The term ‘merchant banking’ has been used differently in different parts of the world. While in U.K. merchant banking refers to the ‘accepting and issuing houses’, in U.S.A. it is known as ‘investment banking’. The word merchant banking has been so widely used that sometimes it is applied to banks who are not merchants, sometimes to merchants who are not banks and sometimes to those intermediaries who are neither merchants not banks.
In India merchant banking services were started only in 1967 by National Grindlays Bank followed by Citi Bank in 1970. The State Bank of India was the first Indian Commercial Bank having set up separate Merchant Banking Division in 1972. In India merchant banks have been primarily operating as issue houses than full- fledged merchant banks as in other countries.
A merchant bank may be defined as an institution or an organisation which provides a number of services including management of securities issues, portfolio services, underwriting of capital issues, insurance, credit syndication, financial advices, project counselling etc. There is a distinction between a commercial bank and a merchant bank. The merchant banks mainly offer financial services for a fee. while commercial banks accept deposits and grant loans. The merchant banks do not act as repositories for savings of the individuals.
Functions of Merchant Banks:
The basic function of a merchant banker is marketing corporate and other securities. Now they are required to take up some allied functions also.
A merchant bank now takes up the following functions:
- Promotional Activities:
A merchant bank functions as a promoter of industrial enterprises in India He helps the entrepreneur in conceiving an idea, identification of projects, preparing feasibility reports, obtaining Government approvals and incentives, etc. Some of the merchant banks also provide assistance for technical and financial collaborations and joint ventures
- Issue Management:
In the past, the function of a merchant banker had been mainly confined to the management of new public issues of corporate securities by the newly formed companies, existing companies (further issues) and the foreign companies in dilution of equity as required under FERA In this capacity the merchant banks usually act as sponsor of issues.
They obtain consent of the Controller of Capital Issues (now, the Securities and Exchange Board of India) and provide a number of other services to ensure success in the marketing of securities. The services provided by them include, the preparation of the prospectus, underwriting arrangements, appointment of registrars, brokers and bankers to the issue, advertising and arranging publicity and compliance of listing requirements of the stock-exchanges, etc.
They act as experts of the type, timing and terms of issues of corporate securities and make them acceptable for the investors on the one hand and also provide flexibility and freedom to the issuing companies.
- Credit Syndication:
Merchant banks provide specialised services in preparation of project, loan applications for raising short-term as well as long- term credit from various bank and financial institutions, etc. They also manage Euro-issues and help in raising funds abroad.
- Portfolio Management:
Merchant banks offer services not only to the companies issuing the securities but also to the investors. They advise their clients, mostly institutional investors, regarding investment decisions. Merchant bankers even undertake the function of purchase and sale of securities for their clients so as to provide them portfolio management services. Some merchant bankers are operating mutual funds and off shore funds also.
- Leasing and Finance:
Many merchant bankers provide leasing and finance facilities to their customers. Some of them even maintain venture capital funds to assist the entrepreneurs. They also help companies in raising finance by way of public deposits.
- Servicing of Issues:
Merchant banks have also started to act as paying agents for the service of debt- securities and to act as registrars and transfer agents. Thus, they maintain even the registers of shareholders and debenture holders and arrange to pay dividend or interest due to them
- Other Specialised Services:
In addition to the basic activities involving marketing of securities, merchant banks also provide corporate advisory services on issues like mergers and amalgamations, tax matters, recruitment of executives and cost and management audit, etc. Many merchant bankers have also started making of bought out deals of shares and debentures. The activities of the merchant bankers are increasing with the change in the money market.