New Delhi : MCX Stock Exchange Ltd (MCX-SX) moved a step closer to getting permission to trade in equities with the finance ministry deciding to soon discuss, with various participants and intermediaries in the stock market, the controversial recommendations of the Bimal Jalan committee on market infrastructure and subsequently take a call on these suggestions.
The ministry’s position will then be communicated to the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi), effectively forcing the regulator’s hand. The panel was appointed by Sebi, and its board was to take a call on the recommendations.
According to a senior finance ministry official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, the ministry has decided to be proactive on the Jalan panel recommendations, given the controversy they have generated and their importance. The ministry believes consultations with stakeholders would be the best way to arrive at an acceptable solution, the official said.
In January 2010, Sebi set up the committee under former Reserve Bank of India governor Jalan to review the ownership and governance of market infrastructure institutions (MIIs), such as stock exchanges in the country.
The committee submitted its report in November, which was then placed in the public domain.
The recommendations, particularly those dealing with the ownership of exchanges, the cap on profits of MIIs and the bar on exchanges listing their own shares, kicked up a storm.
Many of the recommendations were publicly opposed by some market participants such as the Bombay Stock Exchange Ltd (BSE) and MCX-SX.
With two stock exchanges, BSE and MCX-SX, clearly in favour of listing exchanges, the finance ministry’s attempt to forge a consensus will likely dilute the Jalan committee’s recommendations related to this.
A spokesperson for MCX-SX declined to comment.
Sebi’s new chairman U.K. Sinha has said he does not have the final say on the Jalan committee report.
“You should ask about deadline only if you think that the person you are talking to has the ultimate authority to decide on it,” Sinha told Mint in a recent interview (9 May) when asked about the status of the recommendations. “Unfortunately, that is not the case.”
Sinha’s oblique reference to the ministry’s role was confirmed by an expert.
“The ministry has become more proactive,” said Sandeep Parekh, founder of Finsec Law Advisors and previously executive director at Sebi. “It is kind of different from what it was in the last five-eight years.”
Sinha did indicate in the same interview that Sebi would be more amenable to granting MCX-SX permission to trade in equities.
Sebi had earlier denied the exchange permission as it hadn’t met required norms regarding the ownership of exchanges. The regulator was headed at that time by C.B. Bhave, who was succeeded by Sinha in February.
Sinha said he would encourage competition among exchanges and ensure business wasn’t concentrated with a particular exchange, a clear reference to the National Stock Exchange of India Ltd.
The ministry’s proactive role extends to Sebi’s stand on new takeover regulations. Discussions on these have featured in two of Sebi’s recent board meetings, but a final decision has not been taken as the ministry is holding its own discussions with stakeholders.
According to Sinha, the finance ministry’s chief economic adviser, Kaushik Basu, is currently talking to stakeholders to help the ministry crystallize its position on the takeover code.
The Jalan panel’s opposition to the listing of exchanges stems from their role as frontline regulators apart from being market participants. The finance ministry official cited earlier said soon after the recommendations came out that this had not prevented other bourses such as the New York Stock Exchange from listing.
“We shouldn’t be the last to do things,” the official said, adding that the ministry’s role would be restricted to forging a consensus.