India mulls tightening offshore borrowing


MUMBAI • India’s central bank is reviewing its process for allowing companies to raise money overseas due to concern that any increase in rupee volatility may hurt borrowers’ ability to repay debt, a person familiar with the matter said.

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is spending more time scrutinising companies’ hedging practices, vetting borrowers more closely to prepare for any financial-market fallout from an increase in US interest rates, the person said, asking not to be named as the matter is private.

The new process is resulting in slower approvals in recent weeks for offshore debt sales, people said. The RBI hasn’t issued loan registration numbers (LRNs) to some borrowers recently, they said.

Companies need to obtain LRNs for raising debt overseas under the country’s external commercial borrowing guidelines.

“RBI’s prime concern is to avoid any defaults by companies offshore, ”said Raj Kothari, head of trading at Jay Capital Ltd in London. “Such scrutiny will further improve the trust of international investors in Indian issuers.”

Overseas bond sales have stalled this month after Indian firms raised US$15.6 billion (RM60.85 billion) last year, most since 2014, taking advantage of record-low borrowing costs. The rupee is one of the worst-performing major global currencies so far this year.

RBI’s pricing cap on offshore borrowings has already limited the number of Indian firms looking to access foreign debt, with the nation’s issuers making up about 5% of dollar bond deals from Asia excluding Japan.

Central bank rules state that Indian firms can’t sell three-to five-year debt abroad with an all-in cost of more than 300 basis points over the six month London interbank offered rate and 450 basis points for notes with tenures of more than five years.