Finance Ministry Asks SEBI To Withdraw Valuation Guidelines For Perpetual Bonds
The SEBI logo in Mumbai. (Photograph: BloombergQuint)

Finance Ministry Asks SEBI To Withdraw Valuation Guidelines For Perpetual Bonds

The Finance Ministry has written to India’s capital market regulator, asking it to withdraw recently issued guidelines on valuing perpetual bonds, such as additional tier-1 securities issued by banks.

On Wednesday, the Securities and Exchanges Board of India had asked that these be valued as 100-year bonds. The directive, due to kick-in from Apr.1, 2021, was part of a wider circular on prudential limits for mutual fund investments in AT-1 bonds.

Objecting to the valuation norms prescribed, the Department of Financial Services said this could lead to large mark-to-market losses for mutual funds. No benchmark exists for 100-year bonds, the letter said. It added that mutual funds could see large swings in the net asset value of units and this could lead to panic redemption in these securities. Additionally, capital raising by PSU banks will be adversely impacted and lead to increased reliance on the government for capital raising, the letter said.

BloombergQuint has reviewed a copy of the letter. An email sent to SEBI was not immediately answered.

According to the letter, mutual funds have subscribed to Rs 35,000 crore worth AT-1 bonds, out of the Rs 90,000 crore worth bonds issued by banks.

Considering the capital needs of banks going forward and the need to source the same from the capital markets, it is requested that the revised valuation norms to treat all perpetual bonds as 100 year tenor be withdrawn. The clause on valuation is disruptive in nature.
Finance Ministry Letter To SEBI

Apart from the guidelines on valuing these securities, SEBI had also prescribed prudential limits for mutual fund investment norms in AT-1 bonds.

  • No mutual fund under all its schemes shall own more than 10% of such instruments issued by a single issuer.
  • A mutual fund scheme shall not invest more than 10% of its NAV of the debt portfolio of the scheme in such instruments.
  • A mutual fund scheme shall not invest more than 5% of its NAV of the debt portfolio of the scheme in such instruments issued by a single issuer.

The Finance Ministry did not object to these. “Instructions that reduce concentration risk of such instruments in MF portfolios can be retained as MFs have adequate headroom even within the 10% ceiling,” it said.

AMFI View

In a separate release, the Association of Mutual Funds In India said that the perpetual Bond market is reasonably active with regular trades in large and higher rated issuances.

“Most trades in perpetual bonds happen on a yield-to-call basis. This is based on the established market convention, locally as well as globally, that the issuer will exercise the call option on the due date,” the release said. Only in the event of lack of traded prices, the question arises as to whether the bond should be valued to call or to maturity, AMFI said. “Given a reasonably active market with regular trades, the issue is narrower than it appears,” the mutual fund lobby body said.

It added that the treatment of perpetual bonds has been discussed in mutual fund advisory committee meetings.

“AMFI recognises that mispricing of risk is not in the best interest of its investors and is therefore committed to working with SEBI to ensure fair valuation of its investments.”

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