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Foreign Institutional Investor (FII)

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Foreign Institutional Investor (FII) means an institution established or incorporated outside India which proposes to make investment in securities in India. They are registered as FIIs in accordance with Section 2 (f) of the SEBI (FII) Regulations 1995. FIIs are allowed to subscribe to new securities or trade in already issued securities. This is just one form of foreign investments in India, as may be seen from the graph below:

Foreign Institutional Investor

FII Vs FDI: International standards and Indian definition

According to IMF and OECD definitions, the acquisition of at least ten percent of the ordinary shares or voting power in a public or private enterprise by non-resident investors makes it eligible to be categorized as foreign direct investment (FDI). (see OECD benchmark definition) In India, a particular FII is allowed to invest upto 10% of the paid up capital of a company, which implies that any investment above 10% will be construed as FDI, though officially such a definition does not exist.

In India, FDI and FII are defined in Schedule 1 and 2 respectively of the Foreign Exchange Management (Transfer or Issue of Security by a Person Resident Outside India) Regulations 2000. (Original notification is available at Subsequent amendment notifications are available at

Myths about FIIs

There are certain myths / beliefs about FIIs which are not necessarily true.

Myth -1:- FIIs do not invest in unlisted entities. They participate only through stock exchanges

Myth -2:- FIIs cannot invest at the time of initial allotment. Foreign investors investing in initial allotment of shares (say IPOs or when a group of entities come together to float a company) are categorized as FDIs

Truth on 1 and 2:- As per Section 15 (1) (a) of the SEBI FII Regulations, 1995, a Foreign Institutional Investor (FII) may invest in the securities in the primary and secondary markets including shares, debentures and warrants of companies unlisted, listed or to be listed on a recognized stock exchange in India. In fact FIIs are very active in the over the counter (OTC) markets and in the IPO market in India.

Truth on 3:- To some extant this notion is true and is emphasized in policy documents. For instance, consolidated FDI Policy of Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) states that “foreign Direct Investment, as distinguished from portfolio investment (FII), has the connotation of establishing a ‘lasting interest’ in an enterprise that is resident in an economy other than that of the investor”.

However, of late, there have been occasions where FIIs come together to influence decisions in companies where they hold shares. The difference between FDI and FII, except for the fact that the latter necessarily has to be an institution (FDI can come from an individual also), rather lies in the registration or approval process and to some extent in the individual investment limits or lock-in conditions specified for each category.

Globally also, the acquisition of at least ten percent of the ordinary shares or voting power in a public or private enterprise by non-resident investors makes it eligible to be categorized as FDI, rather than the purpose of the investments, as intimated or stated by the investing foreigner due to difficulty in assessing it and also for statistical consistency.

Regulation of FIIs

The regulations for foreign investment in India have been framed by the Reserve Bank of India in terms of Sections 6 and 47 of the Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999 and notified vide Notification No. FEMA 20/ 2000-RB dated 3rd May 2000 viz. Foreign Exchange Management (Transfer or issue of Security by a person Resident outside India) Regulations 2000, as amended from time to time. In line with the said regulations, since 2003, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has been registering FIIs and monitoring investments made by them through the portfolio investment route under the SEBI (FII) regulations 1995. SEBI acts as the nodal point in the registration of FIIs.

Who can get registered as FII?

Following foreign entities / funds are eligible to get registered as FII:

  1. Pension Funds
  2. Mutual Funds
  3. Investment Trusts
  4. Banks
  5. Insurance Companies / Reinsurance Company
  6. Foreign Central Banks
  7. Foreign Governmental Agencies
  8. Sovereign Wealth Funds
  9. International/ Multilateral organization/ agency
  10. University Funds (Serving public interests)
  11. Endowments (Serving public interests)
  12. Foundations (Serving public interests)
  13. Charitable Trusts / Charitable Societies (Serving public interests)

Thus it may be seen that sovereign wealth funds (SWFs) are also regulated under FII regulations only, and no separate regulation exists for SWFs. Further, following entities proposing to invest on behalf of broad based funds, are also eligible to be registered as FIIs:

  1. Asset Management Companies
  2. Investment Manager/Advisor
  3. Institutional Portfolio Managers
  4. Trustee of a Trust
  5. Bank

Foreign individuals can register as sub-accounts of FII to make investments in Indian securities.

What FIIs can do?

A Foreign Institutional Investor may invest only in the following:-

  1. securities in the primary and secondary markets including shares, debentures and warrants of companies unlisted, listed or to be listed on a recognised stock exchange in India; and
  2. units of schemes floated by domestic mutual funds including Unit Trust of India, whether listed on a recognised stock exchange or not
  3. units of scheme floated by a collective investment scheme
  4. dated Government Securities
  5. derivatives traded on a recognised stock exchange
  6. commercial paper
  7. Security receipts
  8. Indian Depository Receipt

FIIs are allowed to trade in all exchange traded derivative contracts subject to the position limits as prescribed by SEBI from time to time. Clearing Corporation monitors the open positions of the FII/ sub-accounts of the FII for each underlying security and index, against the position limits, at the end of each trading day.

How do they invest?

A SEBI registered FII (as per Schedules 2 of Foreign Exchange Management (Transfer or Issue of Security by a Person Resident Outside India) Regulations 2000) can invest/trade through a registered broker in the capital of Indian Companies on recognised Indian Stock Exchanges. FIIs can purchase shares / convertible debentures either through private placement or through offer for sale.

An FII can also invest in India on behalf of a sub-account (means any person outside India on whose behalf investments are proposed to be made in India by a FII) which is registered as a sub-account under Section 2 (k) of the SEBI (FII) Regulations, 1995.

Also, an FII can issue off-shore derivative instruments (ODIs) to persons who are regulated by an appropriate foreign regulatory authority and after compliance with Know Your Client (KYC) norms.

Every FII/sub-account is required to appoint a domestic Indian custodian to hold in custody its Indian securities. Custodian of Securities is a registered and regulated entity by SEBI. The FII/sub-account is also required to ensure that the domestic custodian it has appointed monitors the investments made by it in India, reports its transactions in securities to SEBI on a daily basis and preserve records of transactions for a specified period. The FII/sub-account is also required to suitably enable the custodian to furnish reports pertaining to its activities, to SEBI, as and when required by SEBI.

Authorized dealer banks (i.e. the bank which is authorized by RBI to deal in foreign currency) can offer forward cover (i.e, to minimize the impact of currency fluctuations, banks offer them the option to sell / purchase foreign currency on a fixed future date at a rate specified today) to FIIs to the extent of total inward remittances of liquidated investments.

FII investment limits

Investment by individual FIIs/ sub-accounts (excluding foreign corporates and individuals) cannot exceed 10 per cent of paid up capital of a company. Investment by foreign corporates or individuals registered as sub accounts of FII cannot exceed 5 per cent of paid up capital. All FIIs and their sub-accounts taken together cannot acquire more than 24 per cent of the paid up capital of an Indian Company. An Indian Company can raise the 24 per cent ceiling to the Sectoral Cap / Statutory Ceiling, as applicable, by passing a resolution by its Board of Directors followed by passing a Special Resolution to that effect by their General Body. The list of such companies who have passed a Special Resolution in this regard can be seen from the RBI website.

Progression of allowable limit of FIIs investment in Debt Instruments is given below:

FIIs investment in Debt Instruments [In US$ Billion]
  2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 (March) 2011 (Nov) 2012 (June)
Corporate Bond 0.5# 1.5# 3# 15# 20

(15# + 5**)


(15# + 25 **)


(20# + 25**)


(20# + 25** +1 ##)

Govt. Securities 1.75* 3.2* 5* 5* 10

(5* + 5^)


(5* + 5^)


(10* + 5^)


(10* + 10^^)


* G-Sec Old: The limit can be invested in securities without any residual maturity criterion.

^ G-Sec LT: The limit can be invested in securities with residual maturity of five years.

^^ G-Sec LT: The limit can be invested in securities with residual maturity of three years.

# Corporate Debt Old: The limit can be invested in securities without any residual maturity/lock-in criterion.

** Incremental limit of US$ 5 billion would be invested in securities with residual maturity of over five years issued by companies in infrastructure sector.

## A separate sub-limit of USD 1 billion has been created for QFIs investment in corporate bonds and mutual fund debt schemes.

** Distribution of USD 25 Billion limit is as under:

  1. US$10 billion investment in Infrastructure Debt Funds (IDF) –(a) Lock-in period of 1 Year (b) Residual maturity of at least 15 months.
  2. US$ 12 Billion for FII investment in in long term infrastructure bonds – (a) Lock-in period of 1 Year (b) Residual maturity of at least 15 months.
  3. USD 3 billion for QFI Investment in MF debt schemes which hold at least 25% of their assets (either in debt or equity or in both) in the infrastructure sector.

Monitoring Foreign Investments

The Reserve Bank of India monitors the ceilings on FII investments in Indian companies on a daily basis. For effective monitoring of foreign investment ceiling limits, the Reserve Bank has fixed cut-off points that are two percentage points lower than the actual ceilings. The cut-off point, for instance, is fixed at 22 per cent for companies in with 24 per cent ceiling. Once the aggregate net purchases of equity shares of the company by FIIs reach the cut-off point, which is 2% below the overall limit, the Reserve Bank cautions all designated bank branches so as not to purchase any more equity shares of the respective company on behalf of FIIs without prior approval of the Reserve Bank. The link offices are then required to intimate the Reserve Bank about the total number and value of equity shares/convertible debentures of the company they propose to buy on behalf of FIIs. On receipt of such proposals, the Reserve Bank gives clearances on a first-come-first served basis till such investments in companies reach the investment limit or the sectoral caps/statutory ceilings as applicable. On reaching the aggregate ceiling limit, the Reserve Bank advises all designated bank branches to stop purchases on behalf of their FIIs. The Reserve Bank also informs the general public about the `caution’ and the `stop purchase’ in these companies through a press release.

Data on FII

The data on FII investments can be obtained from three sources, SEBI, Stock Exchanges and RBI. The figures may vary across these sources.

Custodians on a daily basis, report to SEBI the investments made by the FIIs on the previous day/s. The details can be accessed here.

All figures reported to SEBI are about investment details and FIIs are necessarily required to invest in Rupees. Thus all figures are in Rupees on SEBI website. The USD figure mentioned on the SEBI data is for representational purpose only- i.e., the USD rate is taken from RBI website and the conversion is done automatically by the software.

SEBI data on FIIs thus, represents only investments activity; it does not indicate the actual flow of money out of India or into India. Hence, SEBI always mentions investment activity of FIIs and never states that it is reporting inflow or outflow of funds.

The RBI data, on the other hand, represents the actual flow of money in and out of India. As per Schedule II of FEMA Notification no. 20, the FIIs can maintain a non-interest bearing foreign currency account and a non-interest bearing Special Non-Resident Rupee account where the cash balances can be kept without any caps. It has been observed that FIIs keep balances in these accounts without making investments at times. These balances reflect the amounts received from abroad as well as divestments proceeds accruing to the FIIs from their investments in India. In terms of the regulations issued under FEMA for investment into the Portfolio Investment Scheme, RBI has not placed any restriction on the amount being kept on these accounts. Accordingly, there is no one to one correspondence between foreign capital flows on account of FIIs and investments made by FIIs in any particular period of time.

The Foreign Institutional Investors (FII) related provisional figures reported on the websites of National Stock Exchange (NSE) and Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) are also not comparable to the FII Investment Figures published on the SEBI website for the following reasons:

  1. The FII data reported on the BSE-NSE website is provisional trade data reported on the trade date (T day) as per the trades posted by the brokers in the exchanges’ trading system.
  2. The FII investment data as reported on SEBI website is confirmed trade data provided by custodian of securities after confirmation of transactions on behalf of FII, to the stock exchange(s).
  3. The FII investment data on SEBI website is provided by custodians of securities after their confirmation on T+1 basis.
  4. The provisional trade data reported by NSE/BSE on their website is limited only to transactions in secondary market, whereas the custodian reporting to SEBI includes the following transaction types:-
    • Purchase and sale in secondary market
    • Purchase and sale of mutual fund units in secondary market
    • Purchase in primary market
    • Preferential allotment
    • Purchase through rights issue
    • Conversion of debentures into equity shares
    • Receipt of bonus shares
    • Redemption of debenture /units of mutual funds
    • Lodging shares in terms of open offer
    • Repurchase of units by mutual fund
    • Buyback of shares by company
    • Payment of allotment/call money
    • Square off - on account of short delivery received
    • Square off and auction- on account of short delivery given
    • Consolidation sub division of securities.

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