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Background

With an aim to provide a structured platform to the Banking sector for managing its mounting NPA stocks and keep pace with international financial institutions, the Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest (SARFAESI) Act was put in place to allow banks and FIs to take possession of securities and sell them. As stated in the Act, it has “enabled banks and FIs to realise long-term assets, manage problems of liquidity, asset-liability mismatches and improve recovery by taking possession of securities, sell them and reduce non performing assets (NPAs) by adopting measures for recovery or reconstruction.” Prior to the Act, the legal framework relating to commercial transactions lagged behind the rapidly changing commercial practices and financial sector reforms, which led to slow recovery of defaulting loans and mounting levels of NPAs of banks and financial institutions.

The SARFAESI Act has been largely perceived as facilitating asset recovery and reconstruction. Since Independence, the Government has adopted several ad-hoc measures to tackle sickness among financial institutions, foremost through nationalisation of banks and relief measures. Over the course of time, the Government has put in place various mechanisms for cleaning the banking system from the menace of NPAs and revival of a healthy financial and banking sector. Some of the notable measures in this regard include:

Provisions of the SARFAESI Act

The Act has made provisions for registration and regulation of securitisation companies or reconstruction companies by the RBI, facilitate securitisation of financial assets of banks, empower SCs/ARCs to raise funds by issuing security receipts to qualified institutional buyers (QIBs), empowering banks and FIs to take possession of securities given for financial assistance and sell or lease the same to take over management in the event of default.

The Act provides three alternative methods for recovery of NPAs, namely:

The Guidelines for SCs/ARCs registered with the RBI are:

Apart from above functions any SC/ARC cannot commence or carryout other business without the prior approval of RBI.

The Securitisation Companies and Reconstruction Companies (Reserve Bank) Guidelines and Directions, 2003

The Reserve Bank of India issued guidelines and directions relating to registration, measures of ARCs, functions of the company, prudential norms, acquisition of financial assets and related matters under the powers conferred by the SARFAESI Act, 2002.

Defining NPAs: Non-performing Asset (NPA) means an asset for which:

Provided that the Board of Directors of a SC or ARC may, on default by the borrower, classify an asset as a NPA even earlier than the period mentioned above.

Registration:

Net worth of Securitisation Company or Reconstruction Company: Net worth is aggregate of paid up equity capital, paid up preference capital, reserves and surplus excluding revaluation reserve, as reduced by debit balance on P&L account, miscellaneous expenditure (to the extent not written off ), intangible assets, diminution in value of investments/short provision against NPA and further reduced by shares acquired in SC/ARC and deductions due to auditor qualifications. This is also called Owned Fund. Every Securitisation Company or Reconstruction Company seeking the RBI’s registration under SARFAESI Act, shall have a minimum Owned Fund of Rs 20 mn.

Permissible Business: A Securitisation Company or Reconstruction Company shall commence/undertake only the securitisation and asset reconstruction activities and the functions provided for in Section 10 of the SARFAESI Act. It cannot raise deposits.

Some broad guidelines pertaining to Asset Reconstruction are as follows:

The Board has powers to approve policy changes and delegate powers to committee for taking decisions on policy/proposals on asset acquisition.

Broad guidelines with regards to Securitisation are as follows:

Issues under the SARFAESI

Right of Title

A securitisation receipt (SR) gives its holder a right of title or interest in the financial assets included in securitisation. This definition holds good for securitisation structures where the securities issued are referred to as ‘Pass through Securities’. The same definition is not legally inadequate in case of ‘Pay through Securities’ with different tranches.

Thin Investor Base

The SARFAESI Act has been structured to enable security receipts (SR) to be issued and held by Qualified Institutional Buyers (QIBs). It does not include NBFC or other bodies unless specified by the Central Government as a financial institution (FI). For expanding the market for SR, there is a need for increasing the investor base. In order to deepen the market for SR there is a need to include more buyer categories.

Investor Appetite

Demand for securities is restricted to short tenor papers and highest ratings. Also, it has remained restricted to senior tranches carrying highest ratings, while the junior tranches are retained by the originators as unrated pieces. This can be attributed to the underdeveloped nature of the Indian market and poor awareness as regards the process of securitisation.

Risk Management in Securitisation

The various risks involved in securitisation are given below:

Credit Risk: The risk of non-payment of principal and/or interest to investors can be at two levels: SPV and the underlying assets. Since the SPV is normally structured to have no other activity apart from the asset pool sold by the originator, the credit risk principally lies with the underlying asset pool. A careful analysis of the underlying credit quality of the obligors and the correlation between the obligors needs to be carried out to ascertain the probability of default of the asset pool. A well diversified asset portfolio can significantly reduce the simultaneous occurrence of default.

Sovereign Risk: In case of cross-border securitisation transactions where the assets and investors belong to different countries, there is a risk to the investor in the form of non-payment or imposition of additional taxes on the income repatriation. This risk can be mitigated by having a foreign guarantor or by structuring the SPV in an offshore location or have an neutral country of jurisdiction

Collateral deterioration Risk: Sometimes the collateral against which credit is sanctioned to the obligor may undergo a severe deterioration. When this coincides with a default by the obligor then there is a severe risk of non-payment to the investors. A recent example of this is the sub-prime crisis in the US which is explained in detail in the following sections.

Legal Risk: Securitisation transactions hinge on a very important principle of “bankruptcy remoteness” of the SPV from the sponsor. Structuring the asset transfer and the legal structure of the SPV are key points that determine if the SPV can uphold its right over the underlying assets, if the obligor declare bankruptcy or undergoes liquidation.

Prepayment Risk: Payments made in excess of the scheduled principal payments are called prepayments. Prepayments occur due to a change in the macro-economic or competitive industry situation. For example in case of residential mortgages, when interest rates go down, individuals may prefer to refinance their fixed rate mortgage at lower interest rates. Competitors offering better terms could also be a reason for prepayment. In a declining interest rate regime prepayment poses an interest rate risk to the investors as they have to reinvest the proceedings at a lower interest rate. This problem is more severe in case of investors holding long term bonds. This can be mitigated by structuring the tranches such that prepayments are used to pay off the principal and interest of short-term bonds.

Servicer Performance Risk: The servicer performs important tasks of collecting principal and interest, keeping a tab on delinquency, maintains statistics of payment, disseminating the same to investors and other administrative tasks. The failure of the servicer in carrying out its function can seriously affect payments to the investors.

Swap Counterparty Risk: Some securitisation transactions are so structured wherein the floating rate payments of obligors are converted into fixed payments using swaps. Failure on the part of the swap counterparty can affect the stability of cash flows of the investors.

Financial Guarantor Risk: Sometime external credit protection in the form of insurance or guarantee is provided by an external agency. Guarantor failure can adversely impact the stability of cash flows to the investors.