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Challenges for Banks Exiting AIF Units: Limited Options in Absence of Secondary Market

Regulated entities like banks and NBFCs face a daunting task as they consider exiting their investments in alternative investment funds (AIFs). The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has mandated a 30-day window for these entities to evaluate and liquidate their AIF portfolios to address concerns about the disguised evergreening of loan exposures.

No Active Secondary Market

The absence of an active secondary market in India for AIF units poses a significant challenge for entities looking to sell their investments. Parul Jain, Head of Fund Formation Practice at Nishith Desai Associates, highlights the difficulty, stating, “It is not easy to sell the AIF units as these are not listed and there is no readily available market to offload these.”

Limited Control and Restrictions

Banks, in particular, face limitations due to their lack of control over AIF management decisions and investment choices. The circular’s impact could extend to restricting investments from an entire Limited Partner (LP) class. Jain suggests that the RBI could have implemented checks and balances or exempted regulated entities from contributing to downstream investments with loan exposure.

Concerns about Misuse

The RBI’s circular aims to prevent the misuse of AIF structures, specifically addressing concerns about financial institutions engaging in evergreening disguised as AIF investments. Experts argue that the guidelines may discourage regulated entities from genuine diversification of risk through AIF investments.

Exit Dilemma for Regulated Entities

If an AIF invests in a debtor company associated with a bank or NBFC, the regulated entity must choose between exiting the investment or making a 100% provisioning on it. This dilemma affects the ability of regulated entities to navigate AIF investments for legitimate reasons such as risk diversification.

Guideline Exceptions

The guidelines exempt situations where another scheme of the same AIF or any scheme of an AIF with the same investment manager invests in a debtor company of the regulated entity. This provision allows for flexibility in AIF investments while addressing concerns about potential conflicts of interest.

Questions Related to Exams

Q: What challenges do banks and NBFCs face in exiting AIF units?

A: Limited options due to the absence of an active secondary market, making liquidation difficult. The 30-day exit mandate by the RBI adds urgency.

Q: Why is selling AIF units challenging for banks?

A: AIF units are not listed, and there’s no readily available market, restricting banks from offloading these investments easily.

Q: How does the RBI’s circular impact regulated entities’ AIF investments?

A: The circular aims to prevent evergreening disguised as AIF investments, potentially discouraging regulated entities even for legitimate risk diversification.

Q: What choices do regulated entities have if an AIF invests in their debtor company?

A: They must either exit the investment or make a 100% provisioning on it, creating a dilemma for risk management strategies.



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