One of the biggest challenges that micro, small and medium enterprises face when trying to settle in and achieve success as profitable businesses is to obtain capital and sources of financing. Sometimes, the most common sources of financial resources – such as bank loans, private equity and public offerings of securities – are beyond the reach of these companies and, consequently, many innovative ideas that could result in booming business for the national economy and for the creation of jobs are not developed.
Another crowdfunding format is the equity crowdfunding model whereby investors provide capital and receive shares or another capital instrument that gives them the right to receive a percentage of the income generated by the business they are financing. There is also the debt-based crowdfunding model, in which investors lend funds on a temporary basis, waiting for the repayment of their investment in a certain period. In these cases, investors usually require that they be paid an interest on the borrowed capital, but models have arisen in which the participants have not demanded any consideration except the return of the amounts given in loan.
Our securities legislation requires that those securities that are going to be publicly offered in the Republic of Panama be registered first with the Superintendence of the Securities Market (hereinafter the “SMV”). The process of registering securities before the SMV consumes time and resources that micro, small and medium enterprises usually do not have. The current regulations include offers of securities that are exempt from registration with the SMV but they only allow the offer of unregistered securities to a small number of people or institutional investors and, thus, these registration exemptions do not work for crowdfunding initiatives whose purpose is to collect small sums of money from a large number of people. In order for crowdfunding to be possible without having to comply with the registration formalities, a new exemption from the obligation to register securities would have to be adopted.
The second regulatory challenge faced by crowdfunding in the Republic of Panama is that, under the Securities Act and the agreements adopted by the SMV, the operator of the Internet site that serves as a platform to facilitate the collection of financial resources have the obligation to obtain an investment adviser license, broker-dealer firm license or stock exchange license. The management of requesting and obtaining these licenses, as well as their subsequent operation, also requires investment of a lot of time and resources that, given the objective of a crowdfunding site to serve as a mere intermediary between entrepreneurs and investors, may not have to be incurred for crowdfunding purposes.
Article 128 of the Securities Act establishes the following: “Public offer or sales of securities to be made by an issuer or an affiliate or by an offerer in the Republic of Panama shall be registered in the Superintendence, unless they are exempted from such registration in accordance with the provisions of this Decree Law and its regulations. An offer or sale made to persons domiciled in the Republic of Panama shall be deemed to be an offer made in the Republic of Panama, regardless of whether it is made from the Republic of Panama or from abroad, unless the Superintendence determines otherwise.”
Paragraph 2 of article 129 establishes that “there are exempted from registration with the SMV offers of securities made by an issuer or an affiliated thereof, or by an offerer of said issuer or affiliate to no more than twenty-five persons altogether, or any such number of persons which the Superintendence may determine and which, within a period of one year, do not have as a result the sale of such securities to more than 10 persons, or any other number of persons which the Superintendence may determine.”
Article 3 of Agreement 1-2001 establishes that the following legal persons qualify as “institutional investors”: (i) banks, insurance companies, reinsurance companies, investment companies registered with the SMV, investment trusts managed by companies with trust licenses, retirement and pensions funds regulated by Law 10 of April 16, 1993, and broker-dealer firms; (ii) legal persons domiciled in the Republic of Panama, with regular operations managing investments for at least two years before the date the offer and/or sale is, which own a patrimony consisting of no less than One Million Dollars (US$1,000,000.00), according to the last audited financial statements and whose principal officers, or in their absence, the majority of Directors and Officers must have at least two years of experience in regular investment management; and (iii) Sovereign States and public entities that by their nature are authorized to make investments.
Therefore, in relation to the exemption of the obligation to register securities before the SMV, it is proposed that public offers of securities, whether of fixed or variable income (and the resale of such securities in the secondary market) that comply with characteristics similar to the following be considered exempt from registration: (i) the securities that are offered by the issuer through an Internet crowdfunding platform duly notified to the SMV (hereinafter, a “Crowdfunding Site”); (ii) the amount of capital that the issuer wishes to collect (the “Requested Capital”) shall be expressed on the Crowdfunding Site, as well as the amount of securities to be offered, its price and the proportion of total capital represented by each security; (iii) the issuer shall establish a period of time during which potential investors may express their willingness and commitment to purchase the securities (the “Commitment Period”); (iv) the securities shall be issued and the issuer shall receive the funds only when the target is met, that potential investors have expressed, within the Commitment Period, their commitment to purchase securities for an amount at least equivalent to the Requested Capital (the “Minimum Target”); (v) individuals or legal entities with an annual income of less than US$100,000.00 may invest no more than 10% of their income within a period of twelve (12) months; (vi) individuals or legal entities with an annual income of more than US$100,000.00 may invest no more than 15% of their income up to a maximum amount of US$100,000.00 within a period of twelve (12) months; (vii) any issuer that has placed securities on the basis of an exempt crowdfunding offer, by reason of having complied with all the requirements, may carry out additional crowdfunding offers; (viii) an offer of securities under the proposed exemption, if adopted, would not prohibit the issuer from making other offers, sales or transactions exempt from registration as established in Article 129 of the Securities Act (for example, the offers of securities that an issuer carries out under a crowdfunding exemption are excluded from the computation of the investors referred to in numeral 2 of Article 129 on private placements); and (ix) issuers that offer securities under a crowdfunding exception could, in any case, try to obtain financing through other sources of funding, such as bank loans and venture capital.
Notwithstanding the foregoing and with the interest of protecting the investing public, the issuers that offer securities based on a registration exemption such as the above, or similar, must be subject to compliance with the provisions of articles 246 and 248 of the Securities Act in relation to the prohibition of incurring, during the process of offering and placing the exempt securities, in fraudulent or misleading acts, in the making of false statements about a material fact or omitting to disclose a material fact.
In addition to an exemption from the obligation to register securities with the SMV, in order for crowdfunding to work as an accessible measure of financing, it is also required that operators of Crowdfunding Sites are exempt from obtaining an investment adviser license, broker-dealer firm license or stock exchange license. For the purposes of the foregoing, it is proposed that operators of Crowdfunding Sites that meet the following requirements be considered exempt from obtaining the above licenses: (i) notify the SMV of the operation of a Crowdfunding Site within five (5) business days following the launching of the Crowdfunding Site; (ii) not recommend, qualify or otherwise provide investment advisory services in relation to the securities offered through its platform; (iii) obtain the information required by Law 23 of 2015 and its regulations from potential issuers of securities; and (iv) adopt terms and conditions under which (a) the operator of the Crowdfunding Site is prohibited and, if it is a legal entity, its shareholders, directors, officers and employees, to purchase securities offered through the Crowdfunding Site, (b) the issuers of securities undertake to issue the securities in case the Minimum Target is met within the Commitment Period, and (c) the persons who wish to invest through the Crowdfunding Sites recognize that the expressions of willingness to purchase securities during a Commitment Period constitute promises to purchase the securities and pay their price in case the Minimum Target is met but granting those persons who have expressed interest in acquiring the securities the possibility of not having to purchase the securities if they communicate their wish to opt out in the financing within a set period of time before the Commitment Period expires.
The exemptions proposed in this document to encourage crowdfunding in the Republic of Panama are based on similar standards adopted in other jurisdictions. On April 5, 2012, the former president of the United States of America, Barack Obama, signed the so-called “Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act,” also known as the “JOBS Act,” which was a law promulgated with the intention of motivating the financing of small businesses in that country and resulted in the adoption of exemptions similar to those suggested here in the securities regulatory framework of the United States of America. This year, Argentina enacted Law 27,349, which, in its Title II, creates the figure of “crowdfunding systems”.
In other words, certain jurisdictions are adopting new rules so that crowdfunding is a real and accessible source for raising capital and financing for micro, small and medium enterprises. The Republic of Panama cannot be left behind in this aspect and the time is still favorable for us to take the necessary actions and measures in order to adopt rules that can help promote crowdfunding not only to our local entrepreneurs but also to attract those foreigners innovators that do not have this possibility of financing in their respective jurisdictions. Being short in this attempt may even cause our local talent to turn to other countries that have rules that encourage and facilitate crowdfunding in order to obtain funds to develop their ideas and, most likely, end up implementing them in the territory of those same jurisdictions who had the vision of accommodating this figure to help them launch their businesses in the beginning.
Mr. Vidal has over 10 years of experience advising domestic and foreign clients in complex transactions related to mergers and acquisitions, project finance, finance, securities regulation, banking law, insurance law, public bids, government contracts, financial leasing, ports, among others. He has also participated and led transactions from several industries such as insurance, ports, construction, energy, real estate, banking, securities, restaurants, hotels and retail.
On the other hand, and with more than 15 years of experience, Mrs. Aizpurua Olmos mainly advises clients in domestic and cross-border financing transactions. She has been involved on matters pertaining to syndicated lending, project finance, governmental infrastructure projects (including transportation and energy), securitization and public offerings.
With more than 10 years of experience, Mr. Raven advises in all aspects of maritime dispute resolution and claims including collision, cargo, oil spill pollution, charter party disputes, and ship mortgage executions, among others. His client portfolio includes shipowners, P&I Clubs, charterers, hull and cargo underwriters, banks and other shipping interests.
These promotions come to strengthen the usual personalized and skilled services provided by Morgan & Morgan and reaffirms our position as Panama´s leading firm.
Morgan & Morgan advised The Goldman Sachs Group Inc. in the negotiation of a Security Purchase Agreement with McDermott International, Inc.
Panama, December 7, 2018. Morgan & Morgan represented certain investment funds managed by the Merchant Banking Division of The Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (“Goldman Sachs”) in the negotiation of a Security Purchase Agreement pursuant to which Goldman Sachs acquired for US$300 Million, 12% Redeemable Preferred Stock of McDermott International, Inc., a Panamanian corporation (the “Company”), and a warrant to purchase a number of shares of the common stock of the Company.
Morgan & Morgan advised Retail Space Holdings Corp. in registering as a Real Estate Investment Trust and offering of Class B Shares
Morgan & Morgan provided legal counsel to Retail Space Holdings Corp., in the process of registering as Real Estate Investment Trust (“REIT”) in compliance with the requirements to benefit from the special tax regime set forth in Paragraph 2 of Article 706 of the Tax Code of Panama. For said purposes, Morgan & Morgan provided advice to Retail Space Holdings Corp. in registering with the Superintendence of the Securities Market of Panama (Superintendencia del Mercado de Valores or “SMV”), the offering and placing of its Ordinary Class B Shares through the Panama Stock Exchange (Bolsa de Valores de Panamá, S.A. or “BVP”) and registering with the General Revenue Office (Dirección General de Ingresos or “DGI”) of the Ministry of Economy and Finance.
MMG Bank Corporation acted as Arranger, Placement Agent, Stock Brokerage Firm, Custodian and Payment, Registrar and Transfer Agent of Retail Space Holdings Corp. and MMG Asset Management, Corp. was appointed as Investment Manager of Retail Space Holdings Corp. Morgan & Morgan worked closely with Retail Space Holdings Corp., MMG Bank Corporation and MMG Asset Management in defining the final terms and conditions of their Ordinary Class B Shares subject of the public offering.
REIT’s that are registered with the SMV, BVP and DGI, and comply with the requirements set forth in the Tax Code and other applicable regulations are exempt from the payment of Income Tax at a rate of 25% at the corporate level. The shareholders of a REIT that comply with the statutory requirements pay Income Tax on the distributions received from the REIT, at the rates established in the Tax Code. However, the REIT’s are required to withhold 10% of amounts distributed at the time of each distribution, in the form of advanced Income Tax, withholding that the shareholder may decide to consider as the definitive and final Income Tax.
Retail Space Holdings Corp., is a holding company of subsidiary companies that, at the same time, own commercial properties throughout the Republic of Panama.
Partners Ricardo Arias and Roberto Vidal, and associates Pablo Epifanio and Ana Cristina Castrellón, participated in this process.
Panama, September 25, 2018. Morgan & Morgan and sixteen attorneys of the firm were recognized in the Chambers Latin America 2019, guide of the best lawyers and law firms across 20 countries of Central America, the Caribbean, South America and Mexico.
The firm has been ranked in the first Bands within the areas of Banking & Finance, Capital Markets, Corporate/M&A, Dispute Resolution, Energy & Natural Resources, Intellectual Property, Offshore, Projects, Real Estate, Shipping and Shipping Litigation.
Likewise, the publication noted as leaders in their areas attorneys Inocencio Galindo, Francisco Arias, Ramon Varela, Roberto Vidal, Simon Tejeira, Jose Carrizo, Luis Vallarino, Ana Carolina Castillo, Allen Candanedo, Maria Eugenia Brenes, Roberto Lewis, Luis Manzanares, Enrique De Alba, Jazmina Rovi, Juan David Morgan Jr. and Francisco Linares.
One of the clients interviewed stated that “Judging by the results that the firm achieves, I can say that their advice is effective and arrives in a timely manner. I would highlight their availability and technical competence”.
About Morgan & Morgan
With over 80 lawyers and 20 practice areas, Morgan & Morgan is a full service Panamanian law firm, regularly assisting local and foreign corporations from different industries, as well as recognized financial institutions, government agencies and individual clients. Of particular note is our continuous advice for clients involved in all stages of the development of important projects related to energy, water supply, construction, oil, mining, public infrastructure, retail, ports, transportation, among others. Learn more at www.morimor.com.
Morgan & Morgan advised Cirsa Gaming Corporation, S.A. in connection with the offering of senior secured notes and floating rate senior secured notes
Morgan & Morgan acted as counsel to Cirsa Gaming Corporation, S.A. (Cirsa) in connection with the offering of €663,000,000 6.250% senior secured notes due 2023, €425,000,000 floating rate senior secured notes due 2023, U.S. $550,000,000 7.875% senior secured notes due 2023, issued by LHMC Finco S.a.r.l. (Issuer), and to be guaranteed by the Issuer and, among others, Gaming & Services de Panama, S.A.
Cirsa is one of the leading gaming companies in Spain, Italy and Latin America and is engaged in the operation of slot machines, casinos and bingo halls and the manufacture of slot machines.
Partners Francisco Arias, senior associate Roberto Vidal and associate Cristina De Roux, participated in this transaction.
Morgan & Morgan acted as special Panamanian counsel to Alta Cordillera, S.A., in connection with a credit facility agreement granted by PDS Gaming-International, LLC, M&G Illiquid Credit Opportunities Fund Limited and M&G Illiquid Credit Opportunities Fund II Limited, as lenders, to Alta Cordillera and Codere Newco, S.A.U., as borrowers. PDS Gaming LLC acted as arranger, servicer and agent for the lenders and PDS Gaming-International, LLC acted as collateral agent.
Morgan & Morgan advised Banisi, S.A. and MMG Bank Corp. in the structuring of a program of revolving corporate bonds for an amount of up to US$50 million
. Morgan & Morgan advised Banisi, S.A., a bank with general license to perform banking business in Panama, and MMG Bank Corporation in the structuring of a program of revolving corporate bonds for US$50,000,000. The bonds were registered with the Superintendency of Capital Markets of Panama. The issuer of the bonds is Banisi, S.A. and MMG Bank Corporation acted as arranger, bookrunner and paying agent of the bonds. The bonds may be issued in different series with maturities ranging from one to ten years and interest rates may be fixed or floating.
Banisi, S.A. is a bank that was granted a general banking license by the Superintendence of Banks of Panama and, as such, it may perform banking business in Panama, including accepting deposits from the public and granting credit, including personal, commercial, mortgage and other loans. The funds received from the issuance of the bonds will constitute a new source of financing for Banisi and will be used to expand their portfolio of loans, working capital requirements and other purposes. The bonds of a series may be guaranteed by a collateral trust that Banisi, as settlor, has constituted with MMG Bank Corporation, as collateral trustee. The assets that Banisi will transfer to the collateral trusts will be bank loans granted to its debtors, the outstanding principal balance of which shall be at least 120% of the outstanding principal balance of the bonds guaranteed by the collateral trust.
Partners Ricardo Arias and Roberto Vidal, and associates Pablo Epifanio and Cristina De Roux, participated in this transaction.
Morgan & Morgan advised Hidrotenencias, S.A., with respect to the sale of its hydroelectric generation business to EnfraGen Spain, S.A.
Morgan & Morgan acted as Panamanian counsel to the shareholders of Hidrotenencias, S.A., a company that owns and operates three run-of-the-river hydropower plants located in the province of Chiriqui, in connection with the sale of their stake in the company to EnfranGen Spain, S.A.
This cross-border transaction, which involved attorneys from Panama and the United States of America, consisted in the sale of the 100% of the shares of Hidrotenencias, S.A., which in turns owns 100% of the shares of Las Perlas Sur, S.A., Las Perlas Norte, S.A. and Istmus Hydro Power Corp., corporations with hydroelectric generation concessions in the Republic of Panama.
Partner Francisco Arias G., senior associate Roberto Vidal and associate Cristina De Roux, participated in this transaction.
Morgan & Morgan advised Banistmo, S.A. in the structuring and registration of revolving corporate bonds for an amount of up to US$300 million
Morgan & Morgan advised Banistmo, S.A. in the structuring and registration with the Superintendency of Capital Markets of Panama of US$300,000,000 revolving corporate bonds. The bonds will be issued in different series with maturities ranging from 2 to 15 years and interest rates may be fixed or floating.
Banistmo, S.A. is a wholly owned subsidiary of Bancolombia, S.A. and is one of Panama’s largest banks with more than US$9MM in assets and deposits that exceed US$6MM. The funds received from the issuance of the bonds will constitute a new source of financing for Banistmo and will be used to grant new loans and expand its growing pool of receivables.
In the transaction, Morgan & Morgan’s attorneys worked with the executives of Banistmo’s department of investment banking in Panama and with the members of Bancolombia’s investment banking company in Colombia, knowingly, Banca de Inversion Bancolombia, S.A. The bonds received a local credit rating of ‘AAA(pan)’ from Fitch Ratings.
Partners Francisco Arias and Ricardo Arias, and senior associate Roberto Vidal, participated in this transaction.