Thursday, November 22, 2007

Sebi mulls introduction of real estate investment trusts

Rules on listing and trading of securitised debt market instruments by Dec

The chairman of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) M Damodaran on Wednesday said the regulator was considering proposals to allow real estate investment trusts (REIT) in India.

Speaking at a conference on capital markets organised by the CII, the Sebi chief also said the rules on listing and trading of securitised debt market instruments will be finalised by December.

The regulator had put out a consultative paper on securitised debt in June this year. The draft regulations proposed a system of registration of special purpose distinct entities which were planning to offer securitised debt instruments to the public or seeking the listing of such instruments issued earlier.

Damodaran further said that select companies could opt for fast track issuances.

According to the fast track share issuance programme allowed by Sebi in August this year, companies with a 3-year track record on NSE and BSE, and with free-float market capitalization of at least Rs 10,000 crore, can raise funds through rights and follow-on issues, without having to wait for the market regulator�s clearance.

Sebi, at its board meeting in June 2006, had approved guidelines making it mandatory for REMFs (real-estate mutual funds) to be listed on the stock exchanges. But the absence of valuation norms delayed the introduction of REMFs in the country.

The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) was looking into the valuation issue and once it clears the norms, Sebi will be ready with the rules, M Damodaran said.

�It is not going to be a REIT versus REMF issue. Consultations with people who have a better understanding of these products have commenced and we will shortly write the first set of proposals,� said Damodaran. REIT is a better product, but we will ensure that both products are introduced over time, he added.

The Sebi move comes amid plans by a clutch of companies to raise funds from the Indian market for listing REIT-like vehicles on the Singapore Stock Exchange (SGX).

The Bangalore-based developer Embassy group, Ascendas, provider of business space in Asia and the Delhi-based DLF and Unitech have announced plans to list their fund structures, mainly REITs, on the SGX, banking on its recent easing of norms.

REMFs will be close-ended funds and will invest directly in real estate properties in India, mortgage (housing lease) backed securities, equity shares/bonds/debentures of listed/unlisted companies which deal in properties and undertake property development, and in other securities.

Following the curbs on participatory notes (P-notes), Sebi has received a large number of applications from overseas investors seeking FII registrations, Damodaran said, without providing figures.

The regulator is planning to launch a nationwide campaign for investor education in 2008 and encourages the market participants to take their role as self-regulatory organisations (SRO) seriously.

Nimesh Kampani, Chairman, CII National Committee on Capital Markets and the head of JM Financial Group also stressed on the need to develop SROs for financial intermediaries.


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