Wednesday, December 10, 2008

FCCB - Buyback time

Last week RBI in its press release announced allowing Indian corporates to prematurely buyback FCCB’s that have been issued.

1) The RBI has decided to permit corporates to premature buyback of FCCBs where the source of funds for the buyback is:
i) Foreign currency resources held in India (including funds held in EEFC accounts) or abroad and/or
ii) Fresh ECB raised in conformity with the current ECB norms, provided there is a minimum discount of 15 per cent on the book value of the FCCB.

2) In addition, the Reserve Bank will consider applications for buyback of FCCBs out of rupee resources provided that:
(i) There is a minimum discount of 25 per cent on the book value;
(ii) The amount of the buyback is limited to US $ 50 million of the redemption value per company; and
(iii The resources for buyback are drawn out of internal accruals of the company as certified by the statutory auditor.

Indian corporates have used the FCCB route to raise capital in the current investment cycle. These low cost funds which were pegged to aggressive stock prices for conversion were now coming back to haunt balance sheets. Clearly with the stockmarket crash FCCB’s were either unlikely to be converted into equity or converted at a lower rate ( Ex Pyramid Saimara) resulting in greater equity dilution.

The current credit crunch has come as a boon in disguise for corporates that are sitting on cash or have a steady stream of export income. FCCB’s are quoting at a significant discount to the face value and it is a ideal opportunity for corporates to buyback these bonds and clean up their balance sheets.

I can see a lot of corporates ( Ex Ranbaxy ) using the RBI go ahead effectively. In these tough times it is better to buyback your debt at a discount than equity.

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