Millennium Post

Sebi clears decks for foreign venture funds into infra space

The move, wherein Sebi has allowed Foreign Venture Capital Investors (FVCIs) to put money in Core Investment Companies (CICs) set up for infrastructure sector, is expected to help attract billions of dollars worth of overseas venture capital funds in the infrastructure sector over long term.

Investment worth at least Rs 7,000-8,000 crore are expected to flow into the Indian infrastructure space in the immediate future itself through this route.

The new norms have been finalised after taking into account public comments to a Sebi proposal for amending existing FVCI regulations to allow FVCIs to invest in CICs, which are registered as a special class of NBFCs. As such, foreign venture capital investors are not allowed to invest in non-banking financial services, barring a few exceptions such as Equipment Leasing and Hire Purchase Companies. CICs, which basically fund the infrastructure sector, are classified by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) as non-banking financial companies. According to the 12th Five Year Plan (2012-17), India requires Rs 65 lakh crore investment in infrastructure.

‘Foreign investors want to invest in infrastructure space but there should be viable project for them to invest in,’ Manish Agarwal, Leader (Capital Projects and Infrastructure) at PwC India said.

Sebi, which came out with draft norms earlier this month, observed that CICs were essentially holding companies and did not engage in financing activity similar to other NBFCs.

Therefore, the proposal did not go against the intent of the FVCI regulations of not allowing FVCI investment in non-banking financial services.

‘The proposal is expected to infuse funds into the infrastructure sector which is crucial for development of the country and has vast positive spillover effects over various other sectors and the entire economy.

‘This proposal to allow investment by FVCIs in CICs investing in infrastructure companies has also been endorsed by the Government of India and Reserve Bank of India. The proposal is one of the recommendations of High Level Committee on Financing of Infrastructure,’ Sebi had said. It was also proposed that the negative list under the FVCI Regulations gets ‘suitably modified to replace 'equipment leasing and hire purchase companies' with Asset Finance Companies and Infrastructure Finance Companies’, Sebi added.

FVCIs are investors incorporated and established outside India investing primarily in venture capital undertakings in India either directly or through venture capital funds or alternative investment funds (AIFs).
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