Corrs Global Network

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India

The strong links between the energy sectors in India and Australia, and the current FTA negotiations between our two countries, have placed India among Australia’s top ten two-way investment partners. Corrs has advised on some of the largest Indian investments into Australia in recent years. The firm’s ability to provide India specialists in all of energy & natural resources, projects, finance and corporate/M&A makes Corrs a firm of choice on these AU$ multi-billion mandates.

Our India practice is focused on facilitating cross-border engagement. In particular, we have prioritised India’s bilateral trade with Australia, including through inbound investment. The cornerstone of the work of our India team is projects and energy & natural resources and we have a long track record of excellence in these areas. We work with many of India’s leading private and state-owned investors into Australia. This clear focus means we have developed a reputation as specialist advisers with real depth of knowledge of the key priorities for Indian investors.

Well-informed industry players recognise Corrs’ position as leading legal advisers to Indian investors in Australia. Our engagement with India goes well beyond Indian investment in Australian energy. We have participated in a number of presentations and roadshows with Austrade, the Australian government import-export consultancy, including an investment roadshow in India in conjunction with the Queensland Government. Lawyers within our India practice frequently travel to the country, working with Indian entities and for Australian investors in India. This is a key part of our global practice.

Corrs has brought together years of experience in all aspects of major project financings to the benefit of the client. Recent mandates include advising the State Bank of India in relation to the restructuring and refinancing of the Abbot Point Coal Terminal. The terminal has been acquired by the Adani Group, India’s largest coal importer. The restructuring included State Bank of India being partially refinanced by a syndicate of lenders and complex priority arrangements being agreed with the syndicate. This was State Bank’s first major loan financing/refinancing in Australia.

In addition, Corrs has one of the preeminent technology law practices in Australia, and has extensive expertise in advising some of India’s most prominent technology companies in relation to their operations and expansion within the Australian market. This includes Infosys, TCS, Tech Mahindra and Birlasoft. The expertise of our India practice also extends to the education sector which has been a key pillar of the Australia India relationship to date, and promises sustained growth into the future. Our experience includes advising Deakin University on the development of its research institute in Bangalore and collaboration with the key Indian stakeholders and financiers.

Contact our team to learn more about the firms we work with across the region and how we can assist.




Recent News

Corrs strengthens ties with China and India

Corrs Chambers Westgarth has continued to deepen its relationships with two of the world’s largest countries - China and India - through its involvement in three major international business forums held this week.

On Sunday Corrs partner and CEO John W.H. Denton and co-chair of Corrs’ China Business Group Geoff Raby participated in the Australia-China Senior Business Leaders Forum in Canberra, discussing a range of issues aimed at strengthening the bilateral relationship between Australia and China.

On Monday the Business Council of Australia hosted the 4th Australia-China CEO Roundtable Meeting. John attended as part of his role as Chairman of the BCA’s Global Engagement Taskforce and one of the Roundtable’s founding members. He said it was a proud moment to see some of Australia’s top CEOs join their Chinese counterparts in discussing the range opportunities arising from the recent signing of the Free Trade Agreement. The CEOs in attendance included ANZ’s Michael Smith, Fortescue Metals Group’s Andrew Forrest, Telstra’s Catherine Livingstone (BCA President), Bank of China’s Guoli Tian, CITIC Group Corporation’s Zhenming Chang and Baosteel Group Corporation’s Lejiang Xu.

John then joined a number of Australia’s business elite at a Chief Executive’s Round Table with the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi in Melbourne on Tuesday. Hosted by Victorian Governor Alex Chernov, the event gave the Indian Prime Minister an opportunity to outline how Australian businesses could work more effectively with the Indian government to boost investment and expand trade. Prime Minister Modi also made it clear that he sees Australia as a priority relationship, outlining a reform program that included new highways, ports, freight corridors and rail modernisation (including high-speed rail). CEOs who attended included BHP Billiton’s Andrew Mackenzie, Rio Tinto’s Sam Walsh and Aurizon’s Lance Hockridge.

John noted, “India and China are key areas of focus for the firm. The forum and roundtables gave Corrs a chance to connect with key Indian and Chinese contacts and Australian business representatives.”

Corrs is continuing to develop its growing global network, which is expanding across key regions, including in the UK, US, Asia and the Middle East.

Corrs named top firm for India work

Corrs Chambers Westgarth has again been recognised as one of the best foreign law firms for India work by the India Business Law Journal (IBLJ) Report.

Corrs was recognised amongst the top law firms for India-focused work globally for the third year running in a special feature published in the IBLJ’s June edition. The report considered major India-related deal-flow over the past year. 

“This is a very strong endorsement of your firm’s [Corrs’] India-related expertise and capabilities and on behalf of all my colleagues at India Business Law Journal, I offer you my wholehearted congratulation,” said Vandana Chatlani, Editor of the IBLJ.

Corrs partner and co-chair of the India Business Group, Bruce Adkins said it was wonderful to see Corrs recognised again. The firm has more than a decade’s experience in India.

“Corrs’ dedicated India Business Group continues to support the firm’s India-related work,” Bruce Adkins said.

Mr Adkins also said India’s recent elections would continue to drive opportunity, including in mining, urban development and education.

“The election of a pro-business government has the potential to revitalise the relationship between Australia and India,” Bruce Adkins said.

Corrs partner and India Business Group co-Chair, Philip Catania, said Corrs’ had continued to strengthen relationships through a secondment program with some of India’s premier law firms.

“Corrs has developed a deep understanding of the commercial, political and economic drivers within India. We continue to work diligently to strengthen our ties and knowledge in the Indian market,” Philip Catania said.

Corrs’ India Business Group is working with clients to maximise opportunities in India driven by the recent elections and the increasing interest in Indian investment by Australian companies.

Corrs among world’s best for India-related work

Corrs Chambers Westgarth has been marked as one of the world’s leading law firms for India-related work.

For the second year running, Corrs has been recognised by the India Business Law Journal (IBLJ) Report which acknowledges the top law firms for India-focused work globally. 

The report, published in the IBLJ June edition, considered each firm’s major India-related deals and transactions over the past 12 months.

“This (Corrs’ inclusion in the report) is a very strong endorsement of the firm’s India-related expertise and capabilities,” said Vandana Chatlani, Editor of the IBLJ. 

Corrs’ partner and co-chair of the India Business Group, Bruce Adkins, said Corrs had been influential in the Indian marketplace for about ten years. The firm has been involved in a number of significant transactions that have also had substantial impact in Australia.

Major clients include the State Bank of India, Adani Group, Aditya Birla Minerals Limited and Gujarat NRE Coke Ltd. Corrs is also involved in IT work with clients such as Mahindra Satyam, Birlasoft and TCS.  

“Corrs is thrilled to be independently acknowledged by IBLJ as a leading firm globally for its India-related work, following extensive review,” Bruce Adkins said.

“Corrs has established a dedicated India Business Group to support the firm’s India-related work and to develop a deep understanding of the commercial, political and economic drivers within India.”

Corrs partner and India Business Group co-Chair, Philip Catania, said Corrs had also developed a secondment program with some of India’s premier law firms, allowing for cultural exchange.

“We have an Associate from Corrs’ Perth office on long-term secondment in India, as we continue to strengthen our ties and knowledge in the Indian market,” Philip Catania said. 

Mr Catania said India’s evolving business environment would continue to create opportunity.

“Moving forward, Corrs’ India Business Group is working with clients to maximise an anticipated increase in interest in Indian investment by a number of large Australian companies, following the Indian Government’s recent push to implement an economic reform agenda,” he said.

“Corrs has a very strong Asian presence. Corrs’ CEO, John Denton, was instrumental in putting together the recent Federal Government white paper on Australia in the Asian Century – we are building on that work in our quality service offering to India-related work.”

Our Thinking

India and Australia: No longer a “periphery” relationship

Opportunities for business between Australia and India are set to flourish.

Last month, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi concluded the first Official visit of an Indian PM to Australia in 28 years. Mr Modi was accompanied by a delegation comprising some of India’s senior government representatives and business elite. Mr Modi’s trip followed an official state visit by Prime Minister Tony Abbott to India in September (Mr Abbott was the first foreign leader officially hosted by the newly elected Indian PM).

Transformation of the relationship

In the space of two months, the previously stagnant bilateral relationship between India and Australia has been re-invigorated, and there has been a marked shift in the attitude of the countries towards collaboration in a range of areas.

The potential for growth in the relationship between the two countries across a variety of industries, is immense. The opportunities, including those for Australian service providers to India, are significant.

Mr Modi’s proclamation in his address to the Australian Parliament that “Australia will not be at the periphery of our vision, but at the centre of our thought” and that Mr Modi sees “Australia as a major partner in every area of our economic priority” highlight the significance of Australia’s potential role in India’s development aspirations.

What has contributed to the transformed relationship? 

  • No political barriers: We are in one of the very few periods in recent decades where there are no significant political barriers between the countries. The Australian Government’s decision to sell uranium to India for peaceful purposes (which was formalised by Mr Abbott during his trip to India) essentially removed the last of these barriers. 
  • Converging geopolitical interests: Australia and India share a common interest in maintaining stability and security in the Indo-Pacific region, and both countries recognise the strategic role each has within the region. A broad ranging security co-operation agreement was agreed by the PMs during Mr Modi’s visit.
  • India’s development ambitions: Mr Modi is acutely aware of the enormity of India’s energy shortfall in light of its ambitious development aspirations. The broad mix of energy sources that Australia can offer including coal, LNG and uranium is appealing to Mr Modi in light of his pragmatic views about carbon abatement and energy security.
  • Fresh faces: The history of Australian and Indian relations has been dominated by the influence of individuals and characterised by sustained periods of mutual indifference. The fact that both Mr Modi and Mr Abbott have engaged in bilateral visits early in their tenure is a positive step toward discarding past grievances and capitalising on commonalities and opportunities for partnership.

Economic opportunities 

Last year, bilateral trade stood at $15billion which is a 10th of Australia’s trade with China. There is clearly room for substantial growth.

Mr Abbott’s announcement that he and Mr Modi would ensure a free-trade deal by the end of next year is encouraging. The timeframe is clearly optimistic considering that a trade agreement has already been in negotiations for the last three years with limited progress. However, the newfound political will should assist in concluding a deal quickly (and may break impasses in sensitive areas like agricultural concessions and professional services).

Mr Modi’s “Make in India” campaign highlights his understanding that India needs significant foreign investment for its economic development, and his focus abroad has largely been on attracting and facilitating this.

Both PMs identified “vast potential” in “priority areas” such as resources, education, skills, agriculture, infrastructure, investments, financial services and health. For more on the economic opportunities for Australian businesses, see “Red tape” to “red carpet”? India’s election result provides opportunities for Australia.

In the context of inbound activity into Australia, apprehension held by Indian companies towards Australian investment seems to be abating. Take for example Adani’s planned investment to build Australia’s biggest coalmine in Queensland’s Galilee Basin which now has a substantial line of credit from the Bank of India and an offer of equity from the Queensland government. 

Both leaders referred to the importance of this project in meeting India’s energy requirements, and appear desperate for it to succeed. In the technology space, Indian companies Wipro and Cognizant have recently completed Australian acquisitions, and Infosys is considering taking a stake in the elite research hub NICTA.

Businesses with an interest in Australia and India will have several opportunities in the new year to participate in targeted trade delegations including Australia Business Week in India, and a Make in India event in Australia. These will be complemented by a newly constituted Australia-India CEO Forum.

Realising the full potential of the economic relationship between India and Australia requires considerable and sustained effort from government and businesses on both sides. The bilateral visits have provided much needed impetus – maintaining momentum and focus will be critical to success.

We are travelling to India in the New Year to meet with Indian government representatives and businesses and will be presenting on opportunities in Australia for Indian business. Likewise, we will be discussing how Australian business can build on the platforms created by Mr Modi and Mr Abbott. We will report further, but in the interim, if you have thoughts or questions regarding legal and business issues in the context of the Indian/Australian relationship, please contact Philip Catania, Bruce Adkins or Arvind Dixit.

“Red tape” to “red carpet”? India’s election result provides opportunities for Australia

Now is the time for Australia to position itself at the centre of India’s focus.

On Friday 16 May India entered a new era with the landslide election victory of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), led by Narendra Modi, who will become the 14th Prime Minister of India. The BJP unseated the incumbent Congress party which has ruled India for much of the past 67 years since Indian independence.

Scale of the result

The historic significance of the election result stems from the sheer scale of the BJP’s victory. The BJP won an absolute majority in parliament (282 out of a possible 543 seats). It has a clear mandate to govern in its own right and will not have to rely on forming a potentially fragmented coalition with minority parties – this has not occurred since 1984.

The size of the victory reflects both the immense voter dissatisfaction with the performance of the incumbent, but also the resonance of Mr Modi’s message of economic growth and anti-corruption.

Economic agenda

Mr Modi, who has the backing of India’s business community, has promised to revive India’s growth rate by attracting foreign investment, reducing red tape, easing archaic labour and land-acquisition laws, boosting employment and investing in the nation’s infrastructure. 

While he was able to roll out a similar agenda of reform with great success in the economically vibrant state of Gujurat, replicating this on a national level will face challenges, including the fact that essential functions like land acquisition are the realm of the states.

It is expected the government will announce the policy detail for implementing its economic agenda in the coming months. One area of particular focus will be Mr Modi’s ability to disentangle over a hundred stranded infrastructure projects and potentially boost infrastructure investment to $10 trillion over three decades.

Australia’s opportunity

There are several sectors which stand out as priorities for Mr Modi that are likely to provide clear economic opportunities for Australian businesses.  These include:

  1. Mining: Reviving stalled growth in the mining sector, which has been crippled by outdated laws, judicial intervention and poor governance, will be a key priority for Mr Modi.  If the capacity of the sector is to be increased, it will benefit from foreign skills and know-how, which Australia’s mining services sector will be well equipped to provide.
  2. Urban development: Mr Modi has charted ambitious plans for the creation of 100 new cities, some linked by bullet train.  Not only will this provide potentially significant demand for Australian resources, but also for advanced urban amenity technology solutions in areas that Australia has world leading expertise, such as water treatment and irrigation, sustainable energy and waste management.
  3. Education: The success of Mr Modi’s economic agenda is dependent on India taking steps to realise its “demographic dividend” (i.e. by providing vocation for its burgeoning young population).  Attempts at reforming the education sector by the previous government were stalled.  India reportedly requires 500 million skilled workers in the next 8 years, and yet currently it only has capacity to train 10 to 20 million per year.  Mr Modi will be acutely aware of this discrepancy and his education agenda is likely to focus on increasing the employability of India’s youth, both in terms of higher education as well as vocational training.  Australian education providers are likely to be provided with tangible opportunities as a result the anticipated reforms.

Although discussion of foreign policy was not prominent during the election campaign (the focus being largely on domestic issues), a change in government could provide the impetus needed to re-invigorate the bilateral relationship between India and Australia.

Despite the shared historical linkages and cultural commonality between Australia and India, trade and investment ties between the countries remains comparatively low. Given Mr Modi’s stated desires, there should not be any significant obstacles to hinder the long term growth of the relationship between the two countries.

Refocussing attention on concluding the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement between Australia and India (which has been in negotiations since 2011) should be a key priority for Australia once the new government has settled. This agreement is aimed at addressing tariff barriers and behind the border restrictions on trade in goods and services.

It should also be a priority to seek a bilateral visit by Mr Modi to Australia, and to engage Mr Modi on regional issues with which Australia and India have significant convergent interests (including conversing with a strengthened Japan, and maintaining close ties with Indonesia). Indeed the G20 summit in Brisbane is fortuitously timed, and provides Mr Modi with the opportunity to visit Australia early in his tenure.

Whether Mr Modi is able to implement his agenda of pro-business economic reform will be watched with great interest the world over. Now is the time for Australia to work towards positioning itself at the centre of India’s focus both from a government and business perspective.

Foreign direct investment in India

In efforts to promote the competitiveness of India as an investment destination, and to attract increased foreign direct investment, the Government of India has recently eased the country’s FDI procedures.

The consortium of these three institutions has implemented a regulatory framework for FDI which is transparent, comprehensible and predictable.  This regulatory framework consists of Acts and Regulations (the most prominent of which is the Foreign Exchange Management Act 1999 and its Regulations), Clarifications, Press Notes and Releases relating to FDI.  This regulatory framework is merged annually into a ‘Consolidated FDI Policy Circular’ (Consolidated FDI Policy), which subsumes and supersedes all of the regulatory framework prior to its effective date.  The most recent of these Consolidated FDI Policies was released on 10 April 2012.

All non-resident entities (that is, persons resident outside of India, other than citizens of Pakistan or entities incorporated in Pakistan) can invest in India, subject to the Consolidated FDI Policy.  Investments may be made into Indian companies, partnership firms, venture capital funds and limited liability partnerships, but not into trusts or other entities.  FDI in India is permitted through one of two channels – the automatic route or the approval route.

The Automatic Route

FDI in activities that fall under the automatic route are able to proceed without any prior approval being needed from either the Government or the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).  The majority of activities automatically permitted allow FDI of up to 100%, however some FDI is only automatically allowed up to a specified cap. 

For example, FDI in airports which are Greenfield (new) projects is automatically permitted up to 100%, however FDI in existing airport projects is only automatically permitted up to 74%, after which the approval route must be followed.

The Approval Route

For FDI in activities that fall under the approval route, prior approval is required from the Government before making the investment.  The Foreign Investment and Promotion Board (FIPB), the Department of Economic Affairs and the Ministry of Finance consider each application, and approval is granted by, and on the recommendation of, the FIPB.  The process, which is relatively straightforward, usually takes between 6 to 8 weeks.  

As a condition of approval, the FIPB usually requires that investment agreements are governed by the law of India.  However, as litigation in India is typically onerous and time-consuming, arbitration is a favourable dispute resolution process.

An Indian company that already has foreign investment approval through FIPB does not need any further clearance for receiving inward remittance and for the issue of shares to non-resident investors.  Applications for FDI under the approval route can be downloaded here.

Prohibited FDI

FDI in several activities in India is strictly prohibited.  These activities are:

  • retail trading (except for single brand product retailing);
  • lottery business (including Government, private and online lotteries);
  • gambling and betting (including casinos);
  • Chit Funds;
  • the Nidhi company;
  • trading in Transferable Development Rights;
  • real estate business or the construction of farm houses;
  • manufacturing of cigars, cheroots, cigarillos and cigarettes, and of tobacco and tobacco substitutes;
  • activities and sectors not open to private sector investment (such as atomic energy and railway transport); and
  • agricultural (excluding floriculture, apiculture, horticulture, development and production of seeds and plant material, animal husbandry, pisciculture, aquaculture, cultivation of vegetables and mushrooms under controlled conditions and services related to agro and allied sectors).

In addition to the above policies being met, there are also remittance and reporting obligations relevant to FDI which carry consequences if violated.  All other necessary approvals, such as environmental policies and other state and local governments requirements, also need to be complied with.

The liberalisation of the FDI Policy in India over recent years is evident from an analysis of the OECD’s FDI Restrictiveness Index. Of the 55 countries surveyed, India was seen to be the most restrictive to foreign investment in 2006, with an Index of approximately 0.45 (a closed market would record a score of 1, a market totally open to FDI would record a score of 0).  However, from 2006 to 2010, India more than halved its FDI Restrictiveness Index in terms of moving from a closed FDI market towards an open one.

Nevertheless, according to the 2012 Index, India is still quite restrictive to foreign investment and faces problems with high inflation and interest rates, infrastructure bottlenecks and regulatory inconsistencies.

However, India appears presently to be in a state of reform.  Liberalisation measures have created a more conducive environment for foreign investment by abolishing industrial licensing, lifting FDI equity ceilings, shifting more sectors to the automatic route, allowing foreign individual investors, pension funds and trusts to directly invest in equities, and relaxing foreign exchange regulations.   

In 2011 FDI in India reached US$32 billion (an increase of 22%) and it was the twelfth most popular target for international M&A investment according to the OECD Investment Committee.  For foreign investors who are already attracted to India’s high-growth economy and the opportunities that arise from its expanding middle class, the current Consolidated FDI Policy represents a step towards further enticing investments onto Indian shores and is indicative of the Indian government’s desire to stabilise the market and make it more attractive to foreign investors.

For further information on FDI in India, see the current Consolidated FDI Policy; and the FAQs on Foreign Investments in India, issued by the RBI. 

Our Experts


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Bruce Adkins

Partner & India Focus Group Co-Chair Location Brisbane Profile
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Philip Catania

Partner & United Kingdom Focus Group Co-chair Location Melbourne Profile