Blackstone Group's REIT seeks to raise $682 million in India listing

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Embassy Office Parks REIT, backed by Blackstone Group, plans to raise about Rs 4,750 crore ($682 million) in India’s first real estate investment trust listing.

The REIT, which includes Embassy Group properties, will offer as many as 
158.6 million units at Rs 299 to Rs 300 apiece, according to terms for the deal obtained by Bloomberg. It will start taking orders from anchor investors on Friday before moving on to a public offering March 18 through March 20, the terms show.

A successful listing of the REIT, expected by April 3 according to the terms, will potentially open a fundraising 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,” Sandeep Upadhyay, managing director at Centrum Capital. “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.

Strategic investors agreed to subscribe to 8.76 billion rupees of units in the deal, the terms show. 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 percent while India Grid Trust has gained just 1.1 percent since their trading debut in 2017.

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