'Realty firms may raise $25bn in 3 yrs through REIT'

Representative image. (PTI photo)

Real estate developers may raise more than USD 25 billion over the next three years by listing their rent-yielding commercial properties through the Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) route, according to realty consultant Anarock.

Earlier this year, global investment firm Blackstone and realty firm Embassy group launched India's first REIT to raise Rs 4,750 crore. Their joint venture firm Embassy Office Parks listed its rental assets on the exchanges.

"Commercial REITs may raise over USD 25 billion for Indian real estate over the next three years. This involves the listing of more than 150 million sq ft of rent-yielding Grade A office properties across top seven cities - covering 25-30 per cent of the overall Grade A office space in these cities," said Shobhit Agarwal, MD & CEO – Anarock Capital.

Currently, the top seven cities — Delhi-NCR, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Pune — have close to 550 million sq ft Grade A office supply - of which 310-320 million sq ft is 'REITable' as of now, he added.

"The recent success of India's first listed REIT offers much-needed hope to the beleaguered real estate sector. The enthusiastic response to Embassy Office Parks' REIT launch - and its more-than-satisfactory performance - is priming investors for similar REIT opportunities, which in turn will open up more funding avenues for the sector," Agarwal said.

Several large developers are keen to list their commercial assets, he added.

According to Anarock, Prestige Group is planning to list its first commercial REIT very soon and has already started segregating its residential, office, retail and hospitality businesses. It may also launch a retail REIT as and when the opportunity arises.

Other players in the REIT fray are RMZ Corp, K Raheja Corp, Godrej Properties and Panchshil Realty.

"REITs would help commercial developers improve their liquidity by unlocking the value of their assets to raise capital. For big and small investors, it is a highly de-risked investment route offering annual returns of as much as 12-14 per cent over the long-term - an attractive proposition when viewed against more volatile asset classes," Agarwal said.

Recently, Securities and Exchange Board of India Chairman Ajay Tyagi and other officials met scores of foreign investors in the US and saw keen interest from them in emerging areas such as REITs and InvITs.

During the meeting, the regulator found that "the participants were keen on emerging areas such as REITs and InvITs, (infrastructure investment trusts) which have more than USD 10 billion asset size as on today".

According to Agarwal, REITs in residential segment would take time. The draft Model Tenancy Act, 2019, will make rental housing a more attractive investment play.

Agarwal further said that for Indian residential REITs to succeed as they have in countries like Singapore and the US, rental yields need to significantly surpass the current 1-3 per cent. 

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