The RBI has by way of a recent notification attempted to plug this loophole. The regulator has clarified that it issues a Certificate of Registration (CoR) for the specific purpose of conducting NBFI activities. Investments in fixed deposits cannot be treated as financial assets and receipt of interest income on fixed deposits with banks cannot be treated as income from financial assets as these are not covered under the activities mentioned in the definition of “financial Institution” in Section 45I(c) of the RBI Act 1934. Besides, bank deposits constitute near money and can be used only for temporary parking of idle funds, and/or in the above cases, till commencement of NBFI business. The RBI has directed that a NBFC which is in receipt of a CoR from the Bank must necessarily commence NBFC business within 6 months of obtaining CoR. If the business of NBFC is not commenced by the company within such a period, the CoR will stand withdrawn automatically. Further, there can be no change in ownership of the NBFC prior to commencement of business and regularization of its CoR.
There are numerous NBFCs who have obtained registration from the RBI, parked their funds in fixed deposits with commercial banks but have not commenced NBFC activities for several years thereafter. In view of the recent difficulty in getting NBFC registrations as well as to get the benefit of lower net owned funds (NOF) requirements (in case the NBFC was registered pre-1999), acquiring such inactive/ dormant NBFCs had almost become the norm for entities wishing to enter the financial services’ space in India.
I am starting a blog tracking developments in laws/ regulations relating to NBFCs. Please follow and needless to mention, I am happy to receive comments/ feedback on practical experiences readers have had with the regulator.