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Business News/ Markets / Sebi moves to curb inflows into small- and mid-cap funds

Sebi moves to curb inflows into small- and mid-cap funds

This follows concerns over surging inflows into Indian small- and mid-cap mutual funds and potential impact on the financial system if investors suddenly pull out their money

Sebi also wants small- and mid-cap funds to make additional risk disclosures to their investorsPremium
Sebi also wants small- and mid-cap funds to make additional risk disclosures to their investors

India's market regulator has asked money managers to consider restricting one-off investments from clients in small- and mid-cap stock mutual funds and cut commissions offered for their sale, two sources with direct knowledge of the matter said.

The Securities and Exchange Board of India communicated this to the money managers in a meeting earlier this month, the sources, who included a regulatory official, said. The regulator did not specify the quantum of flows it wants restricted, they said.

Sebi's communication shows heightened regulatory concern on the surging inflows into Indian small- and mid-cap mutual funds and any potential ripple effects on the financial system if investors suddenly started to yank their money from them.

In India, small-cap stocks are defined as those with market capitalisation of less than 5,000 crore($603.05 million), while mid-cap stocks are those with market values of between 5,000 crore and 20,000 crore. Small- and mid-cap stocks are generally less liquid compared to their large-cap peers.

Assets managed by small-cap funds in India vaulted 86.5% over a 10-month period to 2.48 trillion ($29.92 billion) as of end-January and mid-cap funds jumped 58.5% to 2.9 trillion. Their assets were not much lower than the 2.99 trillion managed by large cap funds.

The Nifty small-cap 100 index has surged 74% over the past 52 weeks and the Nifty mid-cap 100 index is up 60.86%, as of Wednesday's close. Those gains far exceed the benchmark Nifty's 26.21% rise over the same period.

"A nudge to institutional investors such as mutual funds will help soothe extraordinary exuberance building up particularly in small and mid-cap stocks," the regulatory official said.

Sebi did not respond to an emailed request for comment.

The market regulator's communication to money managers about one-off investments is not an official order. The industry has in the past almost always complied with messages from Sebi.

India's mutual fund assets have grown significantly over the years as investors have bought systematic investment plans that make regular contributions towards their portfolios. But domestic investors are also increasingly pumping in one-off, or lumpsum, funds to take advantage of the soaring stock market.

Both the regulator and the asset management industry have made moves recently to tamp down the rapid asset growth.

Sebi also wants small- and mid-cap funds to make additional risk disclosure to their investors. The Association of Mutual Funds in India (AMFI), an industry lobby body, has in a letter asked fund houses to protect investors "including but not limited to moderating inflows".

In another letter sent on Wednesday, AMFI asked funds to disclose to investors results of internal stress tests and details such as the time needed to liquidate 25% or 50% of the portfolio, a third source, who has reviewed the letter, said. These disclosures will need to be made by the 15th of each month, it said.

AMFI did not respond to a request for comment.

Commissions targeted

Sebi is also encouraging moderating of fund inflows by other means, said the first two sources.

Some asset managers have reduced distributor commissions on small- and mid-cap funds by half, said the second source. "Sebi is encouraging other fund houses to slash on similar lines."

Sebi now also wants fund houses to have a plan in place for imposing additional costs on exiting investors in case of large outflows, the sources said.

"To control the cascading impact of large outflows the regulator wants asset managers to explore either imposing a temporary exit load on investors or impose swing pricing," said the second source.

An exit load is a fee imposed at the time of exiting a fund. Swing pricing allows fund managers to artificially adjust a scheme’s value downwards to prevent a cascading of outflows and is prevalent in markets such as the US.

(Additional reporting by Bharath Rajeswaran)

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Published: 29 Feb 2024, 05:38 PM IST
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