In the last couple of days, I have received quite a few emails and calls from investors inquiring about the stoppage of fresh transactions in Parag Parikh Flexi Cap Fund and a few other schemes offering exposure to offshore equities.
Even there has been a good amount of discussion on social media about fund houses stopping fresh inflows for overseas investments, with many social media posts depicting uncertainty and concern.
Mutual fund investors were taken by surprise after this industry-wide decision, as they will not be able to make fresh investments in mutual fund schemes with exposure to overseas securities. Even some investors may be worried about their investment in funds having offshore exposure.
Is the decision to stop new transactions in funds having significant overseas securities a matter of concern?
The truth behind the story
In the last couple of years, we have seen around 30 new international/offshore funds that collectively garnered an AUM of over Rs 12,400 crore via NFO’s. Most of these are launched in the form of Overseas Fund of Funds and ETF’s.
Other than these, there are existing dedicated offshore schemes that provide investors the benefit of investing abroad and have seen significant inflows. Their AUM shows an increase of over Rs 14,600 crore in CY 2021. Notably, the AUM of dedicated offshore schemes having exposure of over 65% in overseas equities (including ADRs & GDRs) and overseas mutual funds stood at around Rs 39,404 crore as of December 31, 2021, of which around Rs 38,862 crore was invested in offshore securities.
Table 1: Overseas Investment Break-up of Indian Mutual Funds
|Rs in Crore
|USD in billion
|Overseas Investments by Dedicated Overseas Funds
|Overseas Investments by Domestic Equity Funds
|Total Overseas Investments by Indian Mutual Funds
AUM as of December 31, 2021
Source: ACE MF
Moreover, 35 domestic equity schemes (holding over 65% in domestic equities) have invested some portion of their assets in overseas equities (including ADRs & GDRs) and overseas mutual funds, amounting to Rs 19,646 crore.
Overall, as of December 31, 2021, Indian mutual funds held around Rs 58,507 crore in foreign stocks, ADRs, GDRs, and overseas mutual fund Units.
Indian mutual funds are allowed to invest in overseas securities but within a set limit. While SEBI has capped the limit at the fund house level to USD 1 billion, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has capped the overall limit for the mutual fund industry at USD 7 billion for investment in offshore securities, plus a separate industry level cap of USD 1 billion for overseas ETFs.
Notably, the SEBI had enhanced the limit for individual mutual fund houses to USD 1 billion from USD 600 million in June 2021. In contrast, the RBI had last enhanced the aggregate ceiling for overseas investment for the Indian mutual fund industry (from USD 5 billion to USD 7 billion) in April 2008. There has been no revision in the industry limit in the last 13 years.
As the industry-wide limit of USD 7 billion is being hit, the SEBI, along with AMFI, has advised all mutual funds to stop inflows in schemes intending to invest in overseas securities with immediate effect. The AMFI Circular states that “AMCs shall not make any incremental investments in overseas funds or securities beyond what is existing as of February 01, 2022, at the respective mutual fund level.”
Accordingly, many AMCs have decided to temporarily suspend the transactions in schemes having overseas exposure and shall not make any incremental investments in overseas securities beyond what is existing as of February 01, 2022, at the respective mutual fund level. The decision has been taken in order to avoid breach of industry-wide overseas limits as allowed by RBI.
However, mutual fund schemes investing in overseas ETFs may continue accepting inflows as this category has a separate limit, which is yet to be breached.
Table 2: Mutual Fund Schemes with highest AUM in Overseas Securities
|Overseas Allocation (%)
|Overseas AUM (Rs in Crore)
|Motilal Oswal Nasdaq 100 ETF
|Parag Parikh Flexi Cap Fund
|Franklin India Feeder – Franklin U.S. Opportunities Fund
|SBI Focused Equity Fund
|Motilal Oswal S&P 500 Index Fund
|Edelweiss US Technology Equity FOF
|ICICI Pru US Bluechip Equity Fund
|ICICI Pru Value Discovery Fund
|Edelweiss Gr China Equity Off-Shore Fund
AUM as of December 31, 2021
Source ACE MF
Currently, many mutual fund schemes have a significant portion of their portfolio invested in overseas equities and provide investors with geographical diversification. Motilal Oswal Nasdaq 100 ETF, Parag Parikh Flexi Cap Fund, and Franklin India Feeder – Franklin U.S. Opportunities Fund currently top the list based on the value of offshore holdings.
Table 3: Mutual Funds that have stopped taking fresh investments following the directive
Last month Motilal Oswal Mutual Fund had already stopped accepting lump-sum and switch-in investments in three of its dedicated offshore schemes, i.e. Motilal Oswal S&P 500 Index Fund, Motilal Oswal MSCI EAFE Top 100 Select Index Fund, and Motilal Oswal Nasdaq 100 Fund of Fund, that have the mandate to invest in overseas securities.
Among the list of schemes having stopped fresh transactions, Parag Parikh Flexi Cap Fund is the most popular and invests about 30% of its assets in overseas equities. With an AUM of around Rs 19,933 crore as of December 31, 2021, and an overseas allocation of 28.85%, the fund was invested about Rs 5,752 crore in overseas securities, i.e. around USD 770 million.
DSP MF had to alter the investment plan of its recently launched fund, DSP Global Innovation Fund of Fund. The fund, which was supposed to invest in four active funds and two ETFs, will now invest only in ETFs until the limit is enhanced.
What should investors do?
RBI has not increased the industry-wide limit of USD 7 billion in the last 13 years, and it was manageable as the exposure to offshore securities was small. However, the industry AUM has grown significantly from around Rs 5 Lakh crore in 2008 to Over Rs 37 Lakh crore currently.
Of late, investors, especially the HNI’s, have been exploring opportunities to invest in overseas stocks like Alphabet, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, Netflix, etc. They have been pouring money into international funds and those with overseas exposure to benefit from investment opportunities in overseas markets and regions like the US, European, Asia-Pacific, Hongkong, etc., weakening INR vis-a-vis the USD, etc. Accordingly, we have seen many new offshore dedicated funds being launched in the last couple of years, providing investors with the benefit of geographical diversification.
While many fund houses have stopped fresh inflows in their overseas schemes, some are still waiting as they expect the limits to be raised soon. The conditions are very conducive for the RBI to have a relook and increase the investment limit in overseas securities for mutual funds.
Investors looking to invest in overseas markets via mutual funds will have to wait for some time. As the current directive does not apply to mutual fund schemes investing in overseas ETFs, they may continue accepting inflows from investors. Moreover, the units of overseas ETFs will continue to trade on stock exchanges. So, investors will still have few options for taking international exposure through mutual funds.
Investors who have already invested in the restricted offshore funds need not worry as the investments are safe. While there won’t be new transactions, the ongoing SIP/STP may continue. Funds like Parag Parikh Flexi Cap Fund that hold partial exposure to offshore equities have done the right thing by stopping fresh inflows. Although this fund could garner more AUM and invest in domestic equities, it would have imbalanced the planned allocation of domestic and overseas equities.
This article first appeared on PersonalFN here