Liquidity for India’s REIT Market to Improve Based on Revised SEBI Norms

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As we’ve highlighted before, real estate is by far the biggest asset class in the world. A short time back, there was a relaxation in investment norms and real estate investment trusts by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI). Real estate investment companies directly impacted praised SEBI’s initiative (Nandy, MINT). Specifically, they were grateful SEBI took a proactive approach to address a growing, local real estate market problem (Nandy, MINT). Typically, when looking at financial markets regulated by a government’s central compliance department, it’s very rare to see them proactively intervene with the intent of improving liquidity conditions for market participants. Aside from major global economic catastrophes, which always require a unique centralized response, regulators are thought of as “watchdogs”. Here, a regulator intervened to create opportunities for investors to get simpler, quicker access to larger sums of cash. 

Indian REITS are expecting to bring in more retail investors and encourage more public listings in the future. SEBI recently revised the minimum subscription and trading lot for publicly issued REITS and infrastructure investment trusts (InvITs). with the minimum application value to be brought down from ₹50,000 now to a range of Rs.10,000-15,000 and the revised trading lot shall be of one unit.

Support for SEBI Initiative from Major Indian REIT Investment Manager and CEO

“We welcome SEBI’s regulation to reduce the minimum application value from ₹50,000 to Rs. 10,000-15,000, and trading lot to one unit. The earlier ₹50,000 cap restricted participation to only a certain set of investors. We believe that this amendment makes investment in REITs at par with other equity options in India. Reduction in minimum application amount will further bring in more investors thus improving the liquidity in REITs”.

Vinod Rohira, CEO, Mindspace Business Parks REIT

In late 2020, it was first reported that SEBI was considering opening up REITs and InvITs to small investors by lowering the minimum trading lot size of REIT units from ₹50,000 to the value of just a single unit, much like how stocks are traded.

Presently, there are just three publicly listed office REITs in the country – Embassy REIT, Mindspace Business Parks REIT, and the most recently listed Brookfield India REIT (Yadav, MINT).

“We commend this proactive initiative by the regulator to reduce the trading lots of both REITs and InVITs. Embassy REIT’s listing in 2020, coupled with our strong and resilient performance since then, has paved the way for Indian REITs to evolve a mainstream asset class. With approximately $2 billion of primary REIT equity having listed in India in the last two years, leading global and domestic asset managers and growing numbers of retail holders now form the foundation of REIT unit holder registers. The reduction in lot size will increase liquidity for the entire REIT market, enable REITs to be included into benchmark domestic indices and allow greater participation from newer pools of institutional and retail investors.”

Michael Holland, CEO, Embassy REIT

Impact to CRE Investing in India

With India being on every investor’s radar as a country with potential lucrative returns, this should be welcome news. It’s also clear both Vinod and Michael, CEOs of two-thirds of India’s publicly listed REITs, echo each other’s statements. Revisions and relaxation to SEBI norms will improve liquidity conditions for REITs. This should encourage foreign investment and furthermore, the kind of investment India wants to see an increase in (Yadav, MINT).

India has steadily been growing in CRE investment, something they telegraphed they would try to do. In India, CRE has grown at a 16 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) over the last five years. India was one of the few countries who avoided significant CRE investment decline resulting from COVID-19 (Sinha, Financial Express). All-in-all, while India’s real estate investment market (commercial or residential) obviously can’t be compared to the United States, the numbers paint a clear picture. The most influential Indian industry executives double down on what the numbers show. The aforementioned actions recently taken by SEBI will only continue that trajectory. How quickly India’s CRE market specifically will grow is definitely debatable, but for now there’s no doubt, investment is increasing. Again, SEBI altering norms to improve liquidity conditions for Indian REITs will continue to attract increasing investment to India.