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India's first Reit climbs on trading debut in vote of confidence

Mumbai

INDIA'S first real estate investment trust, the Blackstone Group LP-backed Embassy Office Parks, rose on its trading debut, in a vote of confidence for a potential new funding avenue for the nation's cash-strapped developers.

The REIT units, which were sold at 300 rupees apiece, started trading at 308 rupees on Monday in Mumbai, and climbed as much as 8.3 per cent to 324.8 rupees. The benchmark S&P BSE Sensex Index rose 0.7 per cent.

The initial public offering, which raised 47.5 billion rupees (S$930 million) was more than two-and-a-half times oversubscribed, underscoring investor demand for the asset class. Anchor investors including Fidelity Funds, DB International (Asia) Ltd. and strategic investors committed 26.6 billion rupees.

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The fund will own and operate about 33 million square feet of office space in the Indian cities of Bengaluru, Pune, Mumbai and Noida. Its tenants include Microsoft Corp. and Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc.

The early success of the REIT may help cash-starved property firms with a new fundraising tool, as well as offer investors a new exit mechanism. India's property market has been roiled by falling home sales and declining prices following sweeping policy changes, including a 2016 crackdown on cash and the introduction of a nationwide sales tax. The recent crisis at non-bank lenders has further curtailed developers access to funds.

REITs have been in the making for more than a decade in India, as the regulator kept tweaking rules to make them more attractive to developers and investors. Retail investors may still remain wary of these products given the minimum investment size of about 240,000 rupees and the 2017 introduction of much-hyped infrastructure investment trusts, which failed to live up to expectations. BLOOMBERG