An overview of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in India

About foreign direct investment.

Foreign Direct Investment or FDI is the process whereby residents of one country (the source country) acquire ownership of assets for the purpose of controlling the production, distribution, and other activities of a firm in another country (the host country). The international monetary fund’s balance of payment manual defines FDI as an investment that is made to acquire a lasting interest in an enterprise operating in an economy other than that of the investor. The investors’ purpose being to have an effective voice in the management of the enterprise’. The united nations 1999 world investment report defines FDI as ‘an investment involving a long term relationship and reflecting a lasting interest and control of a resident entity in one economy (foreign direct investor or parent enterprise) in an enterprise resident in an economy other than that of the foreign direct investor ( FDI enterprise, affiliate enterprise or foreign affiliate).

Foreign direct investment: Indian scenario

FDI is permitted as under the following forms of investments:

  • Through financial collaborations.
  • Through joint ventures and technical collaborations.
  • Through capital markets via Euro issues.
  • Through private placements or preferential allotments.

Forbidden Territories:

  • Arms and ammunition
  • Atomic Energy
  • Coal and lignite
  • Rail Transport
  • Mining of metals like iron, manganese, chrome, gypsum, sulfur, gold, diamonds, copper, zinc.

Foreign Investment through GDRs (Euro Issues):

Indian companies are allowed to raise equity capital in the international market through the issue of Global Depository Receipt (GDRs). GDR investments are treated as FDI and are designated in dollars and are not subject to any ceilings on investment. An applicant company seeking Government’s approval in this regard should have consistent track record for good performance (financial or otherwise) for a minimum period of 3 years. This condition would be relaxed for infrastructure projects such as power generation, telecommunication, petroleum exploration and refining, ports, airports and roads.

Clearance from FIPB:

There is no restriction on the number of Euro-issue to be floated by a company or a group of companies in the financial year. A company engaged in the manufacture of items covered under Annex-III of the New Industrial Policy whose direct foreign investment after a proposed Euro issue is likely to exceed 51% or which is implementing a project not contained in Annex-III, would need to obtain prior FIPB clearance before seeking final approval from Ministry of Finance.

Use of GDRs:

The proceeds of the GDRs can be used for financing capital goods imports, capital expenditure including domestic purchase/installation of plant, equipment and building and investment in software development, prepayment or scheduled repayment of earlier external borrowings, and equity investment in JV/WOSs in India.

Foreign direct investments in India are approved through two routes:

Automatic approval by RBI:

The Reserve Bank of India accords automatic approval within a period of two weeks (subject to compliance of norms) to all proposals and permits foreign equity up to 24%; 50%; 51%; 74% and 100% is allowed depending on the category of industries and the sectoral caps applicable. The lists are comprehensive and cover most industries of interest to foreign companies. Investments in high priority industries or for trading companies primarily engaged in exporting are given almost automatic approval by the RBI.

The FIPB Route – Processing of non-automatic approval cases:

FIPB stands for Foreign Investment Promotion Board which approves all other cases where the parameters of automatic approval are not met. Normal processing time is 4 to 6 weeks. Its approach is liberal for all sectors and all types of proposals, and rejections are few. It is not necessary for foreign investors to have a local partner, even when the foreign investor wishes to hold less than the entire equity of the company. The portion of the equity not proposed to be held by the foreign investor can be offered to the public.

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