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IRFC bond curtails listing gains for retail investors

Joydeep Ghosh & Parnika Sokhi / Mumbai 23 Jan 12 | 12:22 AM

The Rs 5,000 crore Indian Railways Finance Corporation (IRFC) bond, scheduled to open on January 27, has sprung a surprise in its prospectus.

What has stumped investors is the new clause (a first in such issues) that the additional coupon for retail investors (8.15 per cent and 8.3 per cent) will be only for primary retail subscribers. Bonds purchased offline or online will carry an eight per cent and 8.10 per cent coupon rate for 10 and 15-year terms, respectively, for all categories of investors.

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In other words, if a retail investor sells the bond in the secondary market, the buyer will earn lower returns than the couple rate. In effect, the arbitrage opportunity between retail and HNIs/QIBs will get cancelled if the bond is sold in the exchanges, thereby creating an in-built discount for a retail investor who wants to exit in the interim.

This would be quite a blow to HNIs who use such opportunities to garner good returns through dummy applicants from these instruments. In fact, retail investors often act as dummy applicants for these issues. When these issues get listed, they sell to HNIs or institutional investors.

Market participants say there is a thriving market for dummy applicants in cities like Ahmedabad, Rajkot and Jaipur. In the recent NHAI issue, dummy investors were paid Rs 2,000 per application for name renting.

But if they want to follow the same strategy in this issue, they are unlikely to get the arbitrage benefit. Rishi Nathany, CEO, Dalmia Securities, said, “From a retail investor’s point of view, they should enter only if they are ready to stay invested for the long term. If they want to exit in the interim, they are likely to get a lower realisation of at least 15-20 basis points."

Market opinion, however, is divided on IRFC’s move. While some feel this will ensure that only genuine retail investors subscribe to these bonds, many others say the institution is tampering with a free market.

“IRFC could have opted for a single pricing mechanism like NHAI and PFC. This would not have confused buyers. With this new clause, they as issuers are trying to control the rate of returns investors can earn in the secondary market," said an investment banker. NHAI and PFC offered 8.2 per cent and 8.3 per cent, respectively, for all sets of investors.

The investment banker cites the example of initial public offers or follow-on offers by the government, where the retail investor gets 5-10 per cent discount. However, there are no conditions of a lower rate if sold on listing.

Thirty per cent of the IRFC issue size has been reserved for retail investors, 25 per cent for high net-worth individuals and 45 per cent for institutional buyers.

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    27 Mar 12 at 10:56 PM
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Indian Railway Finance Corporation Limited operates as a financing arm of the Ministry of Railways in India. The company raises money from the market to part finance the plan outlay of Indian Railways. -Tire Works

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