Local
articles | 13 December 2019

Alternative Investment Funds (AIFs)

The enactment of the Alternative Investment Funds (AIF) law in July 2014 aligned the Cyprus legal and regulatory framework with EU directives on asset management, with the aim to enhance transparency and investor protection.

Following on-going efforts to modernise its fund framework, Cyprus introduced a new law offering more investment structuring possibilities and upgraded rules for the authorisation, on-going operations, transparency requirements and supervision of Cyprus AIFs, as well as the regulation on the role and responsibilities of their directors, depositaries and external managers.

AIFs that are established under domestic Cyprus fund legislation can be sold on a private placement basis or marketed to professional investors across the EU under the Alternative Investment Fund Managers Directive (AIFMD) passport.

In July 2018, Cyprus further upgraded its legislative framework with a new AIF regime, replacing the 2014 law, reflecting the latest market demands and introducing a new product called the Registered AIF and a new legal form – the Limited Partnership with separate legal personality.

The new Registered AIF (RAIF) regime, whereby the fund does not require authorisation from CySEC or subsequent monitoring, while being stamped as an ‘AIF’ by virtue of the law, offers new opportunities for a quick and cost-effective fund launch. This new type of fund needs to fulfil the following conditions: the fund manager must qualify as a full-scope Cyprus or EU Alternative Investment Fund Manager (AIFM), and the fund must be targeted to professional investors and/or well-informed investors. Third country AIFMs will be able to submit a request for registration of an AIF, once the country where these have been established has granted passporting rights pursuant to the AIFMD. CySEC will rely on the regulated status of the AIFM, to ensure compliance and indirect supervision of applicable laws and appropriate standards by the fund. Another key benefit of this fund is the use of the EU marketing passport via its AIFM.

The RAIF may be organised in any legal form available under Cyprus Law (investment company, limited partnership and common fund), and can be open or closed-ended and be established with multiple compartments. It can follow any strategy and invest in any type of assets. However, the set-up of Loan Origination and Money Market Funds under the RAIF regime are not permitted. Other key operational features, such as the issue and redemption of units, are similar to the regulated AIF regime.

Furthermore, the new AIF framework will introduce a licensing requirement and supervision regime for the Cyprus sub-threshold AIFM (‘Mini Manager’). A sub-threshold AIFM could manage the following: AIFs with limited or unlimited number of persons, Registered AIFs taking the form of a Limited Partnership as well as non-Cypriot AIFs (subject to the discretion of competent authorities in the other jurisdiction).

These developments have been a long-awaited and welcome evolution offering expanded structuring possibilities for fund promoters and has further enhanced Cyprus’ status as an attractive jurisdiction and a rising contender amongst European fund and asset management hubs.

 

Upgraded AIF Regime: What’s New?

  • Introduction of new fund vehicle, the Registered AIF
    • A new and innovative product providing a fast and cost-effective fund launch through a Registered AIF that does not require licensing
  • Introduction of a minimum AuM requirement to be reached within the first 12 months of the launch of the AIF (possible extension to 24 months)  
  • Minimum share capital requirement is now valid only for self- managed vehicles, irrespective of the category of AIF
  • Additional conditions imposed on AIFs with limited number of persons to avail of the depositary exemption for assets which are not subject to custody
  • Changes in the organisational structure, such as the requirement for an internal regulatory compliance function for AIFs with unlimited number of persons
  • Maximum number of investors limit reduced to 50 from 75 and the introduction of look through provisions for AIFLNPs 
  • Enhancement of existing Limited Partnership Regime
    • Greater scope for fund structuring though the upcoming introduction of a limited partnership with legal personality. Once in effect, the general partner may elect upon establishment of a limited partnership to have separate legal personality, while maintaining tax transparency status. This is particularly helpful for funds of fund managers who need a structure that can itself invest in other limited partnerships, but also allows the establishment of internally managed Limited Partnerships
    • Establishment of a list of non-management safe harbours which give confidence and legal certainty to Limited Partners being admitted to a Cyprus limited partnership regarding the activities they may undertake, without undermining their crucial limited liability status
    • the limited partnership may either be self-managed or appoint its general partner or another appropriately qualified entity to act as its external manager
    • Disapplication of section 47(3) of the General and Limited Partnerships and Trade Names Law Cap 116 (Partnership Law) to remove the restriction on returning capital during the life of the partnership and thus the obligation to pay the capital back if it is returned
  • Tax Law Amendments
    • Among other amendments, an 8% flat rate taxation on performance-based variable remuneration for certain employees
 

AIF Legal Forms

An AIF can take the following legal forms and may be established with limited or unlimited duration

  • Fixed Capital Investment Company (FCIC)
  • Variable Capital Investment Company (VCIC)
  • Limited Partnership (LP)*
  • Common Fund (CF) **
*Amendments to the current Partnership Law will allow the General Partner to elect for legal personality of the Limited Partnership upon its establishment

**Only when established as AIF with unlimited number of persons

 

Types of AIFs

Alternative Investment Fund with Unlimited Number of Persons:

  • may be marketed to retail, or well-informed and/or professional investors
  • freely transferable investor shares
  • must appoint a Depositary
  • can be listed on a recognised stock exchange, and AIFs marketed to retail investors can be traded
  • irrespective of the category of AIF, minimum share capital requirements are valid only for self-managed funds, which are subject to €125,000 and €50,000 when respectively authorised as AIF or AIF-LNP
  • may be subject to certain investment restrictions depending on the investor type and the overall investment policy. AIFs addressed to WIPIs shall not be subject to investment restrictions, except Loan Origination Funds, Money Market Funds, Venture Capital Funds and Funds of Funds
 

Alternative Investment Fund with Limited Number of Persons:

  • may be marketed only to well-informed and/or professional investors (WIPIs)
  • maximum number of investors limit has been reduced to 50, from the previous 75
  • freely transferable investor shares, with the condition that their transfer does not result in the AIF having more than 50 investors
  • may not be required to appoint a licensed manager or a Depositary in certain circumstances such as when its total assets do not exceed €5 million (or currency equivalent) including any investment compartments thereof, or its instruments of incorporation limit the number of its unitholders (including any investment compartments thereof) to 5 persons for the duration of the life of the AIF, or 90% of the assets are not subject to custody and the number of investors are limited to 25 and provided each investor subscribes a minimum of €500,000
  • assets under management do not exceed the AIFMD thresholds of €100 million (including leverage) or €500 million (without leverage, 5-year lock-up period for investors)
 

Key Benefits of Cyprus AIFs

  • Cost-efficient and simple to set-up, manage and operate
  • Modern regulatory framework fully in line with relevant EU directives
  • Increased flexibility as a number of asset classes can be included in an AIF investment strategy
  • Significant tax incentives offered by the country’s advantageous tax framework
  • Full transparency through annual audited reports to CySEC and investors, which include financial statements, borrowing information, portfolio information and Net Asset Value
  • Supervised by a competent and accessible regulatory authority
 

Fund Service Provider Requirements

Investment Manager

A Variable Capital Investment Company (VCIC) and Fixed Capital Investment Company (FCIC) may be set-up as self-managed, or it may be externally managed. A Limited Partnership (LP)* and Common Fund (CF) must always appoint an external manager.

*Amendments to the current Partnership Law will cater for self-managed LPs, when general partner elects for legal personality upon the establishment of the Limited Partnership

 

AIF with Unlimited Number of Persons

An external manager must fulfil the following licensing requirements:

  • Established in an EU member state*: must be authorised under the AIFM Directive or the UCITS V Directive or MiFID
  • Established in Cyprus**: must be authorised under the Alternative Investment Fund Managers Law or the Investment Services and Activities and Regulated Markets Law or be a Management Company of the Open Ended Undertakings in Collective Investments Law
  • Established in a third country: must be an AIFM of a third country complying with the relevant provisions of the Alternative Investment Fund Managers Law (not yet applicable)
*or EU based Sub-AIFM authorised to provide the portfolio management service and subject to prudential regulation regarding the provision of such service

**Under new amendments may be a sub-threshold AIFM that is a Cyprus Mini-Manager (to be introduced)

 

AIF with Limited Number of Persons

An external manager must fulfil the following licensing requirements:

  • Established in an EU member state: an Investment Firm authorised under MiFID or a Management Company authorised under UCITS V, or EU-based Sub-AIFM authorised to provide the portfolio management service and subject to prudential regulation regarding the provision of such service
  • Established in Cyprus: a UCITS Management Company authorised under the Open Ended Undertakings in Collective Investments Law or an Investment Firm authorised under the Services and Activities and Regulated Markets Law *
  • Established in a third country:the manager must be licenced for portfolio management and have adequate regulation and supervision in its home country
  • Established in an EU member state, Cyprus or third country: : The externally appointed manager may be a company incorporated solely for the purpose of managing the specific AIF, which does not hold any license for portfolio management and which complies with organisational and capital requirements under AIF Law
*Under new amendments may be a sub-threshold AIFM that is a Cyprus Mini-Manager (to be introduced)

 

Administrator

Fund administration services under the current legal framework are not regulated, as such no licence is required to act as an outsourced administrator* of a fund. Among others administration tasks include:

  • Administrative accounting and bookkeeping services
  • Calculating Net Asset Value (NAV)
  • Registrar services required with the fund’s operations, such as recordkeeping, processing of subscription and redemption requests and maintenance of the shareholder register
*The relevant framework to regulate the provision of Fund Administration services is soon to be put in place

 

Depositary

Funds must appoint a single and independent depositary whose responsibilities include:

  • Safekeeping fund’s assets by holding in custody of all financial instruments, which can be registered in the custodian’s books and those that can be physically delivered. Also, for other assets, the Depositary must verify ownership of the fund and maintain an up-to-date record of all assets
  • Cash flow monitoring in regard to investors and service providers, ensuring the fund’s cash flows are booked at eligible entities and are accurately monitored
  • Oversight functions ensuring compliance with the fund’s rules and instruments of incorporation, valuation procedures and that they comply with applicable law and regulations.
There are also possibilities to subcontract safekeeping duties to a foreign licensed custodian acting as sub-custodian. For an AIF with limited number of persons the Depositary obligations are limited to the Safe-Keeping function described above.

Eligible providers: a credit institution, MiFID investment firm or other entity regulated and supervised as a Depositary, or in case of assets which are not financial instruments within the meaning of MiFID, another entity which carries out depositary functions as part of its professional or business activities.

 

Location

  • AIFs managed by an AIFM: depository of a Cyprus AIF must be located in Cyprus
  • AIFs managed by any other entity: depository must be located in Cyprus or any other EU member state or third country with which Cyprus has signed a cooperation agreement, among some other requirements
 

 

Cooperation Partners
  • Logo for Cyprus Investment Funds Association
  • Logo for CFA Cyprus
  • Logo for Cyprus In Your Heart
  • Logo for Ministry of Energy, Commerce, Industry and Tourism
  • Logo for Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry
  • Logo for Invest Cyprus
  • Logo for Association of Cyprus Banks
  • Logo for Cyprus Shipping Chamber
  • Logo for Cyprus International Businesses Association