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Unitech bags $700 mn Lehman Investment

Comments Off on Unitech bags $700 mn Lehman Investment   |   June 17, 2008    12:20pm   |Contributed by Indian Realty News

Lehman Brothers Real Estate Partners is investing $700 million in Unitech’s real estate projects in Mumbai. The $4-billion global private equity fund managed by Lehman Brothers is learnt to be in the process of striking three separate deals with Unitech to invest a total of $525 million. This is in addition to Lehman’s $175-million investment in Unitech’s Santacruz project in Mumbai, which was announced on Monday.

According to sources, Lehman is negotiating with Unitech for a similar stake in two projects of 1 million sq ft each in the Santacruz project. This would mean an investment of $350 million. These two deals are likely to materialise in the next 3-4 months.

Besides, Lehman and Unitech may strike another deal to develop a 1 million sq ft office space in Worli. Sources say this deal may be closed sooner, as the negotiations in this case have reached a fairly advanced stage. Indications are that Lehman is willing to invest nearly $175 million in the project. Unitech holds 50% equity in the Worli project.

Unitech on Monday said Lehman has agreed to invest approximately $175 million (Rs 740 crore) to acquire a 50% stake in the initial phase of the Santacruz project on the Western Expressway of Mumbai.

Unitech shares, which are down close to 60% this year, gained 5.6% on BSE to close at Rs 197.80 on Monday following the announcement of the deal and a broader surge in the market. The benchmark BSE Sensex gained 1.36%.

As per the agreement, Lehman gets 50% equity in the SPV, which will develop just 1 million sq ft of the entire project of 18 million sq ft of office space in Santacruz. The Western Expressway JV – an equal partnership between Unitech and a local Mumbai developer – owns the entire project. The JV has thereby offloaded its 50% stake in the SPV in favour of Lehman. The deal has valued the entire Santacruz project at Rs 26,640 crore.

Lehman’s current and proposed investments in real estate projects are being seen as a major boost to the Gurgaon-based developer. The global credit crisis, RBI’s policy towards lending to real estate and falling realty stocks have together forced Indian realty firms on the backfoot.

India’s leading developers DLF and Unitech have postponed their office trust share sale in Singapore, even as borrowings from banks have substantially gone up. Smaller developers are facing a bigger crunch in the absence of bank credit and are forced to borrow at an exorbitant rates from non banking finance companies and HNIs.

In the given scenario, private equity has emerged as the only viable option. But industry sources say that even PE players are using the changed circumstances to their advantage, forcing developers to settle for lower valuation of land, the prime asset for developers.

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