Business Standard carries a report
indicating that SEBI is in the process of considering a general exemption to the Government
from making a mandatory open offer under SEBI’s Takeover Regulations 2011. This
comes in the wake of two specific exemptions granted by SEBI this year in the case of IDBI
Bank and IFCI
whereby the Government was given special dispensation from making an open offer
when it increased its stake in the companies due to conversion of securities
into equity shares.
under the 2011 Regulations, SEBI has the power to grant exemptions on a
case-by-case basis, which it has exercised in the two cases mentioned above.
But, any grant of blanket exemptions to the Government would be a retrograde
step. There is no compelling reason for the Government to be treated on a
special footing compared to private acquirers because the Regulations are in
the end analysis concerned with the protection of minority shareholders in a
listed company. By creating such an exemption, SEBI would be discriminating
against shareholders of government companies, as they would lack an exit opportunity
through an open offer that is available to shareholders in non-government
the grant of such dispensation to the Government does not augur well in terms
of ensuring compliance with securities regulation in the interest of investors.
The Government ought to be setting an example by undertaking the obligations
under securities regulation such as the Takeover Regulations and paving the way
for ensuring compliance by private acquirers, thereby protecting the interests
of minority shareholders in public listed companies. This method of carving out
special provisions for government companies, that began with the lower minimum
shareholding of 10% rather than the larger 25% limit for other companies, stands
no reason when judged against the purpose of the Takeover Regulations, which is
to provide an equal exit opportunity to minority shareholders when there is a
change in control of the company.
basis as per the current practice. That would not only provide the flexibility
to deal with specific circumstances such as those that arose in the IFCI and
IDBI Bank cases, but at the same time it would require SEBI to apply its mind
to individual cases rather than to deal with them on an overall basis as