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Govt scrutiny on new portfolio investors from China, Hong Kong: Report

The discussions come weeks after the central government said it will screen all foreign direct investment (FDI) from countries with which it shares a land border

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Foreign Portfolio Investors | Finance Ministry

Reuters  |  New Delhi 

India remains favourite with FPIs despite a steady deterioration in macros
Foreign portfolio investors are among the biggest drivers of the country's financial markets. Data from the National Securities Depository showed net FPI inflows in 2019 stood at $18 billion

India has drafted rules proposing tighter scrutiny of new (FPIs) from China and Hong Kong, three government sources told Reuters.

The discussions come weeks after the central government said it will screen all foreign direct investment (FDI) from countries with which it shares a land border, a move it said was aimed at staving off takeovers when asset prices are depressed during the coronavirus pandemic. The Chinese government described the policy as discriminatory.

FDIs are longer-term direct investments that typically provide control over a firm's management. But concerns had risen in the government the policy change could prompt Chinese investors to ramp up their investment in India as portfolio investors, purchasing company securities such as equities to gain control, officials in New Delhi said.

Two senior government sources said the centre could set up a body to scrutinize new FPI registrants from countries such as China, and the rules will also apply to Hong Kong, a special administrative region from where substantial Chinese investments are routed.

The officials said a draft proposal had been drafted in consultation with the trade ministry and the capital market regulator, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) and was currently being reviewed by the

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The and the trade ministry declined to comment, while SEBI did not immediately respond.

The two sources added New Delhi is also considering the possibility of mandating a so-called "security clearance" from Home Ministry for new FPI registrants from these nations.

"We are not saying that any investment would be stopped, we just want to add a layer of vetting to protect the value of our companies," said one official who has direct knowledge of the discussions.

A third government source said the government was concerned about Chinese state-run companies buying stocks of Indian companies. The source added the FPI rules were likely to be similar to the recently announced FDI policy which didn't name China but applies to countries with which the country shares a land border.

It was not immediately clear if the rules will extend to other countries and if existing registered FPIs will face such scrutiny. There are currently 111 registered FPIs from Hong Kong and 16 from China.

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are among the biggest drivers of the country's financial markets. Data from the National Securities Depository showed net FPI inflows in 2019 stood at $18 billion.

Concerns around FPI investments had particularly risen in recent weeks after shareholding disclosures by HDFC in April showed China's central bank had marginally increased its stake in the company.

Atul Pandey, a partner at law firm Khaitan & Co., said government screening could hit new capital inflows from China and Hong Kong and delay investment plans. "(This will) have an immense impact on investor sentiment," said Pandey, who advises several Chinese investors.

The FDI policy change has already spooked Chinese investors, many of whom have put their investment plans on hold as they await clarity, Reuters has reported.

First Published: Fri, May 22 2020. 12:59 IST
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