India is Slowly Opening up to Sovereign Wealth Funds

Historically, investment access to India’s equity markets has created several problematic issues and headaches for sovereign wealth funds. Currently, sovereign wealth funds are grouped under the category foreign institutional investor or FII defined by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI).

A few current sovereign-entity FIIs registered include:

  • Abu Dhabi Investment Authority
  • Abu Dhabi Investment Council
  • Australian Future Fund
  • Provincial Government of Alberta (AIMCo)
  • China’s National Social Security Fund
  • Fullerton Fund Management Company LTD (SWE of Temasek Holdings)
  • Kuwait Investment Authority
  • New Zealand Superannuation Fund
  • Norges Bank
  • Queensland Investment Corporation
  • Singapore’s GIC

Sovereign entities can also invest as a Foreign Venture Capital Investor. FII’s are under strict regulation and cannot hold large positions in listed Indian companies. Times have changed, India wants to increase foreign investment in companies and attract foreign capital. There is a heavily-debated plan underway to create a new defined class of investor for sovereign funds which will be fundamentally different from the FII classification. This new proposal for sovereign funds would allow them to hold a much larger stake at 20% compared with 10% for a publicly traded Indian firm. The plan must be approved by SEBI and receive permission from the Reserve Bank of India. India’s fear was that foreign governments could create numerous sovereign entities to bypass the 10% rule and thus effectively control the company for geopolitical reasons.

Recently, the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation opened up an investment office in Mumbai. This was after India and Singapore signed a Comprehensive Economic Co-operation Agreement (CECA). The Indian Government would also treat Temasek Holdings and GIC as separate investors, not acting in concert in potential large stake undertakings. Sovereign wealth funds are warming to investing in the Indian equity markets as the Government of India begins to warm up to foreign investments.

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