Blackstone, others gear up to list REITs

Blackstone Group and its partner, Embassy Group, are laying the groundwork to cash in on their property holdings by setting up India’s first real estate investment trust (REIT) and listing it on one of the country’s stock exchanges.

The move comes as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government works to finalise rules as early as next month that will govern the trusts. The finance ministry is expected then to clarify tax rules for REITs in the budget, people with direct knowledge of the matter said.

The world’s biggest property investor and Embassy have a joint portfolio of more than 20 million square feet of offices in India, which is likely to help value their
 REIT at $2 billion, said Jitendra Virwani, chairman of Bangalore-based Embassy.

Emerging markets

Listing REITs gives companies like Blackstone, The Xander Group, an emerging markets investor backed by the Rothschild family, and private equity firm Red Fort Capital, which counts Abu Dhabi Investment Authority among its investors, an attractive option to exit some of their investments.

“We are actually gearing up because we feel the pace the government is moving at is faster than what we would want, so it is better to be prepared much earlier than later,” said Virwani, who was set to meet Blackstone to draw up a plan for the listing.A spokeswoman of the tax department did not answer requests for comment. Blackstone did not respond to a request for comment.

The long-awaited move by India will be implemented by the country’s market regulator after the ministry clarifies tax rules to transfer assets into a separate vehicle before listing the trust, which had triggered worries over double taxation.Implementing REITs will also be one early sign from Modi of how he wants to bolster the economy, which is suffering its longest spell of under five per cent growth since the late 1980s.

India issued draft regulations for REITs in 2008, but was forced to shelve the plans after the global financial crisis dried up investor interest and an economic downturn dimmed the outlook for real estate investments.

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