MUMBAI: The Reserve Bank of India announced that optionality clauses may henceforth be allowed in Foreign Direct Investments (FDI), to facilitate investors to exit subject to the conditions of minimum lock-in period and without any assured return.
Till now only equity shares or compulsorily and mandatorily convertible preference shares/debentures were eligible instruments to be issued to persons resident outside India under the Foreign Direct Investment policy and these instruments were not allowed to have any optionality clause. It is expected that this relaxation will facilitate greater FDI flows into the country.
It has now been decided that optionality clauses may henceforth be allowed in equity shares and compulsorily and mandatorily convertible preference shares/debentures to be issued to a person resident outside India under the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) Scheme. The optionality clause will oblige the buy-back of securities from the investor at the price prevailing/value determined at the time of exercise of the optionality so as to enable the investor to exit without any assured return. The provision of optionality clause shall be subject to the following conditions:
(a) There is a minimum lock-in period of one year or a minimum lock-in period as prescribed under FDI Regulations, whichever is higher (e.g. defence and construction development sector where the lock-in period of three years has been prescribed). The lock-in period shall be effective from the date of allotment of such shares or convertible debentures or as prescribed for defence and construction development sectors, etc. in Annex B to Schedule 1 of Notification No. FEMA. 20 as amended from time to time;
(b) After the lock-in period, as applicable above, the non-resident investor exercising option/right shall be eligible to exit without any assured return, as under:
(i) In case of a listed company, the non-resident investor shall be eligible to exit at the market price prevailing at the recognised stock exchanges;
(ii) In case of unlisted company, the non-resident investor shall be eligible to exit from the investment in equity shares of the investee company at a price not exceeding that arrived at on the basis of Return on Equity (RoE) as per the latest audited balance sheet. Any agreement permitting return linked to equity as above shall not be treated as violation of FDI policy/FEMA Regulations.