LAWFUEL – The Law Newswire – The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) today released a consultation paper on proposals to improve disclosure to retail investors in the $8billion unlisted and unrated debenture market.
The improved disclosure measures (for consultation) are based on an ‘if not, why not’ basis of reporting. That is, issuers would report to investors against certain principles and benchmarks, which they should follow or explain why they may not have followed those principles and benchmarks.
‘The fundamental objective is to provide retail investors, and their advisers, with more investor information to make their decisions before they invest and then on an ongoing basis’, ASIC’s Chairman, Mr Tony D’Aloisio said.
The consultation paper is the next major stage in ASIC’s Three Point Plan to deal with unlisted and unrated debentures, announced by Mr D’Aloisio at a hearing of the Senate Standing Committee on Economics on 30 May 2007.
Since the Senate Committee hearing, ASIC has further analysed the unlisted, unrated debenture market and consulted a range of industry experts on the risks of the business models commonly used by issuers of these investments.
ASIC’s proposals are built around four key principles which focus on additional and improved disclosure. They are designed around:
1. providing benchmarks (such as credit rating of risk, liquidity and capital adequacy) to help retail investors and their advisers to assess risk and the risk-reward prospects of unlisted and unrated debentures;
2. requiring disclosure against those benchmarks;
3. requiring those involved with issuers (e.g. trustees, advisers, valuers and auditors) to use those benchmarks in carrying out their responsibilities; and
4. educating investors and potential investors to understand those benchmarks and use them in their decision-making process.
The additional disclosures ASIC proposes are to be on an ‘if not, why not’ basis. The ‘if not, why not’ basis of disclosure would be the basis of prospectus disclosure and the ongoing disclosures issuers must make.
ASIC’s consultation paper also proposes that advertising for these products should not use words such as ‘secure’ and ‘safe’ and should either disclose a credit rating on repayment of principal or state that no rating exists and there is risk an investor may lose some or all of their capital. For retail investors, ASIC plans to produce an Investor Guide to aid their understanding of disclosure documents and conduct an education campaign to improve understanding of such matters as the need for investment diversification.
‘We would like to test our proposals and hear from all those involved on whether we have the right balance between improved disclosure for investors and not unduly restricting this market as a means of raising capital’, Mr D’Aloisio said.
ASIC’s consultation paper provides an appendix which lists issuers of unrated and unlisted debentures. The appendix is a listing only and does not signify any particular level of risk with those debentures. It is simply a list of unlisted and unrated debentures.
Comments on the Unlisted, unrated debentures – improving disclosure for retail investors consultation paper are due 1 October 2007. ASIC will consider submissions before publishing a regulatory guide in October 2007. New fundraising documents are expected to comply with the new ‘if not, why not’ benchmarks from 1 December 2007.
The benchmarks that are proposed serve as the basis for enhanced disclosure. They cover credit ratings, adequate equity capital, adequate liquidity, lending principles (loan to valuation ratios), loan portfolio diversification, valuations, related party transactions and rollovers.
ASIC is proposing reporting on an ‘if not, why not’ basis against these benchmarks:
1. Issuers should have their debentures rated for credit risk by a recognised agency, and have that rating disclosed in the prospectus and advertising.
2. Issuers should have a minimum of 20 per cent equity where funds are directly or indirectly lent to property development. In other cases, the equity should be a minimum of 10 per cent.
3. Issuers should estimate their cash needs for the next three months and have cash on-hand to meet this need.
4. Issuers lending money to property development should be required to maintain a 70 per cent loan to valuation ratio on ‘as if complete’ valuations and 80 per cent on the basis of the latest market valuation.
5. Issuers should disclose how many loans they have, or expect to have, over the coming 12 months by number, value, location, activity and percentage of secured loans.
6. Valuations should be provided. Development property assets should be valued on a cost, ‘as is’ and ‘as if complete’ basis with all three disclosed.
7. Issuers should disclose how many loans they have, or expect to make, to related parties over the next 12 months and what assessment and approval process the follow for such loans.
8. Issuers should disclose their approach to rollovers, including default rollovers.
A copy of the consultation paper is available from the ASIC website at www.asic.gov.au.
For further information contact:
ASIC Media Unit
Telephone: 03 9280 3407
Mobile: 0417 540 769