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External Commercial Borrowing (ECB) by Startups

External Commercial Borrowing (ECB) by Startups
RBI decided (27.10.16) to permit AD Category-I banks to allow Startups to raise ECB under the following framework:
a.         Eligibility: An entity recognised as a Startup by the Central Govt.
b.         Maturity: Minimum average maturity period will be 3 years.
c.         Recognized lender: Lender / investor shall be a resident of a country who is either a member of Financial Action Task Force (FATF) or a member of a FATFStyle Regional Bodies; and shall not be from a country identified in the public statement of the FATF as:
i.          A jurisdiction having a strategic Anti-Money Laundering or Combating the Financing of Terrorism deficiencies to which counter measures apply; or
ii.         A jurisdiction that has not made sufficient progress in addressing the deficiencies or has not committed to an action plan developed with the Financial Action Task Force to address the deficiencies
Exclusion: Overseas branches/subsidiaries of Indian banks and overseas wholly owned subsidiary / joint venture of an Indian company will, however, not be considered as recognized lenders under this framework.
d.         Forms: The borrowing can be in the form of loans or non-convertible, optionally convertible or partially convertible preference shares.
e.         Currency: The borrowing should be denominated in any freely convertible currency or in Indian Rupees (INR) or a combination thereof. In case of borrowing in INR, the non-resident lender should mobilize INR through swaps/ outright sale undertaken through an AD Category-I bank in India.
f.          Amount: The borrowing per Startup will be limited to USD 3 million or equivalent per financial year.
g.         All-in-cost: Shall be mutually agreed between the borrower and the lender.
h.         End-uses: For expenditure in connection with the business of the borrower.
i.          Conversion into equity: Conversion into equity is freely permitted, subject to Regulations applicable for foreign investment in Startups.
j.          Security: The choice of security to be provided to the lender is left to the borrowing entity. Security can be in the nature of movable, immovable, intangible assets (including patents, intellectual property rights), financial securities, etc., and shall comply with FDI / FPI / or any other norms applicable for foreign lenders / entities holding such securities.
k.         Corporate and personal guarantee: Issuance of corporate or personal guarantee is allowed. Guarantee issued by non-resident(s) is allowed only if such parties qualify as lender.
Exclusion: Issuance of guarantee, standby letter of credit, letter of undertaking or letter of comfort by Indian banks, all India Financial Institutions and NBFCs is not permitted.
l.          Hedging: The overseas lender, in case of INR denominated ECB, will be eligible to hedge its INR exposure through permitted derivative products with AD Category – I banks in India. The lender can also access the domestic market through branches/ subsidiaries of Indian banks abroad or branches of foreign bank with Indian presence on a back-to-back basis.

m.        Conversion rate: In case of borrowing in INR, the foreign currency – INR conversion will be at the market rate as on the date of agreement. Other provisions like parking of ECB proceeds, reporting arrangements, powers of AD banks, borrowing by entities under investigation, conversion of ECB into equity will be as per extant ECB framework (30.11.15). However, provisions on leverage ratio and ECB liability: Equity ratio will not be applicable.

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