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What is Foreign Portfolio Investment (FPI)?

Foreign Portfolio Investment (FPI) involves investing in securities and financial assets in another country than a home country. The securities include stocks or American Depository Receipts (ADR) of companies in an overseas country. Also, it includes bonds or debts issued by companies or governments, mutual funds, and exchange traded funds (ETFs). Furthermore, it does not provide direct ownership or control over the company’s assets. In other words, all these investments are held passively by foreign portfolio investors. 

The foreign portfolio is subject to volatility which in turn increases the risk. Also, the intent of investing in overseas markets is to diversify their portfolio and earn significant returns by giving them an edge in international markets. Individuals, companies or government agencies invest in foreign portfolios. 

While on a macro level, foreign portfolio investments become a part of the country’s capital account and are seen on its balance of payments (BOP). BOP measures the amount of money flowing from one country to another over a financial year. 

Categories of FPI

On the basis of the risk profile of investments, the following are the three categories of FPI in India – 

  • Category I (or low risk): It comprises financial assets backed by the Indian Government. It includes government bonds, any fund the Indian state owns, a sovereign wealth fund, etc. 
  • Category II (or moderate risk): It comprises regulated broad-based funds like mutual funds, pension funds, insurance policies, bank deposits, etc.
  • Category III (or high risk): It comprises all FPI that are not eligible for the first two categories. It includes charitable trusts, endowments, charitable societies or foundations, etc. 

Who Invests Through FPI?

The FPI involves several types of investors. However, the common investors are –

  • Individuals
  • Companies
  • Foreign Governments

Policies for Foreign Portfolio Investment 

The Government of India has made a well-designed FPI policy. It includes defining the FPI, identifying the types of investors under FPI, setting investment limits and classifying them in terms of risk profile. All these put together is the FPI policy. 

The most common investment by FPI is in equities or shares. However, it is essential to differentiate between FDI and FPI. According to the present FPI policy, investment of up to 10% shareholding from a single foreign investor in an Indian firm is FPI, and anything above 10% is considered as FDI. This differentiation is required for regulatory purposes. 

Additionally, all FPIs together cannot acquire more than 24% of the paid capital in an Indian company. But this condition has been modified and elaborated in the foreign investment cap policy by the government. Besides setting the investment limit for FPI, SEBI also introduced an investment group known as Foreign Portfolio Investors. 

FPIs are a combination of various portfolio investment groups. Also, a different class of investors, like FIIs, their sub-accounts, and Qualified Foreign Investors, are combined into a new category to place a uniform set of entry norms for them.

Advantages of Foreign Portfolio Investment

The following are the advantages of FPI – 

  • Portfolio Diversification: FPIs give investors an opportunity to diversify their portfolios internationally. This will help them to generate higher risk-adjusted returns where they can cushion losses due to market volatility. 
  • International Credit: Investors can access increased credit in other countries, which boosts their credit base. For instance, investors with low domestic credit score can compensate using their higher foreign credit score. Thus giving higher leverage to investors and helping them generate better returns on their investments. 
  • Access to Bigger Markets: Through FPI, investors no longer need to invest only in domestic financial markets. They can increase their reach to the global market and earn better returns. For instance, emerging markets or unsaturated markets can provide increasing returns on investments. 
  • Improves Liquidity: FPI improves liquidity for individual investors as well as for domestic capital markets. With the increase in liquidity, the financial market grows and provides a wide range of investment opportunities. At the same time, investors also have control over their portfolio and sell their assets quickly at the right opportunities or foresee any significant risk. 
  • Exchange Rate Benefit: Investors can benefit from the fluctuating exchange rate among nations. They can invest when the exchange rate has fallen and sell the holdings when the exchange rate rises. This results in dual benefits in investment returns, further boosted by the exchange rate. 

Risks Involved in Foreign Portfolio Investment

The following are the risks involved in FPIs –

  • Political Risk: Any sudden change in the political situation or government policies can create uncertainty for investors, including foreign investors. For instance, changes in the government can result in changes in economic or investment policies, which can impact foreign investors. 
  • Volatile Asset Pricing: The volatility or fluctuations in asset price can be a major risk factor. For instance, the Germany-based DAX index is historically more volatile than the USA S&P 500 index. 
  • Liquidity: Sometimes, in developing countries, the capital market liquidity is low, which results in higher volatility. 

Factors Affecting Foreign Portfolio Investment

The following are some factors affecting the FPI – 

  • Growth Prospects: A country’s economy plays a crucial role in foreign investments. If the economy is robust and growing, then investors prefer investing in the financial assets of that country. In contrast, investors tend to withdraw their investments if the economy is experiencing financial turmoil or recession. 
  • Interest Rates: Any investor would prefer a high return on investment. Therefore, investors look for countries whose interest rates are high. 
  • Tax Rates: There are taxes levied on capital gains, and a higher tax rate can reduce the overall return on investment. Hence, investors prefer investing in countries with lower tax rates. 

Difference Between FPI and FDI 

The following table shows the difference between FPI and FDI

ParameterForeign Portfolio Investment (FPI)Foreign Direct Investment (FDI)
InvestorInactiveActive
Type of Investment Indirect investment in assetsDirect investment in assets
Tenure of Investment Short term Long term
VolatilityMore volatileStable 
Company ownershipNo ownership in the company’s assets and no role in managementProvides ownership in the company’s assets and decision-making power in management. 
Investment includeBonds, securities, or funds of foreign companyPhysical assets or stake of a foreign company

Frequently Asked Questions

What is FPI surcharge?

In 2019, the Government of India proposed an increase in the surcharge for taxpayers who earn more than INR 2 crores in a financial year. The surcharge is an additional tax or charge. Under this purview, the government included all individuals and associations of persons (AOPs). Hence, they were subjected to higher tax surcharge, impacting 40% of the FPIs. However, on the demands of overseas investors, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitaraman removed the increased surcharge on FPIs on August 23, 2019. 

Who regulates FPI in India?

SEBI regulates the FPI, where it introduced the Foreign Portfolio Investors Regulations in 2019. Also, FPIs need to follow the Income Tax Act of 1961 and the Foreign Exchange Management Act of 1999.

Do FPIs need to enrol with SEBI?

No, it is not required for the FPIs to enrol with SEBI. The registration is granted by the designated depository participant (DDP).

How long is the FPI registration valid?

The FPI registration is valid permanently unless suspended or cancelled by SEBI or surrendered by the FPI. However, subject to payment of a renewal fee every three years.

What is the cap for maximum shareholding by FPI?

The maximum cap of shareholding by FPI in an Indian company is 10% of the total issued capital.

Can FPIs open more than one depository account?

No, each FPI is allowed to open only one depository account for their foreign investments.

Can an FPI directly place an order with a stockbroker?

Yes, FPIs can directly place an order with a stockbroker like FIIs.

Is borrowing or lending of funds or securities available in FPI?

Yes, FPIs allow investors can borrow or lend funds or securities as per the Securities Lending and Borrowing program of SEBI.

Can I do Foreign Portfolio Investments in India?

Any NRI individual or organization can make foreign portfolio investments in India.

Is FPI less risky than FDI?

The FPI investor does not have direct control of the company or management. It means that FPI is more liquid and less risky than FDI.