The Government of Romania approved on Thursday April 29 2004 the consolidated Law on Capital Markets. The law was the result of an extensive consultative process with the business community including the Foreign Investors Council (FIC).
The FIC welcomes a number of positive changes, which will be introduced by this new legislation such as:
- An improved balance between majority and minority shareholders interests. The requirement for mandatory de-listing of companies when the main shareholder has more than 90% of the shares has been eliminated. The new legislation allows shareholders to decide whether or not a takeover bid is launched and has increased the threshold for launching a takeover bid from 90% to 95 % of the shares owned by a shareholder.
- Adoption of EU regulations that simplify the conditions for increasing capital. For example, now social capital can be increased via in-kind contributions.
- Consideration of the current status of the Romanian capital market. Existing listed companies will not be affected by the requirement to launch a mandatory public offer by any shareholder owning more than 33% of the shares of a listed company.
- Simplification of the law by elimination of cumbersome technical details. The law will be followed by 30 regulations to be issued by CNVM. The FIC considers that this is a major step forward in developing the Romanian legal framework i.e., the law is setting up the general principles and the regulatory body, the CNVM, is developing implementation procedures.
- Less bureaucratic procedures for informing shareholders. The requirement to publish the call for a General Assembly shall be advertised only once in one national newspaper instead of three consecutive days in three national newspapers.
- Simplification of procedures for transactions within the same group of companies. Shares could be traded amongst the companies of the same group without launching a public offer.
However, there are still a number of issues of concern to the foreign investors regarding the draft law on capital markets, which need to be addressed by the Parliament.These include:
- Cumulative vote method for board members. Despite the fact that the new law was drafted with the declared objective to comply with EU requirements and international practice, the cumulative vote for board members is a method not considered by the acquis communautaire. The FIC considers that the cumulative vote method is not appropriate for a candidate country to the EU even if this method is recognized by the OECD.
- Approval by the General Assembly of transactions involving fixed assets, when their value exceeds 20% of the total value of the fixed assets. For large companies, this requirement is restrictive and difficult to be implemented. In addition, the FIC considers that it is the role of a companys management to make decisions that could increase the profitability of the company, for example by selling non-core assets. The FIC recommends reformulating this article in accordance with the Company Law that states transactions involving fixed assets for contracts exceeding half of the social capital shall be subject to the approval by the General Assembly.
- Reporting Requirements. Although the issuers obligation to report to the General Assembly contracts concluded between the companies and its administrators, employees, main shareholders or affiliates exceeding Euro 50,000 has been increased to Euro 100,000, this requirement is an unjustified constraint for, in particular, the banking sector since its main activity are financial operations.
The FIC considers that increased consideration should be given to alleviate the bureaucracy on the capital market for listed companies and to create a balanced approach regarding shareholders rights. An unbalanced approach to minority vs. majority shareholders rights will lead progressively to the shrinking of the market by lack of new candidates and potentially the withdrawal of the current listed companies.
The Romanian capital market is still in its early stages of development, and one objective of the law is to encourage listing and to attract strategic investors. The FIC considers that the new bill is a decisive step in the right direction.