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Real estate fund managers scout for good assets

Last updated on: May 01, 2014 17:34 IST

Real estate fund managers scout for good assets

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Raghavendra Kamath

Real estate-focused private equity (PE) players have found themselves in a peculiar situation. There are funds to invest, but quality assets are hard to come by.

According to industry estimates, funds to the tune of $3.5 billion, raised by both domestic and international PE fund managers in the past two years, are waiting to be deployed.

Kotak Realty Fund, Ajay Piramal’s Piramal Fund Management, ASK Property Investment Advisors, Peninsula-Brookfield combine, IDFC, and Proprium Capital Partners are among those to have raised new funds in the past two years.

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Photographs: Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters

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Real estate fund managers scout for good assets

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Global fund manager Xander looks at every deal in the market but only five per cent reaches the final evaluation stage, says its spokesperson. What it eventually signs up is less than one per cent of the deals it has seen, he adds.

Xander has invested as much as $1.4 billion in Indian real estate.

“Quality assets that meet institutional criteria are few. While the market has grown substantially, issues relating to title quality, construction quality including fire safety and health issues, lack of regulatory approvals, poor planning and design (especially in case of retail developments) abound, making the pool of investable assets small,” says the spokesperson.

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Photographs: Reuters
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Real estate fund managers scout for good assets

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He adds that although many of the quality assets are over-leveraged and have little equity left, neither the lenders or the promoters were willing to acknowledge the reality of the situation or take a haircut “which is the only logical way to make these assets marketable and realistically valued”. 

Xander is not alone, which is facing this situation. According to a recent report by Kotak Institutional Equities, out of $350 billion of funds allocated to real estate globally in 2013, around $130 billion was allotted to Asia but India got just $1 billion due to lack of quality supply.

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Photographs: Reuters

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Real estate fund managers scout for good assets

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The managing director of a US-based PE fund says because most of the PE funds are focusing on residential assets, there is stiff competition among funds for the assets.

“Most funds are focusing on residential assets because it is easier to make money and get out. Many have launched funds with a mandate to invest in residential assets.

But there are only so many deals available in the market, leading to a situation where more money is chasing fewer deals,” he says.

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Photographs: Reuters
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Real estate fund managers scout for good assets

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According to global property consultant Cushman & Wakefield, the total value of investments in the residential segment for 2013 was recorded at Rs 4,050 crore ($650 million) — an increase of 42 per cent, compared to 2012. 

According to Khushru Jijina, managing director of Piramal Fund Management, deal flow is not a concern because the company he heads has deployed Rs 1,100 crore ( Rs 11 billion) of PE funds and Rs 1,400 crore ( Rs 14 billion) of debt in the past 12-15 months.

He, however, concedes that in some asset classes, more funds are chasing fewer properties.

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Photographs: Adeel Halim/Reuters
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Jijina says,“I think there are attractive opportunities but at the same time, the market has also consolidated.

So the opportunities remain accessible to fewer managers such as us. In segments such as standing investments, there is perhaps slightly more capital chasing than the opportunities available at this stage.”

Over the last 12 months, Piramal has reviewed 60 deals, after rejecting many in the initial stages, and progressed 24 of the 60 for the further diligence and invested in nine, he adds.

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Image: Workers walk in front of a multi-story commercial building under construction on the outskirts of Ahmedabad.
Photographs: Amit Dave/Reuters

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However, Sunil Rohokale, managing director of ASK Property Investment Advisors, disagrees there is a dearth of good quality assets. “We have enough good quality assets across geographies.

Depending on a fund’s appetite, it can choose different assets - be it residential, commercial or retail.”

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Image: A worker climbs to fasten iron rods together at the construction site of a high-rise building in central Mumbai.
Photographs: Vivek Prakash/Reuters

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Enough funds, fewer deals

* Over $3.5 billion of funds have been raised in the last two years by real estate funds

* Kotak, Ajay Piramal group, Peninsula-Brookfield combine, IDFC, Proprium raised new funds

* Around $130 billion was allotted to Asia but India got just $1 billion due to lack of quality assets

* Focus on residential properties, title and regulatory issues said to be reasons behind more funds chasing fewer deals


Photographs: Reuters

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