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RBI perks up investor spirit on Ganpati fest

The apex bank doubles the overseas investment limit for individuals to $200,000, reports BSS Reddy.

business Updated: Sep 26, 2007 03:29 IST
BS Srinivasalu Reddy

Equity Investors weren't the only ones celebrating Anant Chaturdashi, the day when the traditional Ganpati festival ends.



Even as the BSE Sensex surged towards the 17,000-point mark, the banking regulator opened up new vistas for investing wealth overseas.



The apex bank on Tuesday doubled the overseas investment limit for individuals to $200,000 (Rs 80 lakh) per year, double the current limit.



This makes it possible for India's resurgent new middle class to invest in assets which have so far been largely the privilege of wealthy westerners--a villa or a summer home abroad.



The $200,000 cap is for an individual. That means that a family can now build a decent asset base abroad, with a mix of stocks, real estate and mutual funds. Or buy a studio apartment for a daughter or son studying abroad.



With the latest move, the RBI has not only set the tone for the third phase of reforms leading towards full convertibility of the rupee but also accelerated the schedule.



India Inc has not been left out of the party, either. Indian firms can invest in overseas joint ventures or wholly owned subsidiaries up to four times their net worth, under the automatic route. No permits, no clearances: just a filing.



The scheme has also been made available to registered partnership firms as well. They can make a portfolio investment of 50 per cent of their net worth, without any other conditions.



The RBI also hiked the pre-payment limit for repayment of external commercial borrowings (ECBs) and hiked the ceiling on mutual fund investment abroad to $6 billion, including investment in exchange traded funds (ETFs).



The flood of foreign investment inflows into the country, particularly after the US Federal Reserve (RBI's US counterpart) slashed its key interest rate recently, have practically forced the RBI's hand.



With the tide of dollar investments in Indian markets showing no signs of slowdown -- foreign institutional investments have already reached close to the total for the whole of last year, with more than six months to go in the current fiscal, the corresponding rupee surge in the domestic system is making RBI's monetary policy targets, especially inflation, tougher to meet.