ICRA-Tie-ups worth $2 billion to help realty builders create healthy pipeline

The commercial real estate sector has seen interest from several large international funds and Private Equity players as the market has gradually recovered since FY2015, said ratings agency ICRA. Several of these investors have created platforms with builders and are likely to commit over $2 billion of capital. Many of these institutional investors are now looking closely at residential real estate as well, though it is still selective. Such investment platform help developer's access capital that can be used across projects. Usually, such investment is routed through a special purpose vehicle created for the specific project where costs and profits are shared by the partners in a pre-determined manner as per their respective economic interests. Till recently, real estate development worked through outright purchase of land parcels, necessitating a large upfront investment by builders. Moreover, the delays in project launches resulted in a lock-up of the developers' capital over a longer time period, thus eroding the returns on capital employed. The past decade, therefore, saw other asset-light models of development, like joint development agreements (JDAs), joint ventures (JVs) and more recently, development management agreements (DMAs) gaining prominence. This shift from the land-banking model to risk-reduced project development has also attracted many international investors. Among the first to do so was Godrej Properties Limited (GPL), which launched a $200 million investment platform in partnership with Dutch pension fund asset manager APG Asset Management NV in 2012, following it with an additional $275 million platform with the same investor in March 2016. While the private equity investment inflow in the industry has been healthy, the domestic real estate developers have been grappling with challenges such as subdued sales as well as cash flows. The recent policy changes are also expected to help create a more favourable operating environment for foreign investors. For instance, the recently passed Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, 2016 seeks to bring in structure and much-needed transparency in the industry and thus is expected to be a positive for the sector in the long run. The Government of India (GoI) has also amended the foreign direct investment (FDI) norms for the sector to provide an impetus to foreign investment. The reforms pertaining to the sector include removal of the minimum FDI eligibility criteria in terms of size from (20,000 square meter earlier) and capital (US$5 million earlier), permission of FDI investment in completed projects, and easing the process of exit for investors by allowing exit and repatriation of the investment before the completion of the project.

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