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Sunday, November 28, 2010

SEBI interprets whether offer to 50 or more persons amounts to public & thereby mandates listing under Companies Act, irrespective of intention to list its securities with Stock Exchange - reading together Section 55A with 73

On 24th November 2010, it happened!!!  SEBI, the watch dog of Indian Capital Market did its part of research on Companies Act to understand the powers which are already vested with it and has come out [barking :-)] with brilliant interpretations. 

SEBI takes a re-look on

Section 55A, 56, 60B, 67, 73 & 81(1A) of Companies Act, 1956


The Company’s point of view

a. OFCD issuance of SIRECL and SHICL do not come under the purview of SEBI as Section 55A of the Companies Act, 1956 delegates the administrative power to SEBI only with respect to the listed public companies and those public companies which are intending to get their securities listed in India. Since the said companies have stated in the RHP filed with the RoC that, they do not intend to get the OFCDs listed in any stock exchanges in India or abroad, the issuance of OFCDs does not come under the purview of SEBI.
Note: OFCD is a security and is convertible into Equity Shares and is not in the nature of “Non-Convertible Debt Security”.

b. Issuance of OFCDs was made on private placement basis and is restricted to a select group (however large, they may be), it ceases to be an offer to the public.
c. When securities are issued to more than 50 persons, by following the procedure laid down under Section 60B of the Companies Act, 1956, by circulation of information memorandum and filing of Red Herring Prospectus (RHP) with the RoC, it would not be necessary to list the securities so offered and the issue shall remain outside the purview of SEBI.

What did SEBI analyse?

a) Whether the impugned OFCD offers have been made to the public and if so, whether listing of the OFCDs, so offered, is mandatory?
b) Whether Section 60B of the Act provides “an alternative route” for raising capital without complying with Section 73 of the Act and other SEBI requirements, as contended by the companies?

What does Companies Act say?

Section 67: The essence of this section is that “who can apply for securities in response to invitation shall be checked to determine whether it is an offer to public” and lays certain criteria for that.

The said Section explicitly states that any reference in the Act or in the articles of a company to offering (or inviting to subscribe) for shares or debentures to the public shall be construed as including a reference to offering them (or inviting them to subscribe) to any section of the public, whether selected as members or debenture holders of the company concerned or as clients of the person issuing the prospectus or in any other manner.

Provisio to Section 67(3) as summarised by SEBI:  Even if an issue is made by way of private placement to 50 or more persons, it would be deemed to be a public issue (“deemed to be a public issue”) irrespective of whether it was offered to public at large or to just a section of the public chosen, in whatever manner.

Further, any further issue of capital, even pursuant to a resolution made under Section 81(1A) of the Act (dealing private placement to select group of persons), is subject to the provisions of Part III of the Act (dealing with Prospectus), if the offer is made to 50 persons or more.

The filing of a prospectus under the Act signfies the intention of the issuer to raise funds from the public. – SEBI infers!!!

Whether listing is mandatory for all public issues?

As per Section 73(1) of the Act, every company intending to offer shares or debentures to the public for subscription by the issue of a prospectus shall, before such issue, make an application to one or more recognized stock exchanges for permission for (listing of) the shares or debentures intending to be so offered to be dealt with in a stock exchange or each such stock exchange.

As per Section 73(2) of the Act, where any listing permission is not applied, as observed in the present case, the companies are required to refund all the money received as subscription within the stipulated time.

The intention of the companies to list or not is immaterial as it is mandated by the Act – SEBI infers!!!

SEBI Order analyses Section 55A & Section 73

The words “intend to get their securities listed” in Section 55A(1) (b) of the Act (which gives the power to SEBI) is clearly synonymous with the words “intend to offer their securities to public” (as per Section 73), as law mandates compulsory listing in case of public issues and specifies that any condition to waive this requirement is void [as per Section 73(4)].

If to 50 or more persons, then to 1000 or more persons!!!

Once the company is mandated to list, it shall comply with the requirements of SEBI ICDR regulation as the debentures are convertible into Equity.  Reading Section 67 with ICDR:

Once the issuer decides to offer its securities to 50 or more persons, then the issue is an offer to public at large, complying with the provisions prescribed in the ICDR Regulations which mentions that an issuer shall not make an allotment pursuant to a public issue if the number of prospective allottees is less than 1000, to ensure there is sufficient liquidity in the scrip post listing.

In such case, it shall file RHP with SEBI atleast 30 days in advance before filing the same with RoC – SEBI infers!!!

SEBI tooks pains to highlight the clauses of ICDR not complied with, in this link:

SEBI also claims the Prospectus filed by the company is not fully adequate with requisite legal information.  On analysing the above mentioned violation of Companies Act & some other observations by SEBI on the financials had issued an ad interim, ex-parte Order vide WTM/KMA/CFD/316/11/2010.

The Company claims unlisted companies cannot come under the purview of SEBI

The company deems the order as imprudent and irrational vide its RESPONSE as this order created a confusion among public that Sahara’s IPO is rejected (which is not at all the case though!!!).  Further, in the interest, image and goodwill of entire Sahara India Pariwar, the company has disclosed the details in its RESPONSE.

SEBI’s Order: WTM/KMA/CFD/316/11/2010

Sahara’s Response: RESPONSE

This case may give an answer to the BERMUDA TRIANGLE of what if issue to 50 or more persons but less than 1000 persons

  • Will the company take the Writ route to re-examine the jurisdiction of SEBI with respect to Section 55A read with Section 73?
  • Believe, this cannot have the same HAPPY ENDING with Consent Order at later stages. 

We shall await for the Securities Appellate Tribunal’s (SAT) interesting response. 


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