A Go South Foreign Realty Funds Trend

by : Propertiesmls

The two recent big ticket deals witnessed in this southern city have put Chennai on the radar of foreign real estate funds and large developers.

AIG Real Estate Fund along with the Bangalore-based real estate firm RMZ Corporation has purchased an 11-acre plot at Guindy, which formerly belonged to Hindustan Teleprinters Ltd. (HTL), a subsidiary of telecom equipment maker HFCL for a princely sum of Rs. 298.1-crore.

In yet, another such deal, Shyam Kothari, brother-in-law of Mukesh Ambani has bought IDBI's 2.5-acreas Boat Club property in Chennai for Rs. 175-crore. Both these deals, which had one thing in common i.e. Jones Lang LaSalle, international property consultants as advisors, have taken the commercial property price in Chennai to a new high.

And, the HTL-AIG deal has pushed land price in Chennai to a record Rs. 27.1-crore per acre from its earlier price of Rs. 15-18-crore per acre. Over the last 12-months, the prices of premium properties in Chennai have increased significantly, driven in large part by high demand and limited supply.

Guindy, traditionally an industrial centre, has in recent years emerged as a centre for IT-firms and has been witness to commercial space developments. Software firms and technology parks have come up within the Guindy Industrial Estate, as well as, adjacent to the property with a major IT project, the Olympia Tech Park with about a million sq. ft. of commercial space is also coming up, nearby.

HTL, a subsidiary of Himachal Futuristic Communications (HFCL) (which took a 74% stake in the firm in 2001, when the government divested its holding), is under the purview of BIFR. And, HTL has another 50-acres on the arterial Mount road, which is expected to be auctioned shortly.

Since the easing of rules for inward investment in India's construction industry in early 2005, the country has been inundated with foreign realty funds, such as, Warburg Pincer, Citi, Morgan Stanley, J.P. Morgan and Merrill-Lynch funds, which have mobilised over $3,000-million as investment in the Indian real estate market.

The prices of prime land plots have doubled as developers catch up on half a century of near inactivity to build homes, offices and shopping centres fitting for an economy growing by leaps and bounds i.e. around 9% a year. Foreign realty funds believe that in a market where developers are only just beginning to expand from their regional bases, picking a partner capable of becoming a national giant is difficult, but potentially lucrative. However, the task is complicated by the emergence of a raft of new developers, as the property boom lures a mixed bag of land owning companies, from financial service providers to hand-rolled cigarette makers.

The soaring property market has complicated valuations; many expect the prices to sustain, though some foreign private equity investors feel that Indian property firms have over-priced.

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