Security and Exchange Board of India (SEBI): S. K. Mohanty, (Whole Time Member) granted exemptions to the United Provinces Sugar Company Ltd. from the requirements of complying with Minimum Public Shareholding (“MPS”) norms as mandated under rule 19 (2) (b) of provisions of Securities Contracts (Regulations) Rules, 1957 (“SCRR”) and further from the provisions of regulation 27(3)(d) of SEBI(Delisting of Equity Shares) Regulations, 2009 (“Delisting Regulations, 2009”).
The company filed an application before SEBI under Regulation 25A of Delisting Regulations, 2009 seeking certain relaxations for voluntary delisting of the company. The equity shares of the Company were listed on CSE for more than 40 years, of which 94.88% were held by the promoters and the balance shares representing 5.12% were held by 274 public shareholders. There had been no change in the shareholding of the promoters and promoter group of the Company since 1997. The Company asserted that since CSE is non-operational and it is not listed on any nationwide stock exchange, there is no investor interest in the shares of the Company and hence, various methods prescribed by SEBI to achieve MPS compliance were not feasible. It was submitted that since most of the public shareholders were inactive, it was highly unlikely to receive the required 90% consent from such public shareholders for delisting.
The issues before the Board were:
- Whether a company can be exempted from minimum public shareholding requirement and also
- Whether the requirement for receiving the consent of the shareholders holding at least 90% of public shareholding of a company, as mandated under Regulation 27(3) (d) of the Delisting Regulations, 2009 can be relaxed?
The Board noted that SEBI Circular CIR/MRD/DSA/18/2014 dated 22-05-2014, inter-alia, exempted companies which were listed exclusively on de-recognized or non-operational stock exchanges from the requirements of MPS prescribed in rules 19(2)(b) and 19A of SCRR and Clause 40A of the Listing Agreement, for the purpose of enabling such companies to opt for voluntary delisting.
For the aforesaid reasons, SEBI, in the interest of investors granted relaxation from the applicability of regulation 27(3) (d) of Delisting Regulations, 2009 to the Company, with further directions that, the Company should ensure compliance with provisions of all other applicable laws including regulation 27(3)(c) of Delisting Regulations, 2009. Additionally, the Applicant should cause to publish the newspaper advertisement in at least one national newspaper in English and in local vernacular newspapers in each State where its public shareholders are residing, as per the addresses available in its records, announcing its delisting proposal within 30 days of this Order, and at least 10 days before the letter is sent to the public shareholders seeking their consent for the delisting proposal. [Delisting of The United Provinces Sugar Company Ltd., In Re., 2020 SCC OnLine SEBI 214, decided on 21-12-2020]