FIPB clears FDI proposals worth Rs 710 crore

The proposals approved included Advanced Enzyme Technologies’ foreign investment worth Rs 480 crore, a Finance Ministry official said.

Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) today approved four FDI proposals entailing overseas investment of about Rs 710 crore.

The proposals approved included Advanced Enzyme Technologies’ foreign investment worth Rs 480 crore, a Finance Ministry official said.

The Board also cleared proposals of Corona Remedies, Macmillan Publishers International and Ordain Health Care Global.

The FIPB, headed by Economic Affairs Secretary Shaktikanta Das, today considered 14 investment proposals.

Three proposals, which were rejected included that of Flag Telecom Singapore Pte Ltd and Star Den Media Services Pvt Ltd.

Also, eight proposals, including that of IBM India Ltd, were deferred.

FIPB can clear FDI proposals envisaging investment of up to Rs 5,000 crore and those involving higher investment are approved by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA).

FDI in most sectors are allowed through an automatic route but in certain sectors proposals have to go through the FIPB.


India, US to expand economic cooperation, break down trade barriers

India and the US today vowed to expand economic relation between the two nations and explore new opportunities to break down barriers to facilitate movement of goods and services.

The leaders of the two countries resolved to pursue US- India Totalisation Agreement and enhance engagement on intellectual property rights with a view to promote innovation and creativity.

“In order to substantially increase bilateral trade, they (leaders) pledged to explore new opportunities to break down barriers to the movement of goods and services, and support deeper integration into global supply chains, thereby creating jobs and generating prosperity in both economies,” said the joint statement issued after a meeting between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Barack Obama.

They look forward to the second annual Strategic and Commercial Dialogue in India later this year to identify concrete steps in this regard, it added.

Highlighting the strong and expanding economic relations between the US and India, the leaders committed to support sustainable, inclusive, and robust economic growth, and common efforts to stimulate consumer demand, job creation, skill development and innovation.

It was decided to continue discussion later this year on the US-India Totalisation Agreement.

The ‘Totalisation Agreement’ seeks to do away with double taxation of income with respect to social security taxes.

Under this agreement, professionals of both the countries would be exempted from social security taxes when they go to work for a short period in the other country.

The two leaders also committed to make concrete progress on IPR issues by working to enhance bilateral cooperation among the drivers of innovation and creativity.

They also commended the increased engagement on trade and investment issues under the Trade Policy Forum (TPF) and encouraged substantive results for the next TPF later this year.

The leaders also welcomed the engagement of the US’ private sector companies in India’s Smart City programme.

The leaders resolved to facilitate greater movement of professionals, investors and business travellers, students, and exchange visitors between their countries to enhance people-to-people contact as well as their economic and technological partnership.

On the MoU for Development of an International Expedited Traveller Initiative (also known as Global Entry Programme) the statement said efforts will be made for entry of India into the said programme within three months.



After Italy & Greece, PE seeks to partner Indian lenders for bad loan portfolio

Storied asset manager KKR & Co has approached lenders like State Bank of India and ICICI Bank with a proposal to manage and create value from their loan portfolios to under-performing Indian companies. The American private equity investor will build a platform to deploy fairly long-term capital and operational expertise to turnaround troubled assets, with banks on board sharing the future upsides.


The proposal – discussed with a few public and private sector banks – is modelled on Pillarstone, a similar European platform created by KKR for stressed loans in markets like Greece and Italy . India’s central bank governor Raghuram Rajan has pushed lenders to purge bad loans and has urged global alternate asset managers to play a bigger role in easing India Inc’s bad loan crisis. But most Indian banks have opted for ‘fire sale’ of stressed assets to rival corporate houses rather than staying on course with a turnaround plan, though it would help these lenders unlock better value eventually.

“They are talking about jointly managing a portfolio of loans to these stressed companies as against acquiring a one-off asset. It involves sweating underlying assets to generate more value rather than writing down. This is also different than the prevailing approach by the under-capitalized asset reconstruction companies, which is more focused on asset-stripping,” said a source directly familiar with the matter. The discussions are ongoing but may not lead to any conclusive agreement with KKR, a second source cautioned.

When contacted, KKR declined to comment on the story. SBI and ICICI Bank too offered no comments. Traditionally, India’s public sector banks have stayed away from dealing with foreign investors in the stressed loan market.

Bulge-bracket global funds such as KKR, Brookfield Asset Management and Apollo Global management have looked at opportunities to acquire stressed assets put on the block by lenders. KKR was in contention to acquire Jaypee’s cement units, which was clinched by Aditya Birla-led UltraTech Cements for Rs 16,000 crore, mostly through a refinancing deal. KKR’s offer centred around acquiring 51% ownership (leaving the rest with lenders) and turning around operations under a new management team. The lenders would recoup a part of the loan upfront, while waiting for future upsides riding on a business rejig. The banks preferred a one-time deal offered by Birla’s UltraTech.

Brookfield’s acquisition of debt-laden Gammon’s road and power assets is one of the few recent instances where a global investor acquired assets of a stressed entity. “Indian lenders have opted for selling assets in distress rather than exploring ways to shore up value on troubled loans. Yesterday’s lenders have become today’s collectors. Hopefully, there will be a time when bankers will behave like bankers,” Anil Singhvi, a shareholder activist and co-founder of proxy advisory firm Institutional Investor Advisory Services (IIAS), said.

Last year, KKR along with Italian lenders UniCredit and Intesa Sanpaolo launched Pillarstone as a platform to help big corporate borrowers recover and grow. It later signed up with lenders such as Alpha Bank and Eurobank to expand the platform into Greece. Both Italian and Greek lenders have agreed to pool in about EUR 1 billion of loans each as part of the engagement with Pillarstone. KKR has said European Bank for Reconstruction and Development is also considering co-investing in the platform, which is planning to start operations into other European markets.

KKR has argued that Pillarstone is a “timely intervention” in European markets where hefty bad loans are hampering a broader economic recovery, a concern shared by policymakers in India as well. In recent weeks, the top 20 public sector banks have reported a cumulative loss of almost Rs 15,000 crore in the fourth quarter of the last fiscal. This was triggered by an unprecedented surge in provisioning for bad loans following the RBI’s asset quality review. The non-performing assets on their balance sheets is estimated at Rs 3 lakh crore.

“Nearly 15% of system assets are stressed and even if we optimistically assume that only a third of these stressed assets are going to be ultimately written off, that still means that nearly 30% the shareholders’ equity in the banking system is currently at serious risk,” Saurabh Mukherjea of Ambit Capital said in his latest research report. “The problem-facing public sector banks is more serious as 17% of their assets are stressed. It would imply that nearly 50% of the shareholders’ equity of PSBs will be written off by the end of FY18, requiring $30 billion (equivalent to nearly 1.5% of our GDP) in equity infusion. It is unlikely the government will find resources to recapitalize these ailing public sector banks,” Mukherjea added.



India ranks second on GRD index on ease of doing business : study

India has jumped 13 positions from last year to rank second among 30 developing countries this year on ease of doing business, according to a study topped by China.

According to 2016 Global Retail Development Index (GRDI), which ranks top 30 developing countries for retail investment worldwide, a pick-up in GDP growth and better clarity regarding FDI regulations have helped India achieve a second ranking.

Debashish Mukherjee, a partner with A T Kearney and co-head of the Consumer Industries & Retail Products Practice for India and Southeast Asia, said,

India’s strong ranking reflects foreigner retailers increased optimism in its retail market and its vast growth potential. India has relaxed several key Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) regulations in single-brand retail and this has paved the way for multinational firms to enter the market, Mukherjee said.

India’s retail sector has expanded at a compound annual growth rate of 8.8 percent between 2013 and 2015, with annual sales crossing the $1 trillion mark, according to A T Kearney, a London-based business consultancy.
India has also become the world’s fastest growing economy. That, coupled with a large population base and the easing of FDI regulations in the sector, has made it an even more attractive market, it said in the ranking.

We expect to see e-commerce to propel India’s growth and make it a more attractive proposition. However, there are some challenges as well. India remains a challenging and complex market for foreign retailers, where understanding dynamics at the state level is important. Infrastructure bottlenecks including labour laws, complex regulations, high labour attrition rates, and limited high-quality retail space remain areas of concerns for retailers, Mukherjee said.

The country’s retail sector has also benefited from the rapid growth in e-commerce. India is the world’s second largest Internet market and the increasing Internet and smartphone penetration is contributing to the expansion of e-commerce.

As Indian consumers become more comfortable with shopping online, venture capital and private equity firms have boosted investment in the sector, providing further momentum, the report said.


Danish companies keen to take part in Make in India

Denmark-based companies such as Danfoss, Grunfdfoss, sRamboll, Novo Nordisk and Novozymes are eyeing the benefits of Narendra Modi’s Make-in-India programme to set up their base in the country.


Indian ambasssador to Copenhagen Rajeev Shahare said Denmark has embarked on a number of steps to be ahead of the curve in doing business with India. “The Danish Confederation of Industries (DI) has an office in Mumbai; the Danish Trade Council (part of its Ministry of Foreign Office) has a strong representative office in Bangalore; Asia House in Copenhagen has commissioned a study on how to effectively participate in the Smart Cities project in India,” the ambassador told FE.


While many big companies like Danfoss and Carlsberg already have their units, some others are in the process of doing so. “One company is setting up a unit in Hyderabad for manufacturing of ocean cleaning pumps and equipment; another consulting company is exploring Mumbai for its regional office,” he said.


The Scandinavian country is keen on setting up production facilities in India taking advantage of India’s low cost of production, availability of technical and English speaking manpower and a compatible working environment, he added.


India can also partner Denmark and learn from its best practices in areas like health services, food technology, dairy management, agro services, solid waste management and waste water management.


There are around 125 Danish companies in India and probably all top companies have a strong presence — the shipping giant Maersk (AP Moller) which also developed the Pipavav port and is now looking for investments in ports on the eastern coast; Danfoss, Grunfdfoss, Ramboll, leading pharma company Novo Nordisk etc. The Danish companies operating in India are directly or indirectly providing around two lakh jobs to locals here.


According to Statistics Denmark, the Danish FDI in India was $854 million in 2014, $731 million in 2013 compared to $931 million in 2012 (up from $877 million in 2011). Major Danish investments in India have been made in sectors such as manufacturing, trade and transport, financial and business services.


On the other hand, the Indian investment in Denmark were $71 million in 2014, $89 million in 2013 compared to $103 million in 2012 (up from $112 million in 2011) (Source: Statistics Denmark). Around 30 Indian companies have a presence in Denmark. Of them, 24 are IT companies, two belong to life sciences field and four are diversified mainly in the renewable space.


There are some major success stories of companies from Denmark that need to be highlighted. “The largest Danish bank- Danske Bank has all its back end operations in India; the entire Kommune (municipal) operations of KMD are handled by an Indian software company,” according to Shahare.


Intangible MNC assets may be taxed in case of a global merger and acquisition

A recent clarification by the government has created a stir among some multinationals which are concerned that their Indian entities might be taxed even in case of a global merger and acquisition with another global company.

More so, the worry is in case of multinationals that hold intangible assets in India, either through research and development centres, or are engaged in businesses where it is tough to value assets.

This is mainly because tax component, if at all, would be decided on valuation of the Indian entity, and whether valuation (Indian entity) accounts for more than half the holding entity outside India. This comes in the wake of the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) announcing rules for determining fair market value in case of indirect transfer of shares of an Indian entity. Rules specify a method for determination of “fair market value” of foreign target company shares and Indian company shares. In case of an indirect transfer of shares or transaction, if the value of Indian assets is more than 50% of the foreign target company, this could lead to taxation in India.

So if an US-headquartered company invests in India through a Mauritius company and at any point in time there’s a change in ownership, the tax could be applied. The tax would be triggered in India if the ownership of the Mauritius company is changed, and if more than 50% of the total assets of this company (Mauritius company) are in India.

“If a multinational has a presence in India through an intermediate holding vehicle in a third country, and if there is an M&A deal at the intermediate holding entity level, the Indian entity can attract taxation in India,” said Amit Singhania, Partner at Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas.

“While the 50% rule applies, valuing the Indian assets, particularly the right of management or control in an unlisted Indian company would be challenging,”  Singhania said.

Many multinationals are now rushing to their Indian tax consultants to find out which transactions could attract tax here. “Many multinationals that have a presence in India through Mauritius could face some tax in India even if there is an offshore M&A deal, especially where the seller is based in a country whose treaty does not exempt capital gains tax in India,” said Rajesh H Gandhi, partner, tax, Deloitte Haskins and Sells.

“However, more importantly, it could be challenging to identify and value some of the assets and determine the place where they are situated. This would be more relevant for assets like human resources, contractual rights and intangibles such as mobile applications, results of R&D or patents developed in India but registered elsewhere,” said Gandhi.

Industry trackers say that in case of an M&A at an international level, the shares of holding companies are transferred or merged, which is where the problem lies. Many experts also point out that information and documentation required to ascertain the valuation of Indian as well as an intermediary is not just complicated but tough to come by in many cases.

“If so, income tax would assume the Indian entity’s valuation is more than 50% of the holding entity,” said a consultant currently advising such a client. Experts point out that patents held by the Indian company, and some other assets too have to be valued. Not only valuing these intangible assets could have different views, in some cases, these patents or other intangible assets are developed in India but sit on the balance sheet of other group companies outside India.