A Brief Note on Alternative Investment Funds

Markets regulator the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) on March 29 introduced amendments to regulations governing Alternative Investment Funds (AIFs). SEBI aims to standardise provisions for the valuation of investments and dematerialisation of units of AIFs.

The markets regulator gave a go-ahead to various measures to strengthen the framework for AIFs. These included having an independent valuation of their investments and introducing a comprehensive certification requirement for key investment teams of AIF managers, among others.

It is estimated that AIFs are likely to gain traction as high-net-worth individuals (HNIs) and investors look forward to alternatives, especially with debt funds losing long-term tax benefits.

So, what exactly are AIFs? AIFs refer to privately pooled investment funds that invest in alternative asset classes such as hedge funds, private equity, venture capital, real estate and other investment types.

An AIF can be established through a trust, company, body corporate or a Limited Liability Partnership (LLP).

SEBI has divided AIFs into three categories:

Category 1: These funds invest in businesses that are comparatively new and hold high growth potentials such as small and medium enterprises (SMEs), and start-ups. The different funds in this category include: Infrastructure funds, Venture Capital Funds (VCFs), Angel funds, and Social venture funds.

Category 2: Funds that are invested in equity and debt securities are included in this category. Besides, funds that are not already under Categories 1 and 3 are also included.

The different funds in this category include: debt funds, fund of funds and private equity funds.

Category 3: These funds deploy many complex trading techniques, for instance, investing in listed or unlisted derivatives. Below are the funds under this category:

The funds in this category include: private investment in public equity funds (PEFs): and hedge funds.

Indian residents, non-resident Indians (NRIs), and foreign nationals can invest in AIFs. And the minimum investment threshold is Rs 1 crore for investors. In the case of directors, employees, and fund managers, the minimum limit is Rs 25 lakh.

Most AIFs have a minimum lock-in of about three years. Also, the number of investors in every scheme is restricted to 100. However, for angel funds, the number of investors goes up to 49.

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