Provisions of Companies Act

A business may grow over time as the utility of its products and services is recognized. It may also grow through an inorganic process, symbolized by an instantaneous expansion in work force, customers, infrastructure resources and thereby an overall increase in the revenues and profits of the entity. Mergers and acquisitions are manifestations of an inorganic growth process. While mergers can be defined to mean unification of two players into a single entity, acquisitions are situations where one player buys out the other to combine the bought entity with itself. It may be in form of a purchase, where one business buys another or a management buy out, where the management buys the business from its owners. Further, de-mergers, i.e., division of a single entity into two or more entities also require being recognized and treated on par with mergers and acquisitions regime as recommended below, and accordingly references below to mergers and acquisitions also is intended to cover de-mergers (with the law & Rules as framed duly catering to the same).

Mergers and acquisitions are used as instruments of momentous growth and are increasingly getting accepted by Indian businesses as critical tool of business strategy. They are widely used in a wide array of fields such as information technology, telecommunications, and business process outsourcing as well as in traditional business to gain strength, expand the customer base, cut competition or enter into a new market or product segment. Mergers and acquisitions may be undertaken to access the market through an established brand, to get a market share, to eliminate competition, to reduce tax liabilities or to acquire competence or to set off accumulated losses of one entity against the profits of other entity.

The process of mergers and acquisitions in India is court driven, long drawn and hence problematic. The process may be initiated through common agreements between the two parties, but that is not sufficient to provide a legal cover to it. The sanction of the High Court is required for bringing it into effect. The Companies Act, 1956 consolidates provisions relating to mergers and acquisitions and other related issues of compromises, arrangements and reconstructions, however other provisions of the Companies Act get attracted at different times and in each case of merger and acquisition and the procedure remains far from simple. The Central Government has a role to play in this process and it acts through an Official Liquidator (OL) or the Regional Director of the Ministry of Company Affairs. The entire process has to be to the satisfaction of the Court. This sometimes results in delays.

Needless to say, in the context of increasing competitiveness in the market, speed is of the essence, especially in an expanding and vibrant economy like ours. A sign of corporate readiness, skill and stratagem is the ability to do such mergers and acquisitions with ‘digital’ speed. E-governance could provide a helpful tool in achieving the objective of speed with provisions for online registration, approvals etc.

The Committee was of the view that contractual mergers may be given statutory recognition in the Company Law in India as is the practice in many other countries. Such mergers and acquisitions through contract form (i.e. without court intervention), could be made subject to subsequent approval of shareholders by ordinary majority. This would eliminate obstructions to mergers and acquisitions, ex-post facto protection and ability to rectify would be available.

There has been a steady increase in cross-border mergers with the increase in global trade. Such mergers and acquisitions can bring long-term benefits when they are accompanied by policies to facilitate competition and improved corporate governance.

The Committee went into several aspects of the provisions in the existing law constituting a separate code in themselves and regulating a very important aspect of restructuring and consolidation of business in response to the economic environment. An effort was made to identify the areas of concern under the present law and to recommend means of addressing them.

At present, in case of a proposed scheme for amalgamation of company which is being dissolved without winding up, the law requires a report from the Official Liquidator (OL) or Registrar of Companies (ROC) that the affairs of company have not been conducted in a manner prejudicial to the interest of its members or to public interest. The Act also requires that no order for dissolution of any transferor company shall be made by the Court unless the OL makes a report to the Court that the affairs of the company have not been conducted in a manner prejudicial to the interest of its members or to public interest. The Committee felt that the above two requirements under the present law can be covered by issuing notices to ROC and OL respectively; who may file before the Court, information that may have a bearing on the proposed merger. There is no requirement of a separate information in response to the notice to be filed for the purpose. Filing of such report may be time-bound, beyond which it may be presumed that ROC/OL concerned have no comments to offer.

The Companies Act, 2013 (2013 Act) has seen the light of day and replaced the 1956 Act with some sweeping changes including those in relation to mergers and acquisitions (M&A).

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The new Act has been lauded by corporate organizations for its business-friendly corporate regulations, enhanced disclosure norms and providing protection to investors and minorities, among other factors, thereby making M&A smooth and efficient. Its recognition of interse shareholder rights takes the law one step forward to an investor-friendly regime. The 2013 Act seeks to simplify the overall process of acquisitions, mergers and restructuring, facilitate domestic and cross-border mergers and acquisitions, and thereby, make Indian firms relatively more attractive to PE investors.

The term ‘merger’ is not defined under the Companies Act, 1956 (“CA 1956”), and under Income Tax Act, 1961 (“ITA”). However, the Companies Act, 2013 (“CA 2013”) without strictly defining the term explains the concept. A ‘merger’ is a combination of two or more entities into one; the desired effect being not just the accumulation of assets and liabilities of the distinct entities, but organization of such entity into one business.

On 7th November, 2016 Central Government issued a notification for enforcement of section 230-233, 235-240, 270-288 etc w.e.f. 15th December, 2016. But still rules were not available till date for CAA.

MCA vide notification dated 14th Dec, 2016 has issued rules i.e. The Companies (Compromises, Arrangements and Amalgamations) Rules, 2016. These rules will be effective from 15th December, 2016. Consequently, w.e.f. 15.12.2016 all the matters relating to Compromises, Arrangements, and Amalgamations (hereafter read as “CAA”) will be dealt as per provisions of Companies Act, 2013 and The Companies (Compromises, Arrangements, and Amalgamations) Rules, 2016.

Where a compromise or arrangement is proposed for the purposes of or in connection with scheme for the reconstruction of any company or companies, or for the amalgamation of any two or more companies, the petition shall pray for appropriate orders and directions under section 230 read with section 232 of the Act.

Section relating to Merger & Amalgamation Section 230 & 232.

In this article COMPROMISE & ARRANGEMENT (C&A) will be read in relation to Merger & Amalgamation only.

In Case of application filing u/s 230 for Compromise & Arrangement in relation to reconstruction of the Company or companies involving merger or the amalgamation of any two or more companies should specify the purpose of the scheme.

REASON OF M&A
·        Expansion and Diversification
·        Optimum Economic Benefit·        De-risking Strategy

 

·        Scaling up of operation for competitive advantages

·        Increase the Market capitalization

·        Cost reduction by reducing overheads

·        Increasing the efficiencies of operations

·        Tax benefits

·        Access foreign markets

TERMS

 

Amalgamation – means combination of two or more independent business corporations into a single enterprise

Demerger– means transfer and vesting of an undertaking of a company into another company

Reconstruction- means re-organization of share capital in any manner; varying the rights of shareholders and/or creditors

Arrangement- All modes of reorganizing the share capital, including interference with preferential and other special rights attached to shares

Who can file the application for Merger & Amalgamation  propose: Section 230(1)

An application for Merger & Amalgamation can be file with Tribunal (NCLT). Both the transferor and the transferee company shall make an application in the form of petition to the Tribunal under section 230-232 of the Companies Act, 2013 for the puspose of sanctioning the scheme of amalgamation.

Joint Application

Where more than one company is involved in a scheme, such application may, at the discretion of such companies, be filed as a joint-application.

However, where the registered office of the Companies are in different states, there will be two Tribunals having the jurisdiction over those, companies, hence separate petition will have to be filed.

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