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The word merchant bank does not have a fixed definition as this term is used differently in different countries. In United States these are called as “Investment Banks” and in UK they are called as “accepting and issuing houses”. The notification of Ministry Of Finance in India defines Merchant Banker as “any person who is engaged in the business of issue management either by making arrangements regarding selling, buying, or subscribing to the securities as manager, consultant, adviser in relation to such an issue management”. In general the merchant banks are the financial institution which provides financial services, solutions, & advice to corporate houses. Some of the world famous merchant banks are Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse & Morgan Stanley etc. In India there are many banks which are into the field of merchant banking some of the banks are ICICI, State Bank Of India, Punjab National Bank etc.
The history of merchant bank can be dated back to 17th & 18th centuries when it first started in Italy & France. This was started by the Italian grain merchants. It comprised of merchant bankers who intermediated or assisted in financing the transactions of other traders and their own trade too. With the passage of time the practices in evolved and the merchant banking in the modern era started from London where the merchants started to finance the foreign trade through acceptance of bill. Later they extended their services to the governments of under developed countries to raise the long term funds through the floatation of bonds in the London money market. Over the period they extended their services to loan syndication, underwriting the issues, portfolio management etc. The post war period witnessed huge increase in the merchant banking activities.
Merchant banking activity was officially commenced into the Indian capital Markets when Grindlays bank received the license from reserve bank in 1967. Grindlays started its operations with management of capital issues, recognized the requirements of upcoming class of Entrepreneurs for diverse financial services ranging from production planning and system design to market research. Apart from this it also provides management consulting services to meet the Requirements of small and medium sector rather than large sector.
The Merchant Bank got more importance in the year 1983 when there was a huge boom in the primary market where the companies were going for new issue. Merchant banking activities are organized and undertaken in several forms. Commercial banks and foreign development finance institutions have organized them through formation divisions, nationalized banks have formed subsidiary companies, share brokers and consultancies constituted themselves into public limited companies or registered themselves as private limited Companies. Some merchant banking companies have entered into collaboration with merchant bankers of foreign countries abroad with several branches.
As of now there are 135 Merchant bankers who are registered with SEBI in India. It includes Public Sector, Private Sector and foreign players some of them are:
Public Sector Merchant Bankers
Private Sector Merchant Bankers
Foreign Players in Merchant Banking
Below mentioned are the major services offered by Merchant Bankers;
Project counseling comprises preparation of project reports, deciding upon the financing pattern to finance the cost of the project and appraising the project report with the financial institutions and banks. It also includes filling up of application forms with significant information for obtaining funds from financial institutions and obtaining government approval.
This is the major function of the merchant banker. They assist the companies in raise funds from the market. The main areas of work in this regard include;
Management of issue involves marketing of corporate securities like equity shares, preference shares and debentures or bonds by offering them to public. Merchant banks act as an intermediary to transfer capital from those who own it to those who need it. After taking action as per SEBI guidelines, the merchant banker organizes a meeting with company representatives and advertising agents to finalize arrangements relating to date of opening and closing of issue, registration of prospectus, launching publicity campaign and fixing date of board meeting to approve and sign prospectus and pass the necessary resolutions. Pricing of issues is done by the companies in consultant with the merchant bankers.
The managers to the issue assist in the drafting of prospectus, application forms and completion of formalities under the Companies Act, appointment of Registrar for dealing with share applications and transfer and listing of shares of the company on the stock exchange. Companies can appoint one or more agencies as managers to the issue.
Underwriting is a guarantee given by the underwriter that in the occurrence of under subscription, the amount underwritten would be subscribed by him. Banks/Merchant banking institutions cannot underwrite more than 15% of any issue.
Portfolio indicates investment in different types of securities such as shares, debentures or bonds issued by different companies. Portfolio management means maintaining proper combinations of securities in a mode that they give maximum return with minimum risk.
A merger is a blending of two companies into a single company where one survives and other loses its corporate existence. A takeover is the purchase by one company obtaining controlling interest in the share capital of another existing company. Merchant bankers act as the middlemen in setting negotiation between the two companies. Merchant bankers assist the management of the client company to successfully restructure various activities such as mergers and acquisitions, divestitures, management buyouts, joint venture among others.
The merchant bankers help their clients in the following areas involving foreign currency.
The services of merchant banker includes investment advisory services to NRI in terms of classification of investment opportunities, selection of securities, investment management, and operational services like purchase and sale of securities.
Loan syndication is an assistance provided by merchant bankers to get mainly term loans for projects. Such loans may be obtained from a single development finance institution or a syndicate or consortium. Merchant bankers help corporate clients to raise syndicated loans from banks and other financial institutions.
Corporate counseling involves the entire field of merchant banking activities such as project counseling, capital restructuring, public issue management, loan syndication, working capital, fixed deposit, lease financing acceptance credit, etc. Merchant bankers also provide customized solutions to their client’s financial problems. Apart from this they also explore the refinancing alternatives of the client, and evaluate cheaper sources of funds. Rehabilitation and turnaround management is another area of advice. A merchant banker advises the client on different hedging strategies and suggests the appropriate strategy.
The merchant banker helps in distributing different securities like equity shares, debt instruments, mutual fund products, fixed deposits, insurance products, commercial paper, etc. The distribution network of the merchant banker can be classified as institutional and retail in character. The institutional network consists of mutual funds, foreign institutional investors, private equity funds, pension funds, financial institutions etc. The size of such a network signifies the wholesale reach of the merchant banker. The retail network is purely depends on networking with investors.