In connection with a proposed delisting of shares of AstraZeneca Pharma India Limited (AZPIL) in 2014, the SEBI recently issued an order dated June 5, 2020 under Sections 11(1), 11(4) and 11B of the Securities and Exchange Board of India Act, 1992, holding that:
(i) AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals AB Sweden (AZPAB), the promoter of AZPIL, and the Elliott Group (a group of related foreign institutional investors that collectively held a significant shareholding in AZPIL) colluded with each other to get the shares of AZPIL delisted and influence the delisting price of such shares without considering the interests of the retail shareholders of AZPIL; and
(ii) The conduct of AZPAB and the Elliott Group amounted to a manipulative and fraudulent trade practice under the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Prohibition of Fraudulent and Unfair Practice Relating to Securities Market) Regulations, 2003.
The SEBI questioned the conduct of AZPAB and the Elliott Group and concluded that there existed a ‘meeting of minds’ between AZPAB and the Elliott Group prior to the delisting announcement. This note analyses the SEBI’s order.
Governmental authorities in India have, from time to time, implemented various measures to facilitate ease of doing business for companies operating in India including, inter alia, by way of amendments to the Companies Act, 2013 (the “Act”). In the past 1 (one) year, these reforms have focused on introducing new mechanisms for swift adjudication of offences, and decriminalization and rationalization of criminal penalties, particularly in relation to minor, technical or procedural non-compliances under the Act.
The objective of decriminalization and recategorization of offences that was introduced by the Companies (Amendment) Act, 2019 is now sought to be augmented by the Companies (Amendment) Bill, 2020 (the “CAB 2020”) which was recently presented in the Lok Sabha on March 17, 2020. CAB 2020 has, amongst other matters, proposed amendments in respect of decriminalization of various compoundable offences and rationalization of penalties prescribed under the Act. CAB 2020 is currently awaiting legislative consideration.
In this note, we discuss the continuing efforts of the Indian governmental authorities towards streamlining the processes for dealing with certain non-compliances under the Act, and analyze if the critical changes proposed by CAB 2020 for further decriminalization of offences and alteration of penalties under the Act is a step in the right direction.
The outbreak of COVID-19 and its development into a pandemic has led governments across the world to take extraordinary measures to protect their residents. The Central Government and various State Governments in India, along with public-health authorities, not-for-profit organizations and corporates, are collecting, tracking, and using information about individuals to slow down the spread of COVID-19; however, since a large proportion of such information could be categorized as ‘personal data’ or ‘sensitive personal data’ its use is subject to the data protection laws in India. It is, therefore, essential that a balance is struck between an individual’s right to privacy and public interest at large. Separately, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, corporates are also required to implement aberrant measures to safeguard their employees and extended workforce. In this regard, the collection of personal data by corporates will need to be undertaken in compliance with the requirements of data protection laws in India.
This note discusses the use of technology platforms by the Government of India to curtail the spread of COVID-19 and the obligations of corporates in India in relation to their employees or business, in each case, in the context of the legal framework for data protection in India.
While corporations across the globe brace for the full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their business, operations and financial results, listed companies need to be mindful of additional compliance requirements and responsibilities. This note discusses certain considerations which are relevant for listed Indian companies in the current COVID-19 scenario in relation to (i) periodic disclosures and reporting; (ii) board and shareholder meetings; (iii) impact on financial results and annual report; (iv) trading when in possession of UPSI and during trading window closure; (v) fund-raising; and (vi) duties of directors. As a practical matter, these considerations will continue to be relevant even in the future while tackling the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic or other crisis situations.
With a view to facilitate fund-raising from the capital markets in the wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the Securities and Exchange Board of India has decided to grant certain relaxations from the provisions of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Issue of Capital and Disclosure Requirements) Regulations, 2018, as amended, to public issues (both initial and further public offerings) and rights issues. The relaxations, which are contained in two separate SEBI circulars each dated April 21, 2020, essentially relate to (i) the validity of the SEBI observations, (ii) the requirement to file a fresh draft offer document in case of change in issue size and (iii) certain conditions applicable to rights issues.
On April 17, 2020, Press Note No. 3 (2020 Series) was issued by the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India. The Press Note seeks to curb opportunistic takeovers and acquisitions of Indian companies by Chinese investors and companies due to the current COVID-19 pandemic. The Press Note has far-reaching implications on the overall FDI regime. This note analyzes some key considerations arising from the changes introduced by the Press Note, including (i) interpretation of ‘beneficial owner’; (ii) impact on indirect foreign investment; (iii) exercise of warrants and options and schemes of mergers; and (iv) bonus and rights issuances.
Non-banking financial companies (NBFCs), as the name suggests, are companies that aren’t licensed to offer the full range of banking services. Instead, they provide a smaller bundle of financial services targeted towards particular groups. In order to provide credit to such groups, NBFCs need to raise capital at frequent intervals. Hence, raising capital is fundamental to the sector’s growth.
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI), India’s central bank, regulates NBFCs. One of the RBI’s most noteworthy rules pertains to the change of management and control of an NBFC. The RBI currently administers this rule through the Non-Banking Financial Companies (Approval of Acquisition or Transfer of Control) Directions, 2015 (NBFC Directions). It has been more than four years since the NBFC Directions came into effect. During this time, NBFCs have faced difficulties, particularly with its Change of Shareholding Rule. This note discusses its shortcomings and proffers a new rule to take its place.
In a significant move, the Indian Government has, in a bid to curb opportunistic takeovers of Indian companies as a result of COVID-19, directed that all investments from countries that share land borders with India will require prior regulatory approval. This change covers both direct and indirect investments and comes in the wake of recent acquisitions and exploration of investment opportunities by Chinese investors in India, scrutiny by the Indian securities regulator of Chinese ownership of portfolio investors and the introduction of stricter FDI regimes worldwide.
In mid-March 2020, German media reported that the United States President had offered to take over CureVac, a German vaccine firm which was working on a vaccine for COVID-19, to secure the vaccine only for the United States – these reports were later denied. Indian media has recently reported that the Chinese central bank now holds more than 1% shareholding in HDFC, India’s largest housing finance company. The COVID-19 pandemic has not only brought healthcare and critical infrastructure into focus from an FDI perspective, but has also weakened companies in other sectors and made them easy targets for creditors and opportunistic buyers.
This note examines the measures taken by certain countries, particularly in Europe, to protect their businesses from being taken over by foreign investors as well as India’s current position on FDI. While India has so far focused on liberalizing the FDI regime, if COVID-19 propels the Indian Government to follow suit, investors can expect introduction of additional restrictions on FDI as well as extended timelines for approval.
With the aim of enhancing “ease of doing business” and “promoting the principle of Maximum Governance and Minimum Government”, the Government of India abolished the Foreign Investment Promotion Board on May 24, 2017. In its place, the relevant administrative ministry/department in consultation with the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade are now directly responsible for processing applications for foreign direct investment in India in sectors which require prior approval of the Government.
The move was expected to make the process of obtaining FDI approval faster and more efficient. Almost three years after the move, we consider in this note the current framework for FDI approval and areas for improvement.