With US becoming the new epicentre of COVID-19 and thus witnessing one of its worst economic blows, the economic repercussions may soon hit India, as well. As things stand now, US private equity funds which have been substantially active in Indian real estate since 2015 may reconsider their India investment plans, leading to a decline in total inflows in 2020.
However, some of the cash-rich funds could also leverage the COVID-19 fallout to optimal advantage. As and when they enter Indian shores (hopefully towards second half of 2020), they will scout for good bargains and value-pick options on their own terms. Indian developers may see reduced valuations.
In retrospect, US-based private equity players pumped nearly US$ 5.7 bn into Indian real estate between 2015 to 2019, accounting for a nearly 29 percent overall share. On a y-o-y basis, PE inflows by US firms increased from a mere US$ 526 million in 2016 to over US$ 1.8 bn in 2019. Concurrently, their share has also increased – from 21 percent to 36 percent during the same period.
Other prominent PE players investing in Indian real estate are based out of Singapore, Canada, and UAE, among others.
Shobhit Agarwal, MD & CEO – ANAROCK Capital says, “India has been a major draw for US-based private equity players over the last few years. In 2019 alone, US-based firms comprised 36 percent share and pumped in ~ US$ 1.8 bn out of the total US$ 5 bn PE inflows in Indian realty. However, considering the rising pandemic fallout in the US, there is high possibility that inflows will drop significantly in 2020, thus impacting overall inflows into the country.”
Notably, a major chunk of the US-based private equity inflows in India since 2015 focused on the lucrative commercial real estate segment, with Blackstone as the top investor.
– Of the total US$ 5.7 bn PE funds pumped in between 2015 to 2019, close to US$ 3.5 bn (61 percent) targeted commercial real estate
– The retail real estate segment came next, attracting nearly US$ 1 bn
– More than US$ 300 mn were pumped into the logistics and warehousing sectors.
“Current estimates of the COVID-19 impact on Indian commercial real estate indicate net office space absorption across the top 7 cities will plummet by 13-30 percent in 2020 against preceding year, “ says Shobhit Agarwal. “This is because most multi-nationals and domestic businesses will re-strategize their expansion plans and optimize operational costs in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. All these factors will inevitably impact the Indian investment plans of US private equity majors as well.”