India to tighten antitrust rules for tech deals

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India to tighten antitrust rules for tech deals

India wants to tighten rules around mergers and acquisitions under proposed legislation that could affect global tech firms that do a lot of business there.

The bill that was introduced in Parliament on Friday is expected to be passed as soon as next week and is part of an overhaul of India's competition law.

The Competition Commission of India CCI reviews mergers and acquisitions that surpass thresholds for assets or turnover.

Many high-value deals between technology firms that have a big presence in India have escaped scrutiny because the companies involved have few assets and low turnover there.

In 2014, Facebook acquired WhatsApp for $19 billion and required no CCI clearance, even though WhatsApp counted India as a major market, lawyers say.

All deals worth over 20 billion rupees $250 million are subject to antitrust scrutiny if the companies have substantial business operations in India, according to the draft law.

Anisha Chand, a partner in antitrust law at Indian law firm Khaitan Co, said the deal value test aimed at attracting scrutiny of transactions where parties do not meet the conventional asset and turnover thresholds.

She said that if passed in the present form, the incoming amendment could result in a jump in the number of transactions particularly in new age markets that require prior clearance.

Public policy consulting firm Koan Advisory said that the deal value threshold for scrutiny is in line with antitrust regulations in Germany and Austria.

According to the bill, it will be dated August 2 and that new regulations from the CCI will lay out the process to determine whether an entity has substantial business operations in India.

As part of the revamp of competition law, the government proposes reducing the time limit for approval of mergers to 150 days from 210 days.

The bill says it plans to introduce a mechanism for entities trying to reach a settlement with the CCI.