Cabinet backs more foreign ownership in retail, airlines and TV
The Indian Cabinet approved yesterday three major investment decisions which have been on the cards for months; to allow foreign majority stakes of 51% in multi-brand retailing, to allow overseas airlines to hold up to 49% in Indian carriers and to increase the foreign-investment cap for cable and satellite TV operators from 49% to 74%.
International pressure has been building to allow foreign investors to hold majority stakes in the multi-brand retail sector. The government approved the plan last year and then backtracked after fierce pressure from the retail sector.
Yesterday the Cabinet approved once more the opportunity for majority stakes in multi-brand retailing but only where state governments approve. There is likely to be fierce opposition to the move.
The Cabinet Office press release on multi-brand ownership in part reads as follows:
“The Cabinet has approved the proposal of the Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion for permitting FDI in multi-brand retail trading, subject to specified conditions.
The proposal had earlier been approved by the Cabinet in its meeting on 24.11.2011. However, implementation of the proposal had been deferred, for evolving a broader consensus on the subject.
In pursuance of the aforestated decision of the Cabinet on 7.12.2011, discussions have been held with State Governments, representatives of consumer associations/organizations, micro & small industry associations, farmers’ associations and representatives of food processing industry and industry associations. The Chief Ministers of Delhi, Assam, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Haryana and Governments of the State of Manipur and the Union Territory of Daman & Diu and Dadra and Nagar Haveli, have expressed support for the policy in writing. The Chief Minister of Jammu & Kashmir, through his press statements, has publicly endorsed the policy and asked for its implementation. The State Governments of Bihar, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Tripura and Odisha have expressed reservations.
During the consultations with the stakeholders, views for and against FDI in multi-brand retail trading were expressed. On balance, however, the discussions generally indicated support for the policy, subject to the introduction of adequate safeguards.
Accordingly, the following proposals have been approved:
(i) Retail sales outlets may be set up in those States which have agreed or agree in future to allow FDI in MBRT under this policy. The establishment of the retail sales outlets will be in compliance of applicable State laws/ regulations, such as the Shops and Establishments Act etc.
(ii) Retail sales outlets may be set up only in cities with a population of more than 10 lakh as per 2011 Census and may also cover an area of 10 kms around the municipal/urban agglomeration limits of such cities; retail locations will be restricted to conforming areas as per the Master/Zonal Plans of the concerned cities and provision will be made for requisite facilities such as transport connectivity and parking; In States/ Union Territories not having cities with population of more than 10 lakh as per 2011 Census, retail sales outlets may be set up in the cities of their choice, preferably the largest city and may also cover an area of 10 kms around the municipal/urban agglomeration limits of such cities. The locations of such outlets will be restricted to conforming areas, as per the Master/Zonal Plans of the concerned cities and provision will be made for requisite facilities such as transport connectivity and parking.
(iii) At least 50% of total FDI brought in shall be invested in ‘backend infrastructure’ within three years of the induction of FDI, where ‘back-end infrastructure’ will include capital expenditure on all activities, excluding that on front-end units; for instance, back-end infrastructure will include investment made towards processing, manufacturing, distribution, design improvement, quality control, packaging, logistics, storage, ware-house, agriculture market produce infrastructure etc. Expenditure on land cost and rentals, if any, will not be counted for purposes of backend infrastructure.
(iv) A high-level group under the Minister of Consumer Affairs may be constituted to examine various issues concerning internal trade and make recommendations for internal trade reforms.
Other conditions/safeguards, approved by the Cabinet on 24.11.2012, would remain unchanged. The suspension of Government’s decision taken in the Cabinet meeting on 24.11.2011 to permit FDI up to 51% in MBRT, therefore, stands removed.
The respective State Governments administer the Shops & Establishment Act within their territorial jurisdiction. “Trade & Commerce within the State” is a subject allocated to the State Governments, under the Constitution of India. State Governments are also responsible for aspects ancillary to MBRT, such as zoning regulations, warehousing requirements, access, traffic, parking and other logistics. As such, the policy provides that it would be the prerogative of the State Governments to decide whether and where a multi-brand retailer, with FDI, is permitted to establish its sales outlets within the State. Therefore, implementation of the policy is not a mandatory requirement for all States.
Retail sales outlets may be set up only in cities with a population of more than 10 lakh as per 2011 Census (including an area of 10 kms around the municipal/urban agglomeration limits of such cities). On the other hand, States/ Union Terrritories, which do not have any city with a population exceeding 10 lakhs, but are desirous of implementing the policy, would have the flexibility to do so.
Thus, the revised condition gives primacy to the decision of the States in this regard, recognizing that the FDI policy constitutes, at best, an enabling framework for the purpose.”