Primary market scenario post April 2022

By Arun Kejriwal

New Delhi, April 22: The world has been affected by Covid-19 for over 24 months now. However, capital markets used this opportunity and had a fantastic run during the same whether it be secondary markets or for that matter primary markets. A striking feature of primary market offerings during calendar year 2021 was the fact that the bulk of the offerings, as much as roughly 80 per cent was offer for sale. This OFS was dominated by PE investors who took advantage of the markets and sold their stake at unbelievable valuations. This was also the period when tech platform companies and new age companies hit the market. As usual, the market had its fair share of successes and failures.

The driving force behind the listing gains was the oversubscription witnessed across companies barring a handful. This oversubscription came at a cost- the cost of funding the application and this got built into the listing price. This gave a feeling that the issue did well post listing. In reality, most of these companies have lost sharply from their highs and have given up a large part of their gains. Physical events of companies launching their roadshows had stopped and they had become digital with Zoom webinars being the way. This system had its advantages and disadvantages with time to complete being reduced to just one day. Further it gave an unfair advantage to merchant bankers and promoters as conferences were conducted behind an effective censor board in the form of a moderator and tough questions being simply avoided.

An interesting incident was in the Zomato digital event where the company made its entire presentation in US dollars forgetting the basic fact that in an Indian issue, the currency of subscription is Indian Rupees. Fortunately, no other such event has happened thereafter thankfully.

Let us move to April 2022. The scenario has changed completely. There are new regulations imposed by RBI and SEBI. RBI has introduced a ceiling on the amount of money that can be lent by an NBFC against application at an upper cap of Rs 1 crore. This means every HNI can borrow just one crore each. This would mean in simple terms that the HNI portion which has seen oversubscriptions of 200-600 times would just not happen. The method of controlling this lending would be the PAN card. The second thing would be that this oversubscription came at a cost. The cost of funding. When there is no leveraging, there is no cost of funding. This would have a dramatic impact on the unofficial but rampant grey market. Premiums there would crash and the obnoxious returns made on listing would simply vanish. This would put pressure on subscriptions from other categories as well. The day when an IPO for Rs 1,000 crore garnered subscription across categories of Rs 40,000-60,000 would just stop.

SEBI has split the HNI bucket of 15 per cent into two with the first bucket of 5 per cent for application between 2 lakhs to 10 lakhs. The remaining 10 per cent is for applications which are greater than Rs 10 lakhs. The allotment in these categories in case of oversubscription would be on basis of lots like retail. This implies that allotment would be uniform to all applicants of the base lot size which would be Rs 2 lakhs and 10 lakhs as the case maybe on basis of lottery. In case of undersubscription, allotment would be on normal basis where the applicant would get shares on the basis of his subscription.

The other major change is with respect to anchor allocation and lock-in. Half the shares allotted to anchors would be locked for 30 days while the balance half would be locked in for 90 days. This would make anchor investors seek comfort on the pricing of IPO’s and indirectly seek comfort that the issue is reasonably priced so that they do not go under during the mandatory lock-in period.

Let us look at the HNI bucket with an example. For assumption we take a size of the primary offering which could include fresh issue and offer for sale of Rs 1,000 crore. Fifty per cent of the issue would be for QIB’s, 15 per cent for HNI’s and the balance 35 per cent for retail. Of the 50 per cent for QIB’s, 60 per cent would be for anchors. In this example, Rs 300 crore would be for anchors with Rs 150 crore of shares being locked in for the customary 30 days and balance Rs 150 crore for the new period of 90 days. Any anchor would now take a view that his invested price or issue price should not go below the issue price in 90 days. This would give additional comfort to other investors hopefully.

HNI bucket of 5 per cent for Rs 2 lakhs to 10 lakhs would mean Rs 50 crore. This would require 2,500 applications of Rs 2 lakhs to be subscribed on lots. The larger bucket of 10 per cent or Rs 100 crore would require 1,000 applications of Rs 10 lakhs to be subscribed. When the allotment is capped at this system unlike the earlier proportionate, many large applications would be deterred until and unless on the last day just before closing time there is a feeling that the issue may not get subscribed in the HNI category. Then people would look at the issue and make larger applications than 10 lakhs.

In the new scheme of things there would be two major factors which would see a change. The first is subscription levels where three-digit subscription levels in HNI category would be a thing of the past. Second would be as far as premiums are concerned. They would fall significantly as there is no logical cost of interest which could decide the logical premium. The impact of these two factors combined should put pressure on pricing by merchant bankers and promoters.

As an analyst, a person like me would be very happy that management and merchant bankers would now have to justify valuations rather than take the easy way out of suggesting that there is a 50-60 per cent grey market premium. If you feel the price is high, sell in the grey market.

Interesting times ahead for primary markets which will learn to evolve with these changes as well.

(Arun Kejriwal is the founder of Kejriwal Research and Investment Services. The views expressed are personal)