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23 Jul 2009

Cayman Islands Hedge Funds and Capital Markets in India

A study by Dennis S. Ryan and Sonia Xavier of offshore law specialist, Conyers Dill & Pearman has come out 'Cayman Islands Funds - Entering the Gateway to Capital Markets in India.' The team describes the history and challenges of what Cayman Islands domiciled investment funds have faced when seeking to invest into Indian capital markets.

One of the major hurdles in this regard has been addressed by the 10 June 2009 admission of the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority (“CIMA”) as an ordinary (i.e., full) member of the International Organization of Securities Commissions (“IOSCO”), according to the report.

By way of background, the IOSCO Objectives and Principles of Securities Regulation were endorsed by its member regulators of various securities and futures markets in 1998, and generally are viewed by securities regulators as the key international benchmark on sound principles and practices for securities regulation. Currently, IOSCO members regulate the vast majority of the world's securities markets.

To access the Indian markets, an investment fund must register as a Foreign Institutional Investor (“FII”) with The Securities and Exchange Board of India (“SEBI”). In the past, since CIMA was not a member of IOSCO, SEBI often engaged in extensive due diligence and inquiries before allowing registration of a Cayman fund as a FII. As a result, few Cayman Islands funds have registered with SEBI. CIMA’s admission to IOSCO looks set to change this trend in favour of Cayman Islands funds.

The timing could not be better, the report says, with emerging markets competing to attract liquidity, the Cayman Islands, with over 9,000 CIMA registered investment funds, a proven track record with investors and an excellent and sophisticated service infrastructure, has a great deal to offer India and investors that wish to access its markets.

One remaining challenge is that the Cayman Islands do not currently have a tax treaty with India, the law fim asid. Mauritius, on the other hand, has long been the preferred jurisdiction for investment into India as a consequence of the favourable double taxation agreement between those countries (the “Mauritius-India DTAA”), contributing to around 44% of foreign direct investment (“FDI”) into India.

Investment funds from non-tax treaty jurisdictions have developed a structure involving a wholly owned Mauritius subsidiary for purposes of Indian investment. Typically, this structure requires a Cayman Islands (or other non-treaty jurisdiction) investment fund to register with SEBI as a FII. The Mauritius subsidiary fund will then be registered with SEBI as a sub-account of the FII, permitting it to invest directly in Indian securities via SEBI.

The Mauritius fund will be set up as a Global Business Company Category 1 (“GBC1”) that is resident in Mauritius for tax purposes. As a Mauritius tax resident, this fund is subject to tax on income at the flat rate of 15%. However it is entitled to claim a credit for foreign tax on income not derived from Mauritius against the Mauritius tax payable, resulting in an effective tax rate generally ranging between 3% and nil. As a tax resident GBC1, the fund is also entitled to take advantage of Mauritius’ network of tax treaties, including the Mauritius-India DTAA.

Hedge Fund Managers as Registered SEC Advisors

"One of the focal points of the Obama Administration’s Financial System Regulatory Reform Plan is to seek the passage of legislation that would require hedge fund managers (as well as other private fund managers) to become registered as investment advisors with the SEC and be in compliance with the applicable requirements under the Investment Advisers Act." HedgeOp Compliance said, announcing the launch of a new service to help managers deal with current registration issues.

There are presently three bills pending in Congress and a recent proposal from the Treasury that would achieve that goal if passed. “We are seeing a lot of activity as hedge fund managers look to get ahead of the curve on these requirements and starting the process sooner rather than later." Bill Mulligan, the CEO of HedgeOp said, "In addition to allowing for key thoughtful planning, addressing the registration issue early will provide a great deal of comfort to investors and prospective investors."

The newly launched ADVassist is designed to provide focused registration and compliance guidance, the hedge fund consulting firm said, to not only complete the registration process, but also to create a foundation for development of a compliance culture and infrastructure.