Insurance industry hails Budget proposal of raising FDI cap to 49%

PTI Posted online: Thursday, Jul 10, 2014 at 0000 hrs
Mumbai : The Budget proposal to raise Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) cap in the insurance sector to 49 per cent is a positive step and will increase the capital inflow, say industry experts.

"Its a very positive announcement and we have been expecting it for a long time. This will boost the industry in terms of capital infusion and employment generation.

"The insurance companies were waiting for this relaxation and now this will encourage companies to enter the capital markets," HDFC Life CFO Vibha Padalkar told PTI here.

The decision will help the new entrants who are cash-starved and struggling for growth.

"The insurance sector is a very cash intensive sector that needs a lot of capital infusion. This decision will help all those new and mid to small companies who are struggling for growth. The industry is likely to see a fund inflow of $10-15 billion conservatively, it might be double of this," she added.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, while presenting the Budget for 2014-15, today proposed to increase the composite cap of the insurance sector to 49 per cent from the current level of 26 per cent with full management and control through the FIPB route.

Echoing similar views, Bharti AXA General Insurance Managing Director and CEO Amarnath Ananthanarayanan said the overall direction of increasing FDI is good as it will increase capital investment in the insurance sector.

Raising the exemption limit for investment in financial instruments under Section 80C to Rs 1.5 lakh from Rs 1 lakh is also likely to increase investment by the policyholders, he said.

Financial consultants EY India Partner, Tax and Regulatory Services, Anish Thacker said FDI in the insurance sector has been proposed to be increased to 49 per cent with full Indian management and control under the FIPB route.

"These may not exactly be in line with industry expectations but the attempt to provide funds for the capital intensive industry needs to be acknowledged," he added.

The announcement is a welcome initiative and once approved, this would encourage foreign investment and will further augment free flow of knowledge, benefiting the insurance sector as a whole, said Tata AIG General Insurance Managing Director and CEO K K Mishra.

"This will also help in product innovation and in building robust customer service mechanisms," he said.

PNB Metlife India Managing Director and CEO Tarun Chugh opined that the 49 per cent composite increase is positive and will help the industry.

"We estimate that the sector stands to gain about Rs 7,800 crore as FDI. We are also encouraged by the increase in Section 80C limit to Rs 1.5 lakh from Rs 1 lakh.

"While we would have looked forward to a separate limit for life insurance, we are sure this will help the retail customers who will benefit from the enhanced tax benefit on savings products, including life insurance," he added.

Manasije Mishra, CEO, Max Bupa.

This year’s budget is progressive and forward looking and clearly exhibits the new government’s understanding of the impending needs to fuel economic growth through righteous allocation of funds and impetus to foreign investment. The budget brings alive the government’s commitment to provide a stable and investor friendly tax regime. Key thrust on improving the rural economy with focus on development programmes rounds it up as an ideal budget.

From an industry standpoint, I am pleased with the budget as it fulfills the key priorities from our budget wish list primarily FDI hike, overall push to the health insurance segment and greater thrust to the PPP Model. The hike in FDI limit to 49% in insurance, will boost industry growth and deepen health insurance penetration in the country. The opening up of the sector will pave way for greater innovation and better quality healthcare. Also,  impetus to collaboration with banking correspondents and ample financial sector reform will further insurance penetration in the country. Government’s assurance to take up amendment to the insurance bill will also bring in greater focus on the sector.

The decision to invest in credible medical institutes and colleges along with digitization in rural areas will enable utilization of technologies like telemedicine to enhance quality of healthcare and healthcare access in the country.