahead will be key to executing the Government’s proposals in an effective and timely manner.


Defining Control: Future Retail vs. Amazon

The recent interpretation of “control” by the High Court of Delhi in a litigation between Future Retail and Amazon has once again focused attention on the perennial question of what constitutes control. As described in more detail in the note, this question cannot be considered in abstract; it must be considered in the context of a specific legislation or policy and the objective it seeks to achieve. The relevant provisions of the FDI policy, which provide the context in this case, may not have been correctly appreciated.


Will the CCI’s Market Study on Private Equity Investments Provide Clarity for Minority Investments?

In light of the growing trend of private equity (“PE”) firms acquiring minority stakes in multiple firms in the same sector, the Competition Commission of India (the “CCI”) has recently announced a market study to analyse the incentives and rights associated with such minority investments, and their impact on competition in India. There is a lack of clarity around situations in which a PE investor is required to notify a proposed minority acquisition to the CCI, and it is hoped that the CCI’s proposed market study will inform improvements to this framework, in order to bolster certainty and investor confidence. In this context, this note provides an overview of the existing Indian merger control framework vis-à-vis ‘minority acquisitions’, including the uncertainty currently surrounding the notifiability of such transactions, and suggests a possible way forward.


Dewan Housing: Why insolvency resolution processes need a greater degree of certainty

In November 2019, Dewan Housing became the first non-banking financial company to be referred to the insolvency resolution process under Indian bankruptcy law. The process has seen four rounds of bids, of which the last two were driven by a bid submitted after the deadline. While one bidder withdrew from the process on grounds of unfair treatment, other bidders have protested against the late-stage non-compliant bid, which has further prolonged the insolvency resolution process and created a threat of litigation. While late-stage bids may be acceptable in exceptional circumstances, this cannot be allowed to become a regular feature of the insolvency resolution process. As described in more detail in this note, maximization of value of assets is not the sole objective of an insolvency resolution regime; such regime must also provide transparency and certainty, symmetry of information and a time-bound process to better preserve economic value.


Non-convertible Debentures: Entry Routes for Foreign Investors

Since January 2020, there have been more than 10 public issues of non-convertible debentures (NCDs) and over 1,600 private placements of corporate bonds in India. M&A transactions in India have also increasingly witnessed NCDs as a preferred instrument for funding, which may be attributable to the benefits that NCDs could provide to investors vis-à-vis equity instruments. Separate regulatory frameworks apply to acquisition of NCDs by registered foreign portfolio investors on the one hand and other foreign investors on the other hand. Further, Indian regulators have sought to encourage offshore debt funding, for example, by introducing the voluntary retention route for foreign portfolio investment in debt instruments. Accordingly, this note provides an overview of investment routes available to foreign investors in relation to NCDs.


Beneficial Ownership: A Comparative Analysis

Since April 2020, prior regulatory approval has been required for all investments from countries that share land borders with India, including where the beneficial owner of an investing entity is situated in or is a citizen of any such country. The threshold for beneficial ownership has remained unclear and can arguably be triggered even if a single share of an investing entity is beneficially held by an investor from one of the restricted bordering countries (which include China). This has created uncertainty not only regarding inflow of new investments in the start-up sector but also beneficial ownership in a private equity fund. While other Indian laws prescribe certain tests for beneficial ownership, these are not consistent. This note examines the concept of “beneficial ownership” under certain Indian laws as well as the definition in the United Kingdom and the United States, and suggests next steps in the context of Indian foreign investment regulations.


Bribery and Money-laundering Risk Management in M&A

As government agencies and regulators around the world are strengthening their enforcement efforts (having unearthed major bribery, corruption and money laundering related lapses by various corporates in the recent years), corporate activities have come under increased regulatory scrutiny. A target’s historical and existing anti-money laundering (AML) or anti-bribery, anti-corruption (ABAC) violations and resultant liabilities typically become the acquirer’s responsibility post-closing. This can have far-reaching legal, business and reputational consequences on the acquirer and in an extreme case, could result in an acquisition being a failure. As a result of this, acquirers have to be cognizant of not only any post-closing transgressions but also any pre-closing ones that they know, or ought to have known. The approach of a hurriedly-conducted limited due diligence with heavy reliance on warranties alone is therefore a risky one.
This note is divided into four parts – the first part provides a general overview of the key legislations. The second part highlights certain factors such as the target’s jurisdiction, sector, local laws and other cultural and geographical issues that typically influence such AML and ABAC issues. The third part outlines safeguards that are customarily adopted by the acquirers and the last part proposes certain measures that may be considered and implemented for effective risk-management by the acquirers.


One year of the CCI’s ‘Green Channel’ route for deemed approval of combinations

The Competition Commission of India (the “CCI”) recently commemorated the completion of the first year of the ‘Green Channel’ approval route for combination filings in India, by way of which, combinations which meet certain criteria are deemed to be approved upon filing a valid short form notification (Form-I) with the CCI. This unique approval route was introduced by the CCI with effect from 15 August 2019, for facilitating speedy clearance of transactions, and balancing the ease of doing business in India with appropriate regulatory oversight for such combinations. Since its introduction, almost one-fifth of the combinations notified to the CCI have availed of this route.
This note analyses certain issues relating to the implementation of this route, some of which have subsequently been addressed by the guidance issued by the CCI through its updated ‘Notes to Form-I’. While some issues remain to be clarified, it is hoped that going forward, these will be resolved through CCI’s further guidance and decisional practice, and facilitate a wider and more certain use of the deemed approval route.


Operational Creditors in Insolvency: A Tale of Disenfranchisement

This note attempts to explain the unique predicament of operational creditors under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (IBC). It examines the various factors considered by the judiciary in recent pronouncements that have shaped the status of the operational creditors and outlines solutions that could be considered for a constructive resolution of the issues at hand.
This note is divided into four parts – the first part discusses certain issues considered by the Supreme Court in Committee of Creditors of Essar Steel India Limited v. Satish Kumar Gupta and others, and its key findings in this regard. In the second part, the authors highlight how the IBC and the ruling of the Supreme Court unfairly disadvantage operational creditors, and offer solutions in line with international practice. In the third part, the authors point out a lacuna in the IBC regarding the treatment of the claims of creditors with ‘disputed’ claims in an insolvency resolution process and propose an alternate framework to determine such claims. The last part underscores the key takeaways from this article and a few concluding thoughts.