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CII seeks two more years to comply with minimum 25% public float norms

Sebi has given listed entities time till June 2013

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The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), the industry body, has sought a two year extension to comply with the new norms of ensuring a minimum of 25%. Capital markets regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) has given listed entities a time-line of June, 2013.

In a representation to Sebi, has asked given time-line be extended to June, 2015 citing difficulties being faced by the companies due to poor market conditions which have challenged the ability of corporates to comply with the minimum public float norms.

There are 148 private sector and 14 public sector companies which would need to dilute their equity stake in order to comply with the norms. According to the industry body this would mean a compulsory offloading of an aggregate amount of Rs 34,860 crore between June, 2012 and June, 2013.

The Ministry of Finance, in June 2010, had notified an amendment in the Securities Contracts Rules mandating minimum public shareholding norms. Later in the year, came up with the circular on the same in December specifying separate mechanisms designed for increasing public shareholding for existing companies.

"Since December, 2010, the market conditions have not been conducive, challenging the ability of companies to comply with minimum public shareholding norms. This has also deterred companies from making fresh issuances, with some getting subscribed to only 23 per cent. The unattractive return on investment in equity is also keeping investors away," said CII in its statement.

According to the industry body, there is lack of market depth as the average fund raising per year, over the past 6 years, has been Rs 30,823 crore only. Further Sebi approvals have been granted for IPOs aggregating to Rs 11,000 crore and further prospectuses seeking to raise a collective amount of Rs 9,000 crore are awaiting regulator's approval. Adding the balance set by the Government in the current year’s budget to these figures, increases the target for cumulative fund-raising to approximately Rs 73,667 crore between June 2012 and June 2013. 

"Under the present market conditions, there is a huge risk that such large supply of paper in the market can further depress share prices across board, hampening the interests of public shareholders. Resultantly, a mandated offloading of shares would result in a sharp decline of share prices, thereby leading to destruction of shareholders’ value," said the industry body.

Early this year, Sebi provided alternative methods for companies to increase their public shareholding with the introduction of two routes - Institutional Placement Programme (IPP) and Offer for Sale (OFS) of shares through stock exchanges.

However, only three companies have been able to utilise these options and experience of the first two transactions shows that this process is yet to fully stabilise and the market as yet requires more time to adopt these routes, added CII.

"All three of these companies are well researched which is not the case with most of the affected companies, where introduction of paper in the market which is many factors higher than their average trading volumes will lead to a major erosion in existing shareholder value," said a CII statement.

In its recommendations to Sebi, CII also asked 25% public holding should also include Depository Receipts and stock option granted to employees. Besides, it suggested to remove the requirement of depositing 100% margin in process.

Along with IPP, the industry body asked Qualified Institutional Placement (QIP) also be allowed as an alternative route for increasing the public float.

Among its other recommendations, CII also suggested to restore sale of shares held by promoters through secondary market in addition to existing methods as long as the quantum sold is less than one day’s average trading volume.

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