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Date: Jul 01, 2011
Master Circular on External Commercial Borrowings and Trade Credits

RBI/2011-12/ 9
Master Circular No.9 /2011-12

July 01, 2011

To,

All Category – I Authorised Dealer Banks

Madam / Sir,

Master Circular on External Commercial Borrowings and Trade Credits

External Commercial Borrowings and Trade Credits availed of by residents are governed by clause (d) of sub-section 3 of section 6 of the Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999 read with Notification No. FEMA 3/ 2000-RB viz. Foreign Exchange Management (Borrowing or Lending in Foreign Exchange) Regulations, 2000, dated May 3, 2000, as amended from time to time.

2. This Master Circular consolidates the existing instructions on the subject of "External Commercial Borrowings and Trade Credits" at one place. The list of underlying circulars / notifications, consolidated in this Master Circular, is furnished in the Appendix.

3. This Master Circular is being issued with a sunset clause of one year. This circular will stand withdrawn on July 1, 2012 and be replaced by an updated Master Circular on the subject.

Yours faithfully,

(Rashmi Fauzdar)
Chief General Manager


INDEX

PART I

EXTERNAL COMMERCIAL BORROWINGS (ECB)

I.(A) AUTOMATIC ROUTE

i) Eligible Borrowers

ii) Recognised Lenders

iii) Amount and Maturity

iv) All-in-cost ceilings

v) End-use

vi) End Uses not permitted

vii) Guarantees

viii) Security

ix) Parking of ECB proceeds

x) Prepayment

xi) Refinancing of an existing ECB

xii) Debt Servicing

xiii) Procedure

I.(B) APPROVAL ROUTE

i) Eligible Borrowers

ii) Recognised Lenders

iii) Amount and Maturity

iv) All-in-cost ceilings

v) End-use

vi) End-uses not permitted

vii) Guarantee

viii) Security

ix) Parking of ECB proceeds

x) Prepayment

xi) Refinancing of an existing ECB

xii) Debt Servicing

xiii) Procedure

xiv) Foreign Currency Exchangeable Bonds

xv) Empowered Committee

II. REPORTING ARANGEMENTS AND DISSEMINATION OF INFORMATION

i) Reporting Arrangements

ii) Dissemination of Information

iii) STRUCTURED OBLIGATIONS

iv). TAKE-OUT FINANCE

v) COMPLIANCE WITH ECB GUIDELINES

vi) CONVERSION OF ECB INTO EQUITY

vii) CRYSTALLISATION OF ECB

viii) ECB UNDER THE ERSTWHILE USD 5 MILLION SCHEME

ix) RATIONALIZATION OF PROCEDURES- DELEGATION OF POWERS TO AD

(a) Changes/modifications in the drawdown/repayment schedule

(b) Changes in the currency of borrowing

(c) Change of the AD bank

(d) Changes in the name of the Borrower Company

PART II

TRADE CREDITS FOR IMPORTS INTO INDIA

a) Amount and Maturity

b) All-in-cost Ceilings

c) Guarantee

d) Reporting Arrangements

Annex I - Form ECB

Annex II - Form 83

Annex-III ECB - 2

Annex IV- Form - TC

Annex V -Statement on Guarantees / Letter of Undertaking / Letter of Comfort issued by Authorised Dealer banks

Appendix List of Notification/ A.P. (DIR Series) Circulars

PART I

EXTERNAL COMMERCIAL BORROWINGS (ECB)

At present, Indian companies are allowed to access funds from abroad in the following methods:

(a) External Commercial Borrowings (ECB) refer to commercial loans in the form of bank loans, buyers’ credit, suppliers’ credit, securitized instruments (e.g. floating rate notes and fixed rate bonds, non-convertible, optionally convertible or partially convertible preference shares) availed of from non-resident lenders with a minimum average maturity of 3 years.

(b) Foreign Currency Convertible Bonds (FCCBs) mean a bond issued by an Indian company expressed in foreign currency, and the principal and interest in respect of which is payable in foreign currency. Further, the bonds are required to be issued in accordance with the scheme viz., "Issue of Foreign Currency Convertible Bonds and Ordinary Shares (Through Depositary Receipt Mechanism) Scheme, 1993”, and subscribed by a non-resident in foreign currency and convertible into ordinary shares of the issuing company in any manner, either in whole, or in part, on the basis of any equity related warrants attached to debt instruments. The ECB policy is applicable to FCCBs. The issue of FCCBs is also required to adhere to the provisions of Notification FEMA No. 120/RB-2004 dated July 7, 2004, as amended from time to time.

(c) Preference shares (i.e. non-convertible, optionally convertible or partially convertible) for issue of which, funds have been received on or after May 1, 2007 would be considered as debt and should conform to the ECB policy. Accordingly, all the norms applicable for ECBs, viz. eligible borrowers, recognised lenders, amount and maturity, end use stipulations, etc. shall apply. Since these instruments would be denominated in Rupees, the rupee interest rate will be based on the swap equivalent of LIBOR plus the spread as permissible for ECBs of corresponding maturity.

(d) Foreign Currency Exchangeable Bond (FCEB) means a bond expressed in foreign currency, the principal and interest in respect of which is payable in foreign currency, issued by an Issuing Company and subscribed to by a person who is a resident outside India, in foreign currency and exchangeable into equity share of another company, to be called the Offered Company, in any manner, either wholly, or partly or on the basis of any equity related warrants attached to debt instruments. The FCEB must comply with the “Issue of Foreign Currency Exchangeable Bonds (FCEB) Scheme, 2008”, notified by the Government of India, Ministry of Finance, Department of Economic Affairs vide Notification G.S.R.89(E) dated February 15, 2008. The guidelines, rules, etc governing ECBs are also applicable to FCEBs.

(e) ECB can be accessed under two routes, viz., (i) Automatic Route outlined in paragraph I (A) and (ii) Approval Route outlined in paragraph I (B).

(f) ECB for investment in real sector-industrial sector, infrastructure sector-in India, and specified service sectors as indicated under para I (A) (i) (a) are under Automatic Route, i.e. do not require Reserve Bank / Government of India approval. In case of doubt as regards eligibility to access the Automatic Route, applicants may take recourse to the Approval Route.

I.(A) AUTOMATIC ROUTE

The following types of proposals for ECBs are covered under the Automatic Route.

i) Eligible Borrowers

(a) Corporates, including those in the hotel, hospital, software sectors (registered under the Companies Act, 1956) and Infrastructure Finance Companies (IFCs) except financial intermediaries, such as banks, financial institutions (FIs), Housing Finance Companies (HFCs) and Non-Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs) are eligible to raise ECB. Individuals, Trusts and Non-Profit making organizations are not eligible to raise ECB.

(b) Units in Special Economic Zones (SEZ) are allowed to raise ECB for their own requirement. However, they cannot transfer or on-lend ECB funds to sister concerns or any unit in the Domestic Tariff Area. ECB by units in SEZ are also governed by the Press Release F.No.4 (2) / 2002-ECB dated September 15, 2002 issued by Government of India, Ministry of Finance (MOF).

(c) Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) engaged in micro finance activities are eligible to avail of ECB. Such NGOs (i) should have a satisfactory borrowing relationship for at least 3 years with a scheduled commercial bank authorized to deal in foreign exchange in India and (ii) would require a certificate of due diligence on `fit and proper’ status of the Board/ Committee of management of the borrowing entity from the designated AD  bank.

ii) Recognised Lenders

Borrowers can raise ECB from internationally recognized sources such as (i) international banks, (ii) international capital markets, (iii) multilateral financial institutions (such as IFC, ADB, CDC, etc.) / regional financial institutions and Government owned development financial institutions, (iv) export credit agencies, (v) suppliers of equipments, (vi) foreign collaborators and (vii) foreign equity holders (other than erstwhile Overseas Corporate Bodies (OCBs)).

A "foreign equity holder" to be eligible as “recognized lender” under the automatic route would require minimum holding of paid-up equity in the borrower company as set out below:

  1. For ECB up to USD 5 million - minimum paid-up equity of 25 per cent held directly by the lender,

  2. For ECB more than USD 5 million - minimum paid-up equity of 25 per cent held directly by the lender and debt-equity ratio not exceeding 4:1 (i.e. the proposed ECB not exceeding four times the direct foreign equity holding)

Overseas organizations and individuals complying with following safeguards may provide ECB to Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) engaged in micro finance activities.

(i) Overseas Organizations proposing to lend ECB would have to furnish to the AD bank of the borrower a certificate of due diligence from an overseas bank, which in turn is subject to regulation of host-country regulator and adheres to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) guidelines. The certificate of due diligence should comprise the following (i) that the lender maintains an account with the bank for at least a period of two years, (ii) that the lending entity is organised as per the local laws and held in good esteem by the business/local community and (iii) that there is no criminal action pending against it.

(ii) Individual Lender has to obtain a certificate of due diligence from an overseas bank indicating that the lender maintains an account with the bank for at least a period of two years. Other evidence /documents such as audited statement of account and income tax return which the overseas lender may furnish need to be certified and forwarded by the overseas bank. Individual lenders from countries wherein banks are not required to adhere to Know Your Customer (KYC) guidelines are not eligible to extend ECB.

iii) Amount and Maturity

  1. The maximum amount of ECB which can be raised by a corporate other than those in the hotel, hospital and software sectors is USD 500 million or its equivalent during a financial year.

  2. Corporates in the services sector viz. hotels, hospitals and software sector are allowed to avail of ECB up to USD 100 million or its equivalent in a financial year for meeting foreign currency and/ or Rupee capital expenditure for permissible end-uses. The proceeds of the ECBs should not be used for acquisition of land.

  3. ECB up to USD 20 million or its equivalent in a financial year with minimum average maturity of three years.

  4. ECB above USD 20 million or equivalent and up to USD 500 million or its equivalent with a minimum average maturity of five years.

  5. NGOs engaged in micro finance activities can raise ECB up to USD 5 million or its equivalent during a financial year. Designated AD bank has to ensure that at the time of drawdown the forex exposure of the borrower is fully hedged.

  6. ECB up to USD 20 million or equivalent can have call/put option provided the minimum average maturity of three years is complied with before exercising call/put option.

iv) All-in-cost ceilings

All-in-cost includes rate of interest, other fees and expenses in foreign currency except commitment fee, pre-payment fee, and fees payable in Indian Rupees.  The payment of withholding tax in Indian Rupees is excluded for calculating the all-in-cost.

The all-in-cost ceilings for ECB are reviewed from time to time. The following ceilings are valid until reviewed:

Average Maturity Period

All-in-cost Ceilings over 6 month LIBOR*

Three years and up to five years

300 basis points

More than five years

500 basis points

* for the respective currency of borrowing or applicable benchmark

In the case of fixed rate loans, the swap cost plus margin should be the equivalent of the floating rate plus the applicable margin.

v) End-use

  1. ECB can be raised for investment [such as import of capital goods (as classified by DGFT in the Foreign Trade Policy), new projects, modernization/expansion of existing production units] in real sector - industrial sector including small and medium enterprises (SME), infrastructure sector and specified service sectors namely hotel, hospital, software in India. Infrastructure sector is defined as (i) power, (ii) telecommunication, (iii) railways, (iv) roads including bridges, (v) sea port and airport, (vi) industrial parks, (vii) urban infrastructure (water supply, sanitation and sewage projects), (viii) mining, exploration and refining and (ix) cold storage or cold room facility, including for farm level pre-cooling, for preservation or storage of agricultural and allied produce, marine products and meat.

  2. Overseas direct investment in Joint Ventures (JV)/ Wholly Owned Subsidiaries (WOS) subject to the existing guidelines on Indian Direct Investment in JV/ WOS abroad.

  3. Utilization of ECB proceeds is permitted for first stage acquisition of shares in the disinvestment process and also in the mandatory second stage offer to the public under the Government’s disinvestment programme of PSU shares.

  4. For lending to self-help groups or for micro-credit or for bonafide micro finance activity including capacity building by NGOs engaged in micro finance activities.

  5. Payment for Spectrum Allocation.

  6. Infrastructure Finance Companies (IFCs) i.e. Non Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs) categorized as IFCs by the Reserve Bank, are permitted to avail of ECBs, including the outstanding ECBs, up to 50 per cent of their owned funds, for on-lending to the infrastructure sector as defined under the ECB policy, subject to their complying with the following conditions: i) compliance with the norms prescribed in the DNBS Circular DNBS.PD.CCNo.168 / 03.02.089 / 2009-10 dated February 12, 2010 ii) hedging of the currency risk in full. Designated Authorised Dealer should ensure compliance with the extant norms while certifying the ECB application.

vi) End-uses not permitted

(a) For on-lending or investment in capital market or acquiring a company (or a part thereof) in India by a corporate [investment in Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs), Money Market Mutual Funds (MMMFs), etc., are also considered as investment in capital markets).

(b) for real estate sector,

(c) for working capital, general corporate purpose and repayment of existing Rupee loans.

vii) Guarantees

Issuance of guarantee, standby letter of credit, letter of undertaking or letter of comfort by banks, Financial Institutions and Non-Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs) from India relating to ECB is not permitted.

viii) Security

The choice of security to be provided to the lender/supplier is left to the borrower. However, creation of charge over immoveable assets and financial securities, such as shares, in favour of the overseas lender is subject to Regulation 8 of Notification No. FEMA 21/RB-2000 dated May 3, 2000 and Regulation 3 of Notification No. FEMA 20/RB-2000 dated May 3, 2000, respectively, as amended from time to time. AD Category - I banks have been delegated powers to convey ‘no objection’ under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA), 1999 for creation of charge on immovable assets, financial securities and issue of corporate or personal guarantees in favour of overseas lender / security trustee, to secure the ECB to be raised by the borrower.

Before according ‘no objection’ under FEMA, 1999,  AD Category - I banks should ensure and satisfy themselves that (i) the underlying ECB is strictly in compliance with the extant ECB guidelines, (ii) there exists a security clause in the loan agreement requiring the borrower to create charge on immovable assets / financial securities / furnish corporate or personal guarantee, (iii) the loan agreement has been signed by both the lender and the borrower and (iv) the borrower has obtained Loan Registration Number (LRN) from the Reserve Bank.

On compliance with the above conditions, AD Category - I banks may convey their ‘no objection’, under FEMA, 1999 for creation of charge on immovable assets, financial securities and issue of personal or corporate guarantee, subject to the conditions indicated below:

a) The ‘no objection’ for creation of charge on immovable assets may be conveyed under FEMA, 1999 either in favour of the lender or the security trustee, subject to the following conditions:

  1. ‘No objection’ shall be granted only to a resident ECB borrower.

  2. The period of such charge on immovable assets has to be co-terminus with the maturity of the underlying ECB.

  3. Such ‘no objection’ should not be construed as a permission to acquire immovable asset (property) in India, by the overseas lender / security trustee.

  4. In the event of enforcement / invocation of the charge, the immovable asset (property) will have to be sold only to a person resident in India and the sale proceeds shall be repatriated to liquidate the outstanding ECB.

b) AD Category – I banks may convey their 'no objection' under FEMA, 1999 to the resident ECB borrower for pledge of shares of the borrowing company held by promoters as well as in domestic associate companies of the borrower to secure the ECB subject to the following conditions:

  1. The period of such pledge shall be co-terminus with the maturity of the underlying ECB.

  2. In case of invocation of pledge, transfer shall be in accordance with the extant FDI policy.

  3. A certificate from the Statutory Auditor of the company that the ECB proceeds have been / will be utilized for the permitted end-use/s.

c) The ‘no objection’ to the resident ECB borrower for issue of corporate or personal guarantee under FEMA, 1999 may be conveyed after obtaining:

  1. Board Resolution for issue of corporate guarantee from the company issuing such guarantees, specifying names of the officials authorised to execute such guarantees on behalf of the company or in individual capacity.

  2. Specific requests from individuals to issue personal guarantee indicating details of the ECB.

  3. Ensuring that the period of such corporate or personal guarantee is co-terminus with the maturity of the underlying ECB.

AD Category – I banks may invariably specify that the ‘no objection’ is issued from the foreign exchange angle under the provisions of FEMA, 1999 and should not be construed as an approval by any other statutory authority or Government under any other law/ regulation. If further approval or permission is required from any other regulatory / statutory authority or Government under the relevant laws / regulations, the applicant should take the approval of the authority concerned before undertaking the transaction. Further, the 'no objection' should not be construed as regularizing or validating any irregularities, contravention or other lapses, if any, under the provisions of FEMA or any other laws or regulations.

ix) Parking of ECB proceeds

Borrowers are permitted to either keep ECB proceeds abroad or to remit these funds to India, pending utilization for permissible end-uses.

ECB proceeds parked overseas can be invested in the following liquid assets (a) deposits or Certificate of Deposit or other products offered by banks rated not less than AA (-) by Standard and Poor/Fitch IBCA or Aa3 by Moody’s (b) Treasury bills and other monetary instruments of one year maturity having minimum rating as indicated above, and (c) deposits with overseas branches / subsidiaries of Indian banks abroad. The funds should be invested in such a way that the investments can be liquidated as and when funds are required by the borrower in India.

ECB funds may also be repatriated to India for credit to the borrowers’ Rupee accounts with AD Category I banks in India, pending utilization for permissible end-uses.

x) Prepayment

Prepayment of ECB up to USD 500 million may be allowed by AD banks without prior approval of Reserve Bank subject to compliance with the stipulated minimum average maturity period as applicable to the loan.

xi) Refinancing of an existing ECB

The existing ECB may be refinanced by raising a fresh ECB subject to the condition that the fresh ECB is raised at a lower all-in-cost and the outstanding maturity of the original ECB is maintained.

xii) Debt Servicing

The designated AD bankhas the general permission to make remittances of installments of principal, interest and other charges in conformity with the ECB guidelines issued by Government / Reserve Bank of India from time to time.

xiii) Procedure

Borrowers may enter into loan agreement complying with the ECB guidelines with recognised lender for raising ECB under Automatic Route without the prior approval of the Reserve Bank. The borrower must obtain a Loan Registration Number (LRN) from the Reserve Bank of India before drawing down the ECB. The procedure for obtaining LRN is detailed in para II (i) (b).

I.(B) APPROVAL ROUTE

i) Eligible Borrowers

The following types of proposals for ECB are covered under the Approval Route:

  1. On lending by the EXIM Bank for specific purposes will be considered on a case by case basis.

  2. Banks and financial institutions which had participated in the textile or steel sector restructuring package as approved by the Government are also permitted to the extent of their investment in the package and assessment by the  Reserve Bank based on prudential norms. Any ECB availed for this purpose so far will be deducted from their entitlement.

  3. ECB with minimum average maturity of 5 years by Non-Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs) from multilateral financial institutions, reputable regional financial institutions, official export credit agencies and international banks to finance import of infrastructure equipment for leasing to infrastructure projects.

  4. Infrastructure Finance Companies (IFCs) i.e. Non-Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs), categorized as IFCs, by the Reserve Bank, are permitted to avail of ECBs, including the outstanding ECBs, beyond 50 per cent of their owned funds, for on-lending to the infrastructure sector as defined under the ECB policy, subject to their complying with the following conditions: i) compliance with the norms prescribed in the DNBS Circular DNBS.PD.CCNo.168 / 03.02.089 / 2009-10 dated February 12, 2010 ii) hedging of the currency risk in full. Designated Authorised Dealer should ensure compliance with the extant norms while certifying the ECB application.

  5. Foreign Currency Convertible Bonds (FCCBs) by Housing Finance Companies satisfying the following minimum criteria: (i) the minimum net worth of the financial intermediary during the previous three years shall not be less than Rs. 500 crore, (ii) a listing on the BSE or NSE, (iii) minimum size of FCCB is USD 100 million and (iv) the applicant should submit the purpose / plan of utilization of funds.

  6. Special Purpose Vehicles, or any other entity notified by the Reserve Bank, set up to finance infrastructure companies / projects exclusively, will be treated as Financial Institutions and ECB by such entities will be considered under the Approval Route.

  7. Multi-State Co-operative Societies engaged in manufacturing activity and satisfying the  following criteria i) the Co-operative Society is financially solvent and ii) the Co-operative Society submits its up-to-date audited balance sheet.

  8. SEZ developers can avail of ECBs for providing infrastructure facilities within SEZ, as defined in the extant ECB policy like (i) power, (ii) telecommunication, (iii) railways, (iv) roads including bridges, (v) sea port and airport, (vi) industrial parks, (vii) urban infrastructure (water supply, sanitation and sewage projects), (viii) mining, exploration and refining and (ix) cold storage or cold room facility, including for farm level pre-cooling, for preservation or storage of agricultural and allied produce, marine products and meat.

  9. Corporates in the services sector viz. hotels, hospitals and software sector can avail of ECB beyond USD 100 million per financial year.

  10. Corporates which have violated the extant ECB policy and are under investigation by the Reserve Bank and / or Directorate of Enforcement are allowed to avail of ECB only under the approval route.

  11. Cases falling outside the purview of the automatic route limits and maturity period indicated at paragraph A (iii).

ii) Recognised Lenders

(a) Borrowers can raise ECB from internationally recognised sources such as (i) international banks, (ii) international capital markets, (iii) multilateral financial institutions (such as IFC, ADB, CDC, etc.)/ regional financial institutions and Government owned development financial institutions, (iv) export credit agencies, (v) suppliers' of equipment, (vi) foreign collaborators and (vii) foreign equity holders (other than erstwhile OCBs).

(b) From 'foreign equity holder' where the minimum paid-up equity held directly by the foreign equity lender is 25 per cent but ECBs: equity ratio exceeds 4:1 (i.e. the proposed ECB exceeds four times the direct foreign equity holding).

iii) Amount and Maturity

Corporates in the services sector viz. hotels, hospitals and software sector are allowed to avail of ECB beyond USD 100 million or its equivalent in a financial year for meeting foreign currency and/ or Rupee capital expenditure for permissible end-uses. The proceeds of the ECBs should not be used for acquisition of land.

Corporates can avail of ECB of an additional amount of USD 250 million with average maturity of more than 10 years under the approval route, over and above the existing limit of USD 500 million under the automatic route, during a financial year. Other ECB criteria, such as end-use, recognized lender, etc., need to be complied with. Prepayment and call/put options, however, would not be permissible for such ECB up to a period of 10 years.

iv)  All-in-cost ceilings

All-in-cost includes rate of interest, other fees and expenses in foreign currency except commitment fee, pre-payment fee, and fees payable in Indian Rupees. The payment of withholding tax in Indian Rupees is excluded for calculating the all-in-cost.

The all-in-cost ceilings for ECB are reviewed from time to time. The following ceilings are valid until reviewed:

Average Maturity Period

All-in-cost Ceilings over 6 month LIBOR*

Three years and up to five years

300 basis points

More than five years

500 basis points

* for the respective currency of borrowing or applicable benchmark

In the case of fixed rate loans, the swap cost plus the margin should be the equivalent of the floating rate plus the applicable margin.

v) End-use

a) ECB can be raised only for investment [such as import of capital goods (as classified by DGFT in the Foreign Trade Policy), implementation of new projects, modernization/expansion of existing production units] in real sector - industrial sector including small and medium enterprises (SME) and infrastructure sector - in India. Infrastructure sector is defined as (i) power (ii) telecommunication (iii) railways (iv) roads including bridges (v) sea port and airport (vi) industrial parks (vii) urban infrastructure (water supply, sanitation and sewage projects) (viii) mining, exploration and refining and (ix) cold storage or cold room facility, including for farm level pre-cooling, for preservation or storage of agricultural and allied produce, marine products and meat.

b) Overseas direct investment in Joint Ventures (JV)/Wholly Owned Subsidiaries (WOS) subject to the existing guidelines on Indian Direct Investment in JV/WOS abroad.

c) The payment by eligible borrowers in the Telecom sector, for spectrum allocation may, initially, be met out of Rupee resources by the successful bidders, to be refinanced with a long-term ECB, under the approval route, subject to the following conditions:

  1. The ECB should be raised within 12 months from the date of payment of the final installment to the Government;

  2. The designated AD - Category I bank should monitor the end-use of funds;

  3. Banks in India will not be permitted to provide any form of guarantees; and 

  4. All other conditions of ECB, such as eligible borrower, recognized lender, all-in-cost, average maturity, etc, should be complied with.

d) The first stage acquisition of shares in the disinvestment process and also in the mandatory second stage offer to the public under the Government’s disinvestment programme of PSU shares.

vi) End-uses not permitted

(a) For on-lending or investment in capital market or acquiring a company (or a part thereof) in India by a corporate except Infrastructure Finance Companies (IFCs), banks and financial institutions eligible under paragraph I (B) (i) (a), (b) and (d).

(b) For real estate.

(c) For working capital, general corporate purpose and repayment of existing Rupee loans.

vii) Guarantee

Issuance of guarantee, standby letter of credit, letter of undertaking or letter of comfort by banks, financial institutions and NBFCs relating to ECB is not normally permitted.  Applications for providing guarantee/standby letter of credit or letter of comfort by banks, financial institutions relating to ECB in the case of SME will be considered on merit subject to prudential norms.

With a view to facilitating capacity expansion and technological upgradation in Indian textile industry, issue of guarantees, standby letters of credit, letters of undertaking and letters of comfort by banks in respect of ECB by textile companies for modernization or expansion of textile units will be considered under the Approval Route subject to prudential norms.

viii) Security

The choice of security to be provided to the lender / supplier is left to the borrower. However, creation of charge over immovable assets and financial securities, such as shares, in favour of the overseas lender is subject to Regulation 8 of Notification No. FEMA 21/RB-2000 dated May 3, 2000 and Regulation 3 of Notification No. FEMA 20/RB-2000 dated May 3, 2000 as amended from time to time, respectively. Powers have been delegated to Authorised Dealer Category I banks to issue necessary NOCs under FEMA as detailed in para I (A) (viii) ibid.

ix) Parking of ECB proceeds

Borrowers are permitted to either keep ECB proceeds abroad or to remit these funds to India, pending utilization for permissible end-uses.

ECB proceeds parked overseas can be invested in the following liquid assets (a) deposits or Certificate of Deposit or other products offered by banks rated not less than AA (-) by Standard and Poor/ Fitch IBCA or Aa3 by Moody’s; (b) Treasury bills and other monetary instruments of one year maturity having minimum rating as indicated above and (c) deposits with overseas branches / subsidiaries of Indian banks abroad. The funds should be invested in such a way that the investments can be liquidated as and when funds are required by the borrower in India.

ECB funds may also be repatriated to India for credit to the borrowers’ Rupee accounts with AD Category I banks in India pending utilization for permissible end-uses.

x) Prepayment

(a) Prepayment of ECB up to USD 500 million may be allowed by the AD bank without prior approval of the Reserve Bank subject to compliance with the stipulated minimum average maturity period as applicable to the loan.

(b) Pre-payment of ECB for amounts exceeding USD 500 million would be considered by the Reserve Bank under the Approval Route.

xi) Refinancing of an existing ECB

Existing ECB may be refinanced by raising a fresh ECB subject to the condition that the fresh ECB is raised at a lower all-in-cost and the outstanding maturity of the original ECB is maintained.

xii) Debt Servicing

The designated AD bank has general permission to make remittances of installments of principal, interest and other charges in conformity with the ECB guidelines issued by Government / Reserve Bank from time to time.

xiii) Procedure

Applicants are required to submit an application in form ECB through designated AD bank to the Chief General Manager-in-Charge, Foreign Exchange Department, Reserve Bank of India, Central Office, External Commercial Borrowings Division, Mumbai – 400 001, along with necessary documents.

xiv) Foreign Currency Exchangeable Bonds

Foreign Currency Exchangeable Bond (FCEB) means a bond expressed in foreign currency, the principal and interest in respect of which is payable in foreign currency, issued by an Issuing Company and subscribed to by a person who is a resident outside India, in foreign currency and exchangeable into equity share of another company, to be called the Offered Company, in any manner, either wholly, or partly or on the basis of any equity related warrants attached to debt instruments. The FCEB may be denominated in any freely convertible foreign currency.

Eligible Issuer: The Issuing Company shall be part of the promoter group of the Offered Company and shall hold the equity share/s being offered at the time of issuance of FCEB.

Offered Company: The Offered Company shall be a listed company, which is engaged in a sector eligible to receive Foreign Direct Investment and eligible to issue or avail of Foreign Currency Convertible Bond (FCCB) or External Commercial Borrowings (ECB).

Entities not eligible to issue FCEB : An Indian company, which is not eligible to raise funds from the Indian securities market, including a company which has been restrained from accessing the securities market by the SEBI shall not be eligible to issue FCEB.

Eligible subscriber : Entities complying with the Foreign Direct Investment policy and adhering to the sectoral caps at the time of issue of FCEB can subscribe to FCEB. Prior approval of the Foreign Investment Promotion Board, wherever required under the Foreign Direct Investment policy, should be obtained.

Entities not eligible to subscribe to FCEB : Entities prohibited to buy, sell or deal in securities by the SEBI will not be eligible to subscribe to FCEB.

End-use of FCEB proceeds:

Issuing Company:

(i) The proceeds of FCEB may be invested by the issuing company overseas by way of direct investment including in Joint Ventures or Wholly Owned Subsidiaries abroad, subject to the existing guidelines on overseas investment in Joint Ventures / Wholly Owned Subsidiaries.

(ii) The proceeds of FCEB may be invested by the issuing company in the promoter group companies.

Promoter Group Companies: Promoter group companies receiving investments out of the FCEB proceeds may utilize the amount in accordance with end-uses prescribed under the ECB policy.

End-uses not permitted: The promoter group company receiving such investments will not be permitted to utilise the proceeds for investments in the capital market or in real estate in India.

All-in-cost : The rate of interest payable on FCEB and the issue expenses incurred in foreign currency shall be within the all-in-cost ceiling as specified by Reserve Bank under the ECB policy.

Pricing of FCEB: At the time of issuance of FCEB the exchange price of the offered listed equity shares shall not be less than the higher of the following two:

(i) The average of the weekly high and low of the closing prices of the shares of the offered company quoted on the stock exchange during the six months preceding the relevant date; and

(ii) The average of the weekly high and low of the closing prices of the shares of the offered company quoted on a stock exchange during the two week preceding the relevant date.

Average Maturity : Minimum maturity of FCEB shall be five years. The exchange option can be exercised at any time before redemption. While exercising the exchange option, the holder of the FCEB shall take delivery of the offered shares. Cash (Net) settlement of FCEB shall not be permissible.

Parking of FCEB proceeds abroad : The proceeds of FCEB may be retained and / or deployed overseas by the issuing / promoter group companies in accordance with the policy for the ECB or repatriated to India for credit to the borrowers’ Rupee accounts with AD Category I banks in India pending utilization for permissible end-uses. It shall be the responsibility of the issuing company to ensure that the proceeds of FCEB are used by the promoter group company only for the permitted end-uses prescribed under the ECB policy. The issuing company should also submit audit trail of the end-use of the proceeds by the issuing company / promoter group companies to the Reserve Bank duly certified by the designated AD bank.

Operational Procedure – Issuance of FCEB shall require prior approval of the Reserve Bank under the Approval Route for raising ECB. The Reporting arrangement for FCEB shall be as per the extant ECB policy.

xv) Empowered Committee

Reserve Bank has set up an Empowered Committee to consider proposals coming under the Approval Route.

II. REPORTING ARANGEMENTS AND DISSEMINATION OF INFORMATION

i) Reporting Arrangements

  1. With a view to simplifying the procedure, submission of copy of loan agreement is dispensed with.

  2. For allotment of Loan Registration Number (LRN), borrowers are required to submit Form 83, in duplicate, certified by the Company Secretary (CS) or Chartered Accountant (CA) to the designated AD bank. One copy is to be forwarded by the designated AD bank to the Director, Balance of Payments Statistics Division, Department of Statistics and Information Systems (DSIM), Reserve Bank of India, Bandra-Kurla Complex, Mumbai – 400 051.

    (Note: copies of loan agreement and offer documents for FCCB are not required to be submitted with Form 83).

  3. The borrower can draw-down the loan only after obtaining the LRN from DSIM, Reserve Bank.

  4. Borrowers are required to submit ECB-2 Return certified by the designated AD bank on monthly basis so as to reach DSIM, Reserve Bank within seven working days from the close of month to which it relates.

[Note: All previous returns relating to ECB viz. ECB 3 – ECB 6 have been discontinued with effect from January 31, 2004].

ii) Dissemination of Information

For providing greater transparency, information with regard to the name of the borrower, amount, purpose and maturity of ECB under both Automatic and Approval routes are put on the Reserve Bank’s website, on a monthly basis, with a lag of one month to which it relates.

III. STRUCTURED OBLIGATIONS

Borrowing and lending of Indian Rupees between two residents does not attract any provisions of the Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999. In cases where a Rupee loan is granted against the guarantee provided by a non-resident, there is no transaction involving foreign exchange until the guarantee is invoked and the non-resident guarantor is required to meet the liability under the guarantee. The non-resident guarantor may discharge the liability by i) payment out of rupee balances held in India or ii) by remitting the funds to India or iii) by debit to his FCNR(B)/NRE account maintained with an AD bank in India. In such cases the non-resident guarantor may enforce his claim against the resident borrower to recover the amount and on recovery he may seek repatriation of the amount if the liability is discharged either by inward remittance or by debit to FCNR(B)/NRE account. However, in case the liability is discharged by payment out of Rupee balances the amount recovered can be credited to the NRO account of the non-resident guarantor.

The Reserve Bank vide its Notification No. FEMA.29/ RB-2000 dated September 26, 2000 has granted general permission to a resident, being a principal debtor to make payment to a person resident outside India, who has met the liability under a guarantee. Accordingly, in cases where the liability is met by the non-resident out of funds remitted to India or by debit to his FCNR(B)/NRE account, the repayment may be made by credit to the FCNR(B)/NRE/NRO account of the guarantor provided, the amount remitted/credited shall not exceed the rupee equivalent of the amount paid by the non-resident guarantor against the invoked guarantee.

The facility of credit enhancement by eligible non-resident entities may be extended to domestic debt raised through issue of capital market instruments, such as debentures and bonds, by Indian companies engaged exclusively in the development of infrastructure and by the Infrastructure Finance Companies (IFCs), which have been classified as such by the Reserve Bank in terms of the guidelines contained in the circular DNBS.PD. CC No. 168 / 03.02.089 / 2009-10 dated February 12, 2010, subject to the following conditions:

  1. credit enhancement should be provided by multilateral / regional financial institutions and Government owned development financial institutions;

  2. the underlying debt instrument should have a minimum average maturity of seven years;

  3. prepayment and call / put options are not permissible for such capital market instruments up to an average maturity period of 7 years;

  4. guarantee fee and other costs in connection with credit enhancement will be restricted to a maximum 2 per cent of the principal amount involved;

  5. on invocation of the credit enhancement, if the guarantor meets the liability and if the same is permissible to be repaid in foreign currency to the eligible non-resident entity, the all-in-cost ceilings, as applicable to the relevant maturity period of the Trade Credit / ECBs, is applicable to the novated loan. The all-in-cost ceilings, depending on the average maturity period, are applicable as follows:

Average maturity period of the loan on invocation

All-in-cost ceilings over 6 month LIBOR*

Up to 3 years

200 basis points

Three years and up to five years

300 basis points

More than five years

500 basis points

*for the respective currency of borrowing or applicable benchmark
  1. In case of default and if the loan is serviced in Indian Rupees, the applicable rate of interest would be the coupon of the bonds or 250 bps over the prevailing secondary market yield of 5 years Government of India security, as on the date of novation, whichever is higher;

  2. IFCs proposing to avail of the credit enhancement facility should comply with the eligibility criteria and prudential norms laid down in the circular DNBS.PD.CC No.168 / 03.02.089 / 2009-10 dated February 12, 2010 and in case the novated loan is designated in foreign currency, the IFC should hedge the entire foreign currency exposure; and

  3. The reporting arrangements as applicable to the ECBs would be applicable to the novated loans.

IV. TAKE-OUT FINANCE

As per the extant norms, refinancing of domestic Rupee loans with ECB is not permitted. However, keeping in view the special funding needs of the infrastructure sector, a scheme of take-out finance has been put in place. Accordingly, take-out financing arrangement through ECB, under the approval route, has been permitted for refinancing of Rupee loans availed of from the domestic banks by eligible borrowers in the sea port and airport, roads including bridges and power sectors for the development of new projects, subject to the following conditions:

  1. The corporate developing the infrastructure project should have a tripartite agreement with domestic banks and overseas recognized lenders for either a conditional or unconditional take-out of the loan within three years of the scheduled Commercial Operation Date (COD). The scheduled date of occurrence of the take-out should be clearly mentioned in the agreement.

  2. The loan should have a minimum average maturity period of seven years.

  3. The domestic bank financing the infrastructure project should comply with the extant prudential norms relating to take-out financing.

  4. The fee payable, if any, to the overseas lender until the take-out shall not exceed 100 bps per annum.

  5. On take-out, the residual loan agreed to be taken- out by the overseas lender would be considered as ECB and the loan should be designated in a convertible foreign currency and all extant norms relating to ECB should be complied with.

  6. Domestic banks / Financial Institutions will not be permitted to guarantee the take-out finance.

  7. The domestic bank will not be allowed to carry any obligation on its balance sheet after the occurrence of the take-out event.

  8. Reporting arrangement as prescribed under the ECB policy should be adhered to.

V. COMPLIANCE WITH ECB GUIDELINES

The primary responsibility to ensure that ECB raised / utilised are in conformity with the ECB guidelines and the Reserve Bank regulations / directions is that of the borrower concerned and any contravention of the ECB guidelines will be viewed seriously and will invite penal action under FEMA 1999 (cf. A. P. (DIR Series) Circular No. 31 dated February 1, 2005).  The designated AD bank is also required to ensure that raising / utilisation of ECB is in compliance with ECB guidelines at the time of certification.

VI. CONVERSION OF ECB INTO EQUITY

(i) Conversion of ECB into equity is permitted subject to the following conditions:

  1. The activity of the company is covered under the Automatic Route for Foreign Direct Investment or Government (FIPB) approval for foreign equity participation has been obtained by the company, wherever applicable.

  2. The foreign equity holding after such conversion of debt into equity is within the sectoral cap, if any,

  3. Pricing of shares is as per the pricing guidelines issued under FEMA, 1999 in the case of listed/ unlisted companies.

(ii) Conversion of ECB may be reported to the Reserve Bank as follows:

  1. Borrowers are required to report full conversion of outstanding ECB into equity in the form FC-GPR to the Regional Office concerned of the Reserve Bank as well as in form ECB-2 submitted to the DSIM, RBI within seven working days from the close of month to which it relates. The words "ECB wholly converted to equity" should be clearly indicated on top of the ECB-2 form. Once reported, filing of ECB-2 in the subsequent months is not necessary.

  2. In case of partial conversion of outstanding ECB into equity, borrowers are required to report the converted portion in form FC-GPR to the Regional Office concerned as well as in form ECB-2 clearly differentiating the converted portion from the unconverted portion. The words "ECB partially converted to equity" should be indicated on top of the ECB-2 form. In subsequent months, the outstanding portion of ECB should be reported in ECB-2 form to DSIM.

VII. CRYSTALLISATION OF ECB

AD  banks desiring to crystallize their foreign exchange liability arising out of guarantees provided for ECB raised by corporates in India into Rupees, may make an application to the Chief General Manager-in-Charge, Foreign Exchange Department, External Commercial Borrowings Division, Reserve Bank of India, Central Office, Mumbai 400 001, giving full details viz., name of the borrower, amount raised, maturity, circumstances leading to invocation of guarantee /letter of comfort, date of default, its impact on the liabilities of the overseas branch of the AD  bank concerned and other relevant factors.

VIII. ECB UNDER THE ERSTWHILE USD 5 MILLION SCHEME

Designated AD banks are permitted to approve elongation of repayment period for loans raised under the erstwhile USD 5 Million Scheme, provided there is a consent letter from the overseas lender for such reschedulement without any additional cost.  Such approval with existing and revised repayment schedule along with the Loan Key/Loan Registration Number should be initially communicated to the Chief General Manager-in-Charge, Foreign Exchange Department, ECB Division Reserve Bank of India, Central Office, Mumbai within seven days of approval and subsequently in ECB - 2.

IX. RATIONALIZATION OF PROCEDURES
- DELEGATION OF POWERS TO AD

Any changes in the terms and conditions of the ECB after obtaining LRN from DSIM, RBI required the prior approval of RBI. The powers have been delegated to the designated AD Category-I banks to approve the following requests from the ECB borrowers, subject to specified conditions:

(a) Changes/modifications in the drawdown/repayment schedule

Designated AD Category-I banks may approve changes/modifications in the drawdown/repayment schedule of the ECBs already availed, both under the approval and the automatic routes, subject to the condition that the average maturity period, as declared while obtaining the LRN, is maintained. The changes in the drawdown/repayment schedule should be promptly reported to the DSIM, RBI in Form 83. However, any elongation/rollover in the repayment on expiry of the original maturity of the ECB would require the prior approval of the Reserve Bank.

(b) Changes in the currency of borrowing

Designated AD Category-I banks may allow changes in the currency of borrowing, if so desired, by the borrower company, in respect of ECBs availed of both under the automatic and the approval routes, subject to all other terms and conditions of the ECB remaining unchanged. Designated AD banks should, however, ensure that the proposed currency of borrowing is freely convertible.
 
(c) Change of the AD bank

Designated AD Category-I banks may allow change of the existing designated AD bank by the borrower company for effecting its transactions pertaining to the ECBs subject to No-Objection Certificate (NOC) from the existing designated AD bank and after due diligence.

(d) Changes in the name of the Borrower Company

Designated AD Category-I banks may allow changes in the name of the borrower company subject to production of supporting documents evidencing the change in the name from the Registrar of Companies.

PART-II

TRADE CREDITS FOR IMPORTS INTO INDIA

Trade Credits’ (TC) refer to credits extended for imports directly by the overseas supplier, bank and financial institution for maturity of less than three years.  Depending on the source of finance, such trade credits include suppliers’ credit or buyers’ credit. Suppliers’ credit relates to credit for imports into India extended by the overseas supplier, while buyers’ credit refers to loans for payment of imports into India arranged by the importer from a bank or financial institution outside India for maturity of less than three years.  It may be noted that buyers’ credit and suppliers’ credit for three years and above come under the category of External Commercial Borrowings (ECB) which are governed by ECB guidelines.

a) Amount and Maturity

AD banks are permitted to approve trade credits for imports into India up to USD 20 million per import transaction for imports permissible under the current Foreign Trade Policy of the DGFT with a maturity period up to one year (from the date of shipment). For import of capital goods as classified by DGFT, AD banks may approve trade credits up to USD 20 million per import transaction with a maturity period of more than one year and less than three years (from the date of shipment). No roll-over/extension will be permitted beyond the permissible period.

AD banks shall not approve trade credit exceeding USD 20 million per import transaction.

b) All-in-cost Ceilings

The current all-in-cost ceilings are as under :

Maturity period

All-in-cost ceilings over 6 months LIBOR*

Up to one year

200 basis points

More than one year but less than three  years

* for the respective currency of credit or applicable benchmark

The all-in-cost ceilings include arranger fee, upfront fee, management fee, handling/ processing charges, out of pocket and legal expenses, if any.

c) Guarantee

AD banks are permitted to issue Letters of Credit/guarantees/Letter of Undertaking (LoU) /Letter of Comfort (LoC) in favour of overseas supplier, bank and financial institution, up to USD 20 million per transaction for a period up to one year for import of all non-capital goods permissible under Foreign Trade Policy (except gold, palladium, platinum, Rodium, silver etc.) and up to three years for import of capital goods, subject to prudential guidelines issued by Reserve Bank from time to time. The period of such Letters of credit / guarantees / LoU / LoC has to be co-terminus with the period of credit, reckoned from the date of shipment.

d) Reporting Arrangements

AD banks are required to furnish details of approvals, drawal, utilisation, and repayment of trade credit granted by all its branches, in a consolidated statement, during the month, in form TC (format in Annex IV) from April 2004 onwards to the Director, Division of International Finance, Department of Economic Analysis and Policy, Reserve Bank of India, Central Office Building, 8th floor, Fort, Mumbai – 400 001 (and in MS-Excel file through email)  so as to reach not later than 10th of the following month. Each trade credit may be given a unique identification number by the AD bank.

AD banks are required to furnish data on issuance of LCs / guarantees / LoU / LoC by all its branches, in a consolidated statement, at quarterly intervals (format in Annex V) to the Chief General Manager-in-Charge, Foreign Exchange Department, ECB Division, Reserve Bank of India, Central Office Building, 11th floor, Fort, Mumbai – 400 001 (and in MS-Excel file through email ) from December 2004 onwards so as to reach the Department not later than 10th of the following month.


Appendix

List of Notification/ A.P. (DIR Series) Circulars
consolidated in the Master Circular on
External Commercial Borrowings and Trade Credits

Sl. No.

Notification / Circular

Date

1.

FEMA 3/2000-RB

May 3, 2000

2.

FEMA 126/2004-RB

December 13, 2004

3.

FEMA 127/2005-RB

January 5, 2005

4.

FEMA 129/2005-RB

January 20, 2005

5.

FEMA 142/2005-RB

December 6, 2005

6.

FEMA.157/2007-RB

August 30, 2007

7.

FEMA.194/2009-RB

June 17, 2009

8.

FEMA.197/2009-RB

September 22, 2009


1.

A.P.(DIR Series) Circular No.41

April 29, 2002

2.

A.P.(DIR Series) Circular No.29

October 18, 2003

3.

A.P.(DIR Series) Circular No.60

January 31, 2004

4.

A.P.(DIR Series) Circular No.75

February 23, 2004

5.

A.P.(DIR Series) Circular No.82

April 1, 2004

6.

A.P.(DIR Series) Circular No.87

April 17, 2004

7.

A.P.(DIR Series) Circular No.15

October 1, 2004

8.

A.P.(DIR Series) Circular No.24

November 1, 2004

9.

A.P.(DIR Series) Circular No.40

April 25, 2005

10.

A.P.(DIR Series) Circular No.5

August 1, 2005

11.

A.P.(DIR Series) Circular No.15

November 4, 2005

12.

A.P.(DIR Series) Circular No.23

January 23, 2006

13.

A.P.(DIR Series) Circular No.34

May 12, 2006

14.

A.P.(DIR Series) Circular No.17

December 4, 2006

15.

A.P.(DIR Series) Circular No.44

April 30, 2007

16.

A.P.(DIR Series) Circular No.60

May 21, 2007

17.

A.P.(DIR Series) Circular No.04

August 7, 2007

18.

A.P.(DIR Series) Circular No.10

September 26, 2007

19.

A.P.(DIR Series) Circular No.42

May 28, 2008

20.

A.P.(DIR Series) Circular No.43

May 29, 2008

21.

A.P.(DIR Series) Circular No.46

June 2, 2008

22.

A.P.(DIR Series) Circular No.1

July 11, 2008

23.

A.P.(DIR Series) Circular No.16

September 22, 2008

24.

A.P.(DIR Series) Circular No.17

September 23, 2008

25.

A.P.(DIR Series) Circular No.20

October 8, 2008

26.

A.P.(DIR Series) Circular No.26

October 22, 2008

27.

A.P.(DIR Series) Circular No.27

October 27, 2008

28.

A.P.(DIR Series) Circular No.39

December 8, 2008

29.

A.P.(DIR Series) Circular No.46

January 2, 2009

30.

A.P.(DIR Series) Circular No.58

March 13, 2009

31.

A.P.(DIR Series) Circular No.64

April 28, 2009

32.

A.P.(DIR Series) Circular No.65

April 28, 2009

33.

A.P.(DIR Series) Circular No.71

June 30,  2009

34.

A.P.(DIR Series) Circular No.19

December 9, 2009

35.

A.P.(DIR Series) Circular No.28

January 25, 2010

36.

A.P.(DIR Series) Circular No.33

February 9, 2010

37.

A.P.(DIR Series) Circular No.38

March 2, 2010

39.

A.P.(DIR Series) Circular No.39

March 2, 2010

40.

A.P.(DIR Series) Circular No.40

March 2, 2010

41.

A.P.(DIR Series) Circular No.44

March 29, 2010

42.

A.P.(DIR Series) Circular No.51

May 12, 2010

43.

A.P.(DIR Series) Circular No.04

July 22, 2010

44.

A.P.DIR Series) Circular No.08

August 12, 2010

 
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