The Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Government of India (MCA), has through a notification published on August 30th, 2017, exempt reconstitution, transfer of whole or any part thereof and amalgamation of nationalised banks under the Banking Companies (Acquisition and Transfer of Undertakings) Act, 1970 and Banking Companies (Acquisition and Transfer of Undertakings) Act, 1980, from merger control scrutiny for a period of 10 years (Notification).
The latest addition to the string of changes introduced by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) this year is an exemption to Regional Rural Banks (RRBs) from the applicability of the merger control regime. The MCA introduced a notification on August 10, 2017 (Notification), which stipulates that Sections 5 and 6 of the Competition Act, 2002 (Act), which relate to regulation of combinations, will not apply to amalgamations of RRBs for which the Central Government has issued a notification under Section 23A(1) of the Regional Rural Banks Act, 1976 (RRB Act). This exemption is applicable for a period of five years, i.e., until August 9, 2022.
The RRB Act was enacted to provide for the incorporation, regulation and winding up of RRBs in order to develop the rural economy and particularly enhance the credit facilities available to marginal farmers, agricultural labourers, artisans and small entrepreneurs. Under section 3(1) of the RRB Act, the Central Government can establish a RRB in any state or union territory, upon a request being made by a bank that proposes to sponsor the RRB.
Keeping with the slew of changes introduced this year, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Government of India (“MCA”) has yet again altered the Indian merger control regime, by doing away with the mandatory 30 day deadline for filings notifications, post the trigger event. This brings the Indian merger control regime in sync with most mature competition law regimes, which do not have a fixed timeline within which a merger notice must be filed with the regulator.
By virtue of its powers under Section 54 of the Competition Act, 2002 (“Act”), which allows the Central Government to exempt the applicability of any of the provisions of the Act for a specified period, the MCA has introduced a notification on June 29, 2017 which exempts an enterprise, from filing a notice within 30 days, for a period of five years, i.e., until June 28, 2022 (“Notification”).
In one of the most significant amendments to the merger control regime in India, the Government of India, by way of a notification published on March 29, 2017 (Notification), has enhanced the scope of the de minimis or the small target exemption to include transactions structured as mergers or amalgamations. Further, in transactions involving the acquisition/merger of only a business, division or portion of an enterprise, the Notification stipulates that only the asset and turnover value of such business/division will need to be considered.
We examine these sweeping changes introduced by the Notification and their ramifications in detail below:
A. Applicability of Target Exemption
An important exemption granted to acquisitions was the small-target or the de minimis exemption, which excluded a transaction from the mandatory requirement to obtain the Competition Commission of India’s (CCI) prior approval (Target Exemption), if structured as an ‘acquisition’ of shares, control, voting rights and assets of an enterprise that has assets of not more than INR 350 crores (approximately USD 54 million) in India or turnover of not more than INR 1,000 crores (approximately USD 154 million) in India.
The language of the Target Exemption notified by the Government of India, first in 2011 and then in a revised form in 2016, meant that it only applied to acquisitions. The Notification now increases the scope of the Target Exemption to include mergers and amalgamations.
The effects of this inclusion are far ranging. In the previous iteration, the structure of transactions gained significance, i.e., while an acquisition of majority stake or even 100% shareholding of an enterprise with assets or turnover less than the Target Exemption thresholds was exempt, a merger of such an enterprise (likely to have the same effect on the market) was unable to avail itself of this benefit. However, with this revision, the legislative intention behind the ‘small-target’ exemption may be realised to its fullest.
There is no increase in the Target Exemption thresholds which were revised last in 2016 and the applicability of the Notification is for a period of five years, i.e. until 28 March 2022.
The Indian merger control regime is a suspensory one which means that, any acquisition, merger or amalgamation that is notifiable to the Competition Commission of India (CCI) may be consummated only after the CCI grants approval, or until a certain waiting period has lapsed.
Section 6(2) of the Competition Act (Act), provides that when an enterprise proposes to enter into a combination, it is required to give a notice to the CCI, disclosing the details of the proposed combination, within 30 days of executing the ‘trigger document’. Further, Section 6(2A) of the Act provides that no combination shall come into effect until 210 days have passed from the day on which the notice has been given or unless the CCI passes orders under Section 31 of the Act, whichever is earlier. In sum, the suspensory regime is an absolute one. Combinations cannot be consummated, in part or full, before either the CCI grants approval or until 210 days post the notification. Continue Reading Part Consummation of M&A Transactions: The Rhetoric of Gun Jumping
We take a look at recent re-notification and revised merger control thresholds to the Competition Act, 2002, and how they will reduce regulatory hurdles for smaller transactions and facilitate ease of doing business in India.
The Competition Act, 2002 (Act), requires mandatory notification to and prior approval of the Competition Commission of India (CCI) for transactions wherecertain prescribed asset or turnover thresholds (Jurisdictional Thresholds) are exceeded. By way of a notification dated 4 March 2011 (2011 Notification), the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) enhanced the value of asset and turnover as provided in Section 5 of the Act by 50 per cent. In addition to the above, the MCA by way of notification on the same date (including a corrigendum dated 27 May 2011) also introduced a de minimis exemption in case of an acquisition. The said notifications contained a validity period of five years and were set to expire on 3 March 2016.