SEBI’s measures to facilitate fund raising from capital markets in the current COVID-19 scenario

In view of the COVID-19 pandemic and nation-wide lockdown and with a view to improving access to funding to corporates through capital markets, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), by way of press release dated April 21, 2020, bearing no. PR No.23/2020, has granted certain temporary relaxations from compliance with certain provisions of SEBI (Issue of Capital and Disclosure Requirements) Regulations, 2018, as amended, (SEBI ICDR Regulations) related to rights / public issuances by listed entities.

Pursuant to the press release, SEBI has notified two circulars dated April 21, 2020, each for (i) relaxations to issuers from certain provisions of the SEBI ICDR Regulations in respect of rights issue; and (ii) one-time relaxation to issuers with respect to validity of SEBI observations. The contents of the circulars are as follows:

(i) Relaxations to issuers from certain provisions of the SEBI ICDR Regulations in respect of rights issue

SEBI, vide its circular dated April 21, 2020, (circular no. SEBI/HO/CFD/CIR/CFD/DIL/67/2020) has granted temporary relaxation to the (a) minimum subscription requirements for rights issues; (b) threshold for not filing the draft letter of offer; and (c) eligibility conditions related to fast track rights issues. These relaxations are applicable to right issues that open on or before March 31, 2021 and are not applicable for issuance of warrants.

(a) Eligibility conditions related to fast track rights issues

SEBI has granted the following temporary compliance relaxations with respect to the eligibility conditions related to fast track rights issues:

  • The eligibility requirement related to period of listing of equity shares of the issuer on any stock exchange and compliance with the equity listing agreement or the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Listing Obligations and Disclosure Requirements) Regulations, 2015, as applicable, has been reduced from 3 years to 18 months;

  • The requirement of average market capitalisation of public shareholding of INR 250 crores has been reduced to INR 100 crores; The condition related to no audit qualifications on issuer’s audited accounts has been replaced with the requirement to disclose the impact of audit qualifications on issuer’s financials; The condition related to suspension from trading of equity shares of issuer as a disciplinary measure has been reduced from 3 years to 18 months; and Certain other eligibility conditions with respect to period of compliance with the provisions of the listing regulations, ongoing action initiated by SEBI against the issuer / promoters / directors and settlement of violation of securities laws have also been relaxed.

(b) Minimum subscription requirements for rights issues

The existing minimum subscription to be received in a rights issue shall be at least 90% of the offer through the letter of offer. However, in order to provide greater flexibility in fund raising, this threshold for minimum subscription requirements for a rights issue has been reduced from existing 90% to 75% of the offer size, subject to the condition that if the rights issue is subscribed between 75% to 90%, issue will be considered successful subject to the condition that out of the funds raised, at least 75% of the rights issue size shall be utilized for the objects of the issue other than general corporate purpose.

(c) Threshold for not filing the draft letter of offer with SEBI

An issuer in case of rights issue of size less than INR 10 crores shall prepare the letter of offer in accordance with SEBI ICDR Regulations. However, in order to reduce the time involved in fund raising and for easing the compliance requirements due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the threshold for not filing the draft letter of offer has been increased from INR 10 crores to INR 25 crores in a rights issue.

Please refer to the SEBI circular dated April 21, 2020, (circular no. SEBI/HO/CFD/CIR/CFD/DIL/67/2020) for more details.

(ii) One-time relaxation to issuers with respect to validity of SEBI observations

In view of representations from various industry bodies, SEBI, vide its circular dated April 21, 2020, (circular no. SEBI/HO/CFD/DIL1/CIR/P/2020/66) has provided one-time relaxation with respect to validity of SEBI observations.

As per SEBI ICDR Regulations, any public issue/rights issue may be opened within 12 months from the date of issuance of the observations by SEBI. However, due to the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic, for all public/rights issuers whose SEBI observations have expired or shall expire between March 1, 2020, and September 30, 2020, SEBI has extended the validity of those observations by 6 months from the date of its expiry, subject to an undertaking from the lead manager of the issue confirming compliance with the SEBI ICDR Regulations.

Further, an issuer, whose offer document is pending receipt of SEBI observations and whose estimated issue size is increasing or decreasing by more than 20% shall be required to file a fresh offer document. However, SEBI has relaxed this requirement and permitted to increase or decrease the fresh issue size by up to 50% of the estimated issue size (instead of the present limit of 20%) without requiring to file fresh draft offer document with SEBI. This relaxation shall be applicable for all issues (i.e. IPOs, rights issues and FPOs) opening before December 31, 2020, subject to the following conditions:

  • there has been no change in the objects of the issue;

  • the lead manager undertakes that the draft offer document is in compliance with provisions of the SEBI ICDR Regulations;

  • and the lead manager shall ensure that all appropriate changes are made to the relevant section of draft offer document and an addendum, in this regard, shall be made public.

Please refer to the dated April 21, 2020, SEBI circular (circular no. SEBI/HO/CFD/DIL1/CIR/P/2020/66) for more details.

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