In a move that is aimed at restricting “opportunistic investments” from Chinese investors in Indian companies, India’s trade regulator has issued a fresh press note, stating that all foreign direct investment from neighboring countries will require government approval.
Similar to how the global economy has been impacted, India has felt the tremors too. As a result, India’s stock market has seen some of the longest bear runs in its history. That bearish market has resulted in even some of India’s most profitable public companies trading at historically low prices. Such low prices act as triggers for foreign investors to do open market takeovers, and India wants to prevent just that.
In lieu of that, India’s trade regulatory body DPIIT, issued a new press note today, stating that all investments coming in from countries sharing land borders with India, will now have to go through the government.
Chinese investors in particular, and government-backed firms to be specific, have been seen picking up stakes across the globe as markets trade at historically low prices. A recent example of the same was seen when China’s state-run PBOC bank picked up millions of shares in India’s second largest private sector bank, HDFC. Such deals have sent down indications to governments, that China — despite having its own economic and debt issues — is looking to scoop up sizeable chunks of shares in public companies globally. India’s government has been one of the first globally, to react to such possibilities, in an official capacity.
“However, an entity of a country, which shares a land border with India or where the beneficial owner of an investment into India is situated in or is a citizen of any such country, can invest only under the Government route,” says the press note released by DPIIT, India’s trade regulator. The new rules will also apply to ‘the transfer of ownership of any existing or future FDI in an entity in India, directly or indirectly,’ the DPIIT has said.
The note does not specifically mention which type of companies, thus implying that it will include startups and other private companies as well. China has been a big investor in some of India’s biggest unicorns. Digital payments giant Paytm for example, counts Chinese ecommerce behemoth Alibaba as its largest investor and shareholder. Similarly, several other unicorns such as Ola, Bigbasket among others also have major Chinese investment. With the new policy in place, any follow-on rounds or transfers in ownership linked to their Chinese investors, will now have to go through the government.
A fresh infusion of funds in these or Chinese firms wanting to exit their existing investments will now have require government’s approval, since the new rules shall also apply to any transfer of ownership. According to the official note issued by DPIIT, “In the event of the transfer of ownership of any existing or future FDI in an entity in India, directly or indirectly, resulting in the beneficial ownership falling within the restriction/purview of the para 3.1.1(a), such subsequent change in beneficial ownership will also require Government approval”.