EPFO to include 'AAA' rated corporate bonds in portfolio

The Employees' Provident Fund Organisation is set to widen its investment horizon by including 'AAA' rated corporate bonds of any private company in its portfolio following a clean chit from Crisil, a move that can open up a window for blue-chip corporates to raise about Rs 35,000 crore through long-term debt papers annually.

Crisil, which was appointed by EPFO to advice on investment portfolio, has said that none of the 'AAA' rated corporate bonds issued by private companies have defaulted so far and hence can be considered for investment by the provident fund to improve its returns, sources said.

The proposal is listed in the agenda of Central Board of Trustees' (CBT) next meeting on February 25 and the panel may approve the proposal of investing a maximum 10 per cent of its Rs 3.5 lakh crore plus corpus in top-rated corporate bonds, sources said.

If allowed, the investment can help EPFO offer higher returns to its subscribers as it has been the case for New Pension System under Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority.

"This proposal was discussed at the previous meeting. It may be taken up in the forthcoming meeting. The proposal is only for 'AAA' rated corporate bonds and not below that. Still, we need to assess the risk factor," said AK Padmanabhan, president of Centre of Indian Trade Unions and a member of CBT.

At present, EPFO can invest in only bonds issued by PSUs and seven private companies and banks HDFC, IDFC, IL&FS, LIC Housing Finance, HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank and Axis Bank.

"It will definitely be a positive for the bond market. If it happens, the 10 per cent of the incremental investment of EPFO will come in such AAA bonds. Demand for corporate bonds will rise," said A Prasanna, chief economist of ICICI Securities Primary Dealership. FE

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