The Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) has cleared a proposal by German plastic moulding major Ralf Schneider to set up a wholly-owned subsidiary in India, setting aside objections raised by its former Indian partner Larsen & Toubro (L&T) under Press Note 1 of the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) policy.
This is the second time the FIPB has struck down Press Note 1 objections from an Indian partner, the first being in October 2006 when FIPB cleared a proposal by the US-based Guardian group over objections from the VK Modi group of Gujarat Guardian.
Press Note 1 is a guideline that requires foreign companies with joint ventures or technical partnerships in India to obtain a “no-objection certificate” from their Indian partners if they propose to set up the same or a similar line of business in India.
It has been the source of tension between several Indian companies and their foreign partners, a prominent example being French foods major Groupe Danone’s attempt to get a no-objection certificate from the Wadia group, with which it has an equity tie-up in Britannia, for fresh investments in India.
Ralf Schneider had tied up with engineering giant L&T in 1992 for a technical partnership that expired in 2007. A few months ago, L&T invoked Press Note 1 blocking Ralf Schneider’s entry on grounds that the German company’s plans would hurt the Indian company.
L&T had argued that one of its business units makes the same equipment that Ralf Schneider intends to make in India. Sources added that the company thought the German firm’s entry would create confusion in the market with two producers offering the same product using the same technology.
Ralf Schneider had countered L&T’s argument saying Press Note 1 should not be applicable in this case since the tie-up was a technical one and not a financial one and that it had expired last year.
FIPB had initially agreed that the proposal attracted Press Note 1. Later, it set up a committee to discuss the issue with the two former partners.
An L&T spokesperson declined to comment on the FIPB order.