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Commercial Paper

1. What is Commercial Paper (CP)?

Commercial Paper (CP) is an unsecured money market instrument issued in the form of a promissory note.

2. When it was introduced?

It was introduced in India in 1990.

3. Why it was introduced?

It was introduced in India in 1990 with a view to enabling highly rated corporate borrowers to diversify their sources of short-term borrowings and to provide an additional instrument to investors. Subsequently, primary dealers and all-India financial institutions were also permitted to issue CP to enable them to meet their short-term funding requirements for their operations.

4. Who can issue CP?

Corporates, primary dealers (PDs) and the All-India Financial Institutions (FIs) are eligible to issue CP.

5. Whether all the corporates would automatically be eligible to issue CP?

No. A corporate would be eligible to issue CP provided –

a. the tangible net worth of the company, as per the latest audited balance sheet, is not less than Rs. 4 crore

b. company has been sanctioned working capital limit by bank/s or all-India financial institution/s; and

c. the borrowal account of the company is classified as a Standard Asset by the financing bank/s/ institution/s.

6. Is there any rating requirement for issuance of CP? And if so, what is the rating requirement?

Yes. All eligible participants shall obtain the credit rating for issuance of Commercial Paper either from Credit Rating Information Services of India Ltd. (CRISIL) or the Investment Information and Credit Rating Agency of India Ltd. (ICRA) or the Credit Analysis and Research Ltd. (CARE) or the FITCH Ratings India Pvt. Ltd. or such other credit rating agency (CRA) as may be specified by the Reserve Bank of India from time to time, for the purpose.

The minimum credit rating shall be A-2 [As per rating symbol and definition prescribed by Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI)].

The issuers shall ensure at the time of issuance of CP that the rating so obtained is current and has not fallen due for review.

7. What is the minimum and maximum period of maturity prescribed for CP?

CP can be issued for maturities between a minimum of 7 days and a maximum of up to one year from the date of issue. However, the maturity date of the CP should not go beyond the date up to which the credit rating of the issuer is valid.

8. What is the limit up to which a CP can be issued?

The aggregate amount of CP from an issuer shall be within the limit as approved by its Board of Directors or the quantum indicated by the Credit Rating Agency for the specified rating, whichever is lower.

As regards FIs, they can issue CP within the overall umbrella limit prescribed in the Master Circular on Resource Raising Norms for FIs, issued by DBOD and updated from time-to-time.

9. In what denominations a CP that can be issued?

CP can be issued in denominations of Rs.5 lakh or multiples thereof.

10. How long can the CP issue remain open?

The total amount of CP proposed to be issued should be raised within a period of two weeks from the date on which the issuer opens the issue for subscription.

11. Whether CP can be issued on different dates by the same issuer?

Yes. CP may be issued on a single date or in parts on different dates provided that in the latter case, each CP shall have the same maturity date. Further, every issue of CP, including renewal, shall be treated as a fresh issue.

12. Who can act as Issuing and Paying Agent (IPA)?

Only a scheduled bank can act as an IPA for issuance of CP.

13. Who can invest in CP?

Individuals, banking companies, other corporate bodies (registered or incorporated in India) and unincorporated bodies, Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) and Foreign Institutional Investors (FIIs) etc. can invest in CPs. However, investment by FIIs would be within the limits set for them by Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) from time-to-time.

14. Whether CP can be held in dematerilaised form?

Yes. CP can be issued either in the form of a promissory note (Schedule I given in the Master Circular-Guidelines for Issue of Commercial Paper dated July 1, 2011 and updated from time –to-time) or in a dematerialised form through any of the depositories approved by and registered with SEBI. Banks, FIs and PDs can hold CP only in dematerialised form.

15. Whether CP is always issued at a discount?

Yes. CP will be issued at a discount to face value as may be determined by the issuer.

16. Whether CP can be underwritten?

No issuer shall have the issue of Commercial Paper underwritten or co-accepted.

17. Whether CPs are traded in the secondary market?

Yes. CPs are actively traded in the OTC market. Such transactions, however, are to be reported on the FIMMDA reporting platform within 15 minutes of the trade for dissemination of trade information to market participation thereby ensuring market transparency.

18. What is the mode of redemption?

Initially the investor in CP is required to pay only the discounted value of the CP by means of a crossed account payee cheque to the account of the issuer through IPA. On maturity of CP,

(a) when the CP is held in physical form, the holder of the CP shall present the instrument for payment to the issuer through the IPA.

(b) when the CP is held in demat form, the holder of the CP will have to get it redeemed through the depository and receive payment from the IPA.

19. Whether Stand by facility is required to be provided by the bankers/FIs for CP issue?

CP being a `stand alone’ product, it would not be obligatory in any manner on the part of banks and FIs to provide stand-by facility to the issuers of CP.

However, Banks and FIs have the flexibility to provide for a CP issue, credit enhancement by way of stand-by assistance/credit backstop facility, etc., based on their commercial judgement and as per terms prescribed by them. This will be subjected to prudential norms as applicable and subject to specific approval of the Board.

20. Whether non-bank entities/corporates can provide guarantee for credit enhancement of the CP issue?

Yes. Non-bank entities including corporates can provide unconditional and irrevocable guarantee for credit enhancement for CP issue provided :

a. the issuer fulfils the eligibility criteria prescribed for issuance of CP;

b. the guarantor has a credit rating at least one notch higher than the issuer by an approved credit rating agency and

c. the offer document for CP properly discloses: the networth of the guarantor company, the names of the companies to which the guarantor has issued similar guarantees, the extent of the guarantees offered by the guarantor company, and the conditions under which the guarantee will be invoked.

21. Role and responsibilities of the Issuer/Issuing and Paying Agent and Credit Rating Agency.

Issuer:

a. Every issuer must appoint an IPA for issuance of CP.

b. The issuer should disclose to the potential investors its financial position as per the standard market practice.

c. After the exchange of deal confirmation between the investor and the issuer, issuing company shall issue physical certificates to the investor or arrange for crediting the CP to the investor's account with a depository.

Investors shall be given a copy of IPA certificate to the effect that the issuer has a valid agreement with the IPA and documents are in order (Schedule II given in the Master Circular-Guidelines for Issue of Commercial Paper dated July 1, 2011 and updated from time –to-time).

Issuing and Paying Agent

a. IPA would ensure that issuer has the minimum credit rating as stipulated by the RBI and amount mobilised through issuance of CP is within the quantum indicated by CRA for the specified rating or as approved by its Board of Directors, whichever is lower.

b. IPA has to verify all the documents submitted by the issuer viz., copy of board resolution, signatures of authorised executants (when CP in physical form) and issue a certificate that documents are in order. It should also certify that it has a valid agreement with the issuer (Schedule II given in the Master Circular-Guidelines for Issue of Commercial Paper dated July 1, 2011 and updated from time –to-time).

c. Certified copies of original documents verified by the IPA should be held in the custody of IPA.

Credit Rating Agency

a. Code of Conduct prescribed by the SEBI for CRAs for undertaking rating of capital market instruments shall be applicable to them (CRAs) for rating CP.

b. Further, the credit rating agencies have the discretion to determine the validity period of the rating depending upon its perception about the strength of the issuer. Accordingly, CRA shall at the time of rating, clearly indicate the date when the rating is due for review.

c. While the CRAs can decide the validity period of credit rating, CRAs would have to closely monitor the rating assigned to issuers vis-a-vis their track record at regular intervals and would be required to make its revision in the ratings public through its publications and website

22. Is there any other formalities and reporting requirement with regard to CP issue?

Fixed Income Money Market and Derivatives Association of India (FIMMDA), may prescribe, in consultation with the RBI, any standardised procedure and documentation for operational flexibility and smooth functioning of CP market. Issuers / IPAs may refer to the detailed guidelines issued by FIMMDA on July 5, 2001 in this regard, and updated from time-to-time.

Every CP issue should be reported to the Chief General Manager, Reserve Bank of India, Financial Markets Department, Central Office, Fort, Mumbai through the Issuing and Paying Agent (IPA) within three days from the date of completion of the issue, incorporating details as per Schedule III given in the Master Circular-Guidelines for Issue of Commercial Paper dated July 1, 2011 and updated from time-to-time.

 
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