PE firms, partners build teams for mall buyouts

Palladium mall phoenix mills in Mumbai
Mall companies floated or backed by private equity (PE) entities are building new teams for buying malls and managing these.

According to sources, the subsidiary of Phoenix Mills, where Canadian pension fund manager CPPIB is taking stake (the company which is said to be a front for the duo to acquire or build new malls), has started hiring in full swing. And, wants a head of marketing and leasing and chief operating officer.

“They have to hire at least 50-60 people in the new company if they have to compete with the likes of Blackstone,” said a senor executive, who did not want to be named.

When asked, Atul Ruia, joint managing director of Phoenix Mills, said: "It is too early to comment, since the definitive deal has not been executed/concluded."

In the current intended structure, Phoenix would provide the management expertise. “Further, as a general policy we do not usually hire external chief executives and senior members but believe in the power of internal promotion,” he added.

Virtuous Retail South Asia, a recently established mall joint venture (JV) between Xander and Dutch Pension find APG, is looking to both acquire existing assets and build new malls, said Sid Yog, founder of Xander Funds. It is also looking to acquire assets that are semi-built and require both additional capital and development expertise to complete the project.

Virtuous Retail has about 175 employees. “As a result of the expansion, we are in the process of identifying a few people for some additional leadership positions to add to our current leadership team at Virtuous Retail South Asia, which is based between Singapore and India. These are likely to be in the company’s corporate office in Bengaluru. Also, as our new Chennai project becomes operational next year, we will be hiring for positions in that city,” Yog said.

In November last year, APG and Virtuous Retail, retail development arm of Xander Group, formed a JV that acquired a portfolio of three shopping malls from a Xander-sponsored fund for about Rs2,000 crore ($300 million). The duo, APG and Xander, have committed an additional $150 mn to expand the portfolio.

Similarly, Blackstone-owned Nexus Malls is also hiring people and conducting interviews daily, sources said. Blackstone has set up a  team headed by Vikram Garg and hired Nirzar Jain from Oberoi Realty in a senior position. It set up an office at Vashi in Navi Mumbai; the main office is in South Mumbai.

Global PE majors are betting on the retail growth in the country. Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Delhi, Chennai, Mumbai and Pune are among the 10 cities with highest retail sales growth forecast between 2015 and 2019 in the JLL Destination Retail 2016 report. India has also emerged at second position in the 2016 Global Retail Development Index by AT Kearney.

“There is little doubt that the country is becoming an attractive destination for global retailers, with further liberalisation of the foreign direct investment policy and creation of a business-friendly environment. The growing potential of the Indian retail market is already manifested by the entry of several marquee global retailers in the past one year,” property consultant JLL said in a report last year. 


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