REITs in India

by Manshu on April 26, 2013

in Investments,Opinion

REIT stands for Real Estate Investment Trust and is a type of a mutual fund. REITs are fairly common in the US and while SEBI had a proposal to allow them in India a few years ago, not much progress has been made since then.

Just like any other mutual fund – the REIT operators will get the money from the public and then invest it in real estate with the primary motive of earning income on it. In the US, they have to distribute most of their income as dividends and that would probably be how they work in India as well.

In an American context, this works great because the interest on fixed deposits is zero, and rental yield is decent but India is very different from the US in that way. Here the rental yields are low, and the fixed deposit rates are high so a REIT’s appeal will be more by way of capital gains than yields.

Right now, those who can afford it — buy houses with the hope of capital appreciation, and they don’t care about rental incomes at all. I would imagine that if REITs were traded in India then the same will be true for those also.

People who buy REITs will be interested in capital appreciation rather than looking for any type of yield or steady income.

I think the idea behind allowing REITs in India is to get money flowing in real estate and getting real estate developed with this money so that the demand and supply gap is bridged.

However, I think the gap is not so much because there is shortage of money but because of other administrative problems like land acquisition and clearances so to that extent the introduction of REITs may not help with that.

There was some hope that there will be something about REITs in the budget this year but there wasn’t and I haven’t read anything else that suggests that it is likely to materialize in the near future.

If there is something, I’ll do another post with the details of regulation and how they are likely to function, but I honestly don’t feel that they will have a lot of utility in India.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

ankurm April 26, 2013 at 8:16 am

3 points:

1) Abroad, REITs also declare special one time dividends in case of asset sales. Since they are mandated to distribute their cash profits (90% or so) in the form of dividend

2) Its worth a separate topic to discuss, why rental yield in India is lower than fixed deposit. (Rental yield or for that matter yield on any investment, should benchmark inflation). Yield is lower in India because the denominator i.e. capital values are inflated.

3) The main utility of REIT is to make small investment (through few units) in real estate possible. Which, is certainly relevant for India. Currently, real estate as an asset class is not available to the small investor.

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Manshu April 27, 2013 at 9:22 pm

Great points – thanks for the comment Ankur.

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Shashank April 26, 2013 at 4:16 pm

I feel that lack of transparency and uncertainty involved in the conduct of real estate business is well known and this has delayed the establishment of the REIT investment structure in India. At the same time real estate & allied sectors have not grown as a full grown industry on account of massive localisation and absence of managed real estate market & independent regulatory watchdog.

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Manshu April 27, 2013 at 9:17 pm

Yeah, and if proper regulation is brought in then that will help the country without even needing REITs.

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CA Karan Batra April 26, 2013 at 10:41 pm

Another reason why REIT’s are not popular in India may be because of the fact that a significant portion of the money invested in real estate is cash…

At the time of buying or selling, a large amount is cash… And REIT’s wont be able to account for and give justifications for the cash involved…

In US, its all paid by cheque, but that is not the case in India… So I dont think REIT’s would work in India atleast for the next few years…

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Manshu April 27, 2013 at 9:08 pm

Thanks Karan – that’s a good point.

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