Real estate firms drop overseas plans, to stay grounded in India

Last Updated: Sun, Jan 08, 2012 20:43 hrs

Real estate companies, which started venturing overseas around 2006-07, are reviewing their global plans.

With the slump in international realty markets, many domestic companies are either withdrawing from weak markets or putting their global plans on hold.

Raheja Developers, for instance, has shelved plans to enter markets such as Mauritius and Colombo. Hiranandani Group, which has a major presence in Dubai, has changed its strategy. It’s stopped launching new projects, and is focusing on completing existing projects for other developers on a contractual basis. Omaxe has already exited Dubai.

Darshan Hiranandani, director and chief executive officer, Hircon International, a joint venture between the Hiranandani group and ETA Star, told Business Standard the company was not launching any new project in Dubai due to the slump. “Our strategy is to complete the incomplete projects for other developers on a contractual basis.”

According to him, 23 Marina in Dubai, which was recently completed, has been sold out. However, the launch of Business Bay, which the company says ‘coming soon’ on its website, will not be for sometime. He was optimistic the market would recover soon.

But Nayan Raheja, director, Raheja Developers, is not so hopeful about prospects of the international market. The Dubai market would not recover, at least in the next five years, he said. “Nobody should be looking at the Dubai market as of today,” said Raheja.

Raheja Developers, which was evaluating opportunities to enter Mauritius and Colombo, is giving it a miss in the wake of the global economic and realty gloom. “There is negative sentiment internationally. At this point, we are not even considering venturing out,” Raheja said.

Tata Housing is one of the few companies looking overseas at this point. After establishing itself in the Maldives, the company is looking at Colombo in Sri Lanka.

Its managing director and chief executive, Brotin Banerjee, said, “We are confident of finalising a few projects in Sri Lanka this financial year — Colombo will be one of the locations. All these international projects are being planned through separate special purpose vehicles formed for each country or project.”

Banerjee told Business Standard the company was in the final stages of due diligence for two mixed-use development projects of two million square feet each in Colombo. Of this, one could be affordable housing. “With peace returning to the island nation, real estate will be a big growth story there,” Banerjee said.

Tata Housing has earmarked Rs 1,000 crore for various ventures in 2011-12. “We work on a multi-city strategy and projects targeting all customer segments and hence, a slowdown in some geographies or customer segments does not adversely impact us,” said Banerjee.

Omaxe Group entered Dubai in 2007, with a goal of expanding in West Asia. But after investing Rs 50 crore (the first instalment of a Rs 1,600-crore project) through a joint venture with Dubai World’s property developer, Nakheel, Omaxe withdrew from the market due to a near lull. “We got the investment back, as Nakheel put the projects on hold indefinitely,” said Rohtas Goel, chairman and managing director, Omaxe. And now, the company has no plan of expanding outside India.

According to Sunil Dahiya, managing director of Vigneshswara Developers and vice-president of the National Real Estate Development Council, it is not just real estate developers, but also construction companies, which are withdrawing from the Gulf.

“Indian companies in West Asia, especially into construction projects, are experiencing a near lull, as no major work is happening there. The contractors are not being paid,” he said. At least 10 to 15 construction companies present in the Gulf are suffering from the slump.

Real estate consulting firm Cushman & Wakefield’s chief executive for Asia Pacific, Sanjay Verma, said, “For those over expanded, it would be a sensible move to focus on their core strength at this point.”

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