Big improvement in mandatory disclosure practices from India's publicly-listed firms: FTI report

FTI Consulting's India Disclosure Index 2016 shows a hike in listed companies following mandatory disclosure practices, but there remains much work on the voluntary disclosure side.

Businesses listed on India’s Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) 100 Index have significantly improved their mandatory reporting practices in just one year, according to the latest India Disclosure Index study from FTI Consulting.

The average composite disclosure score for publicly-listed firms on the BSE 100 rose to 7.4 out of 10, up from 6.5 out of 10 in 2015, the report shows. Eight companies - Axis Bank, Bharti Airtel, Federal Bank, IndusInd Bank, Infosys, Shriram Transport, Sun Pharma & Vedanta – scored a perfect 10 out of 10, compared to just three last year.

Moreover, FTI said 71 percent of listed companies were fully compliant with mandatory disclosure practices, up from just 41 percent in 2015.

To compile the index, FTI reviewed publicly available disclosed information by India’s leading publicly listed firms and created a weighted, composite disclosure scoring system with six mandatory disclosure parameters and five voluntary disclosure parameters. This was then applied to the BSE 100 Index.

Mandatory disclosure parameters included the firm’s quarterly financial information; annual report; shareholding information; management and board team information; investor contact information and analyst transcripts.

Voluntary disclosure parameters on the other hand involved the provision of the firm’s profitability and margin improvement information; operating metrics; business strategy information; debt related information; and key corporate developments.

Perhaps most significantly, only 3 percent of all BSE 100 companies had a mandatory disclosure score of 2.5 or less, down from nearly half of all listed companies in 2015.

The FTI report says the key reason for this improvement is the introduction of stricter regulations in India around disclosure and communications, which gave "a much needed boost to the cause of raising corporate governance standards in India".

However, companies still need to work on their disclosing of voluntary information, although this year’s report did see a slight improvement to 3.7 out of six from 3.5 out of six.

Although companies did make strides in better debt and strategy information disclosure, 68 percent did not provide adequate data on risk management, and 37 percent do not have "convenient" whistleblowing mechanisms, even though all BSE 100 companies have mandatory whistleblowing policies.

Amrit Singh Deo, managing director in the strategic communications segment of FTI Consulting, said: "The significant improvement in mandatory disclosure standards compared to last year reinforces the view that greater transparency and disclosure is being led by regulations rather than corporate behaviour, as Indian companies have ensured compliance to levels required by recent regulations.

"Disclosure is a moving target and Indian companies should undertake regular voluntary disclosure benchmarking to be recognised as companies with superior disclosure and corporate governance standards."

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