Foreign Institutional Investors (FII’s) and Indian economy

Introduction to Foreign Institutional Investors (FII’s)

Since 1990-91, the Government of India embarked on liberalization and economic reforms with a view of bringing about rapid and substantial economic growth and move towards globalization of the economy. As a part of the reforms process, the Government under its New Industrial Policy revamped its foreign investment policy recognizing the growing importance of foreign direct investment as an instrument of technology transfer, augmentation of foreign exchange reserves and globalization of the Indian economy. Simultaneously, the Government, for the first time, permitted portfolio investments from abroad by foreign institutional investors in the Indian capital market. The entry of FIIs seems to be a follow up of the recommendation of the Narsimhan Committee Report on Financial System. While recommending their entry, the Committee, however did not elaborate on the objectives of the suggested policy. The committee only suggested that the capital market should be gradually opened up to foreign portfolio investments.

From September 14, 1992 with suitable restrictions, Foreign Institutional Investors were permitted to invest in all the securities traded on the primary and secondary markets, including shares, debentures and warrants issued by companies which were listed or were to be listed on the Stock Exchanges in India. While presenting the Budget for 1992-93, the then Finance Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh had announced a proposal to allow reputed foreign investors, such as Pension Funds etc., to invest in Indian capital market.

Market design in India for foreign institutional investors

Foreign Institutional Investors means an institution established or incorporated outside India which proposes to make investment in India in securities. A Working Group for Streamlining of the Procedures relating to Foriegn Institutional Investors, constituted in April, 2003, inter alia, recommended streamlining of SEBI registration procedure, and suggested that dual approval process of SEBI and RBI be changed to a single approval process of SEBI. This recommendation was implemented in December 2003.

Currently, entities eligible to invest under the FII route are as follows:

  • As FII: Overseas pension funds, mutual funds, investment trust, asset management company, nominee company, bank, institutional portfolio manager, university funds, endowments, foundations, charitable trusts, charitable societies, a trustee or power of attorney holder incorporated or established outside India proposing to make proprietary investments or with no single investor holding more than 10 per cent of the shares or units of the fund.
  • As Sub-accounts: The sub account is generally the underlying fund on whose behalf the FII invests. The following entities are eligible to be registered as sub-accounts, viz. partnership firms, private company, public company, pension fund, investment trust, and individuals.

FIIs registered with SEBI fall under the following categories:

  • Regular FIIs- those who are required to invest not less than 70 % of their investment in equity-related instruments and 30 % in non-equity instruments.
  • 100 % debt-fund FIIs- those who are permitted to invest only in debt instruments.

The Government guidelines for FII of 1992 allowed, inter-alia, entities such as asset management companies, nominee companies and incorporated/institutional portfolio managers or their power of attorney holders (providing discretionary and non-discretionary portfolio management services) to be registered as Foreign Institutional Investors. While the guidelines did not have a specific provision regarding clients, in the application form the details of clients on whose behalf investments were being made were sought.

While granting registration to the FII, permission was also granted for making investments in the names of such clients. Asset management companies/portfolio managers are basically in the business of managing funds and investing them on behalf of their funds/clients. Hence, the intention of the guidelines was to allow these categories of investors to invest funds in India on behalf of their ‘clients’. These ‘clients’ later came to be known as sub-accounts. The broad strategy consisted of having a wide variety of clients, including individuals, intermediated through institutional investors, who would be registered as FIIs in India. FIIs are eligible to purchase shares and convertible debentures issued by Indian companies under the Portfolio Investment Scheme.

Prohibitions on Investments:

Foreign Institutional Investors are not permitted to invest in equity issued by an Asset Reconstruction Company. They are also not allowed to invest in any company which is engaged or proposes to engage in the following activities:

  • Business of chit fund
  • Nidhi Company
  • Agricultural or plantation activities
  • Real estate business or construction of farm houses (real estate business does not include development of townships, construction of residential/commercial premises, roads or bridges).
  • Trading in Transferable Development Rights (TDRs).

Trends of Foreign Institutional Investments in India.

Portfolio investments in India include investments in American Depository Receipts (ADRs)/ Global Depository Receipts (GDRs), Foreign Institutional Investments and investments in offshore funds. Before 1992, only Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) and Overseas Corporate Bodies were allowed to undertake portfolio investments in India. Thereafter, the Indian stock markets were opened up for direct participation by FIIs. They were allowed to invest in all the securities traded on the primary and the secondary market including the equity and other securities/instruments of companies listed/to be listed on stock exchanges in India.

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