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Blackstone-backed firm seeks 47.5b rupees in India's first REIT

MUMBAI

EMBASSY Office Parks REIT, backed by Blackstone Group LP, plans to raise about 47.5 billion rupees (S$924 million) in India's first real estate investment trust listing.

The REIT, which includes Embassy Group properties, will start taking orders from anchor investors Friday before moving on to a public offering from March 18 to 20, according to terms for the deal obtained by Bloomberg.

Strategic investors agreed to subscribe to 8.76 billion rupees of units in the deal, the terms show.

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A successful listing of the REIT, expected by April 3 according to the terms, will potentially open a fund-raising avenue for India's cash-starved property companies.

The nation's real estate developers are struggling with sluggish sales and price declines that followed a 2016 crackdown on cash as well as new consumer protection and tax policies.

A cash crunch at shadow lenders following defaults at Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services Ltd. also curtailed availability of capital to developers. "Considering the rough patch that the real estate sector is going through, there is a lot riding on this sale," said Sandeep Upadhyay, managing director at Centrum Capital Ltd.

"If there is enough demand for this issuance, we will see more REITS tapping the market over next one year."

The trust's portfolio comprises about 33 million square feet of office space across four Indian cities, Bengaluru, Pune, Mumbai and Noida, a regulatory filing shows.

Its Express Towers property, located in Mumbai's central business district, counts Wells Fargo & Co., Warburg Pincus as well as Blackstone as tenants.

Morgan Stanley, Kotak Mahindra Bank Ltd., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Bank of America Corp. are global coordinators for the offering, a filing showed.

REITs have been in the making for several years in India, as the regulator kept tweaking rules to make it more attractive to developers and investors.

Retail investors may still remain wary of these products after the much-hyped infrastructure investment trusts failed to meet market expectations.

IRB InvIT Fund has fallen more than 16 per cent while India Grid Trust has gained just 1.1 per cent since their trading debut in 2017. BLOOMBERG