Photo of Arjun Lall

Partner (Head - South) at the Bangalore office of Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas. Arjun specializes in capital markets, M&A and private equity. He has advised on several landmark pioneering and ‘first of its kind’ capital markets transactions in India over the last eighteen years, including on the establishment and listing of the first REIT. He has been consistently ranked in legal publications as one of the leading capital market lawyers in the country. He can be reached at arjun.lall@cyrilshroff.com.

What’s So Real About Real Estate Anyway?

*An eight-part series covering the commercial and legal considerations of REIT listings in India. Click here to read Part 1.

India is an outlier in global Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) regimes. It is the only country with dedicated legislation for REITs and Infrastructure Investment Trusts (while the US and Japan permit REITs to hold certain infrastructure assets, there is no separate legislation). In a way, this showcases the maturity of the regulatory thought process, and it has already been recognised that there is a compelling case for other developed jurisdictions to introduce a similar InvIT model, which meets the needs of investors as well as protects existing REIT legislation (Source: EY – Global perspectives, 2018 REIT Report).

On a standalone basis, ‘non-traditional’ REITs listed only in the US are the second-largest REIT sector globally (with a market cap of USD 480 billion). These non-traditional asset types include healthcare, data centres, billboards, communication towers, student accommodation, single family rental and fiber optic transmission lines (Source: EY – Global perspectives, 2018 REIT Report). Surprisingly, if most of these asset classes were to plan a REIT listing in India, they would have to think twice – their assets may or may not be eligible ‘real estate’ within the meaning of the REIT Regulations. Which brings us to the question, what exactly is real estate for the purpose of the REIT Regulations?


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Part I - REIT Management Frameworks

*This is the first part of an eight-part series covering the commercial and legal considerations of REIT listings in India

Setting up a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) involves a number of synchronised actions by all parties to the REIT including the Sponsors, Sponsor Group, Trustee, Manager, Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) and their respective stakeholders.

Apart from settling the trust, one of the principal obligations of the Sponsors includes contribution of the initial portfolio of assets to the REIT (immediately preceding the closure of the public issue). While the assets may be transferred through various means, the favoured (and tax efficient) option is for the Sponsor to swap its shares in the SPVs housing the portfolio assets in exchange for REIT Units. Thus, the REIT becomes the shareholder and owner of the assets, the Sponsors become Unitholders of the REIT and the REIT Manager (which is typically controlled/ managed by the Sponsors), is entrusted with the responsibility of managing the affairs of the newly acquired assets, through an investment management framework.
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