New Norms for Infrastructure Trusts

The Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) issued new regulations that will govern real estate investment trusts, or REITs, and so-called infrastructure investment trusts (InvITs) that the market regulator decided to allow last month.

Sebi approved a long-pending proposal to allow Indian firms to launch REITs—a move that will enable easier access to funds for cash-strapped developers and create a new investment avenue for institutions and high net worth individuals, and eventually ordinary investors.

ssebi norms on outsourcingAll REIT schemes, to begin with, will be close-ended real estate investment schemes that will invest in property with the aim of providing returns to unit holders.

The returns will be derived mainly from rental income or capital gains from real estate. REITs, Sebi said, will be allowed to invest in commercial real estate assets, either directly or through special purpose vehicles (SPVs).

In SPVs, a REIT must have a controlling interest of at least 50% of the share capital and will have to hold at least 80% of their assets directly in properties.

REITs will be allowed to raise funds only through an initial offering and units of REITs have to be mandatorily listed on a stock exchange, similar to initial public offering (IPO) and listing for equity shares.

A REIT will be required to have assets worth at least Rs.500 crore at the time of an initial offer and the minimum issue size has to be Rs.250 crore.

The minimum subscription size for units of a REIT on offer will be Rs.2 lakh and at least 25% of the units have to be offered to the public.

Subsequently, REITs can raise money through follow-on offers, rights issues or qualified institutional placements and the trading lot for such units will be Rs.1 lakh.

According to the norms, although a REIT may raise funds from any type of investors, resident or foreign, initially only wealthy individuals and institutions will be allowed to subscribe to REIT unit offers.

REIT may have up to three sponsors, with each holding at least 5% and collectively holding at least 25% for a period of at least three years from the date of listing. Subsequently, the sponsors’ combined holding has to be at least 15% throughout the life of the REIT.

Similar to the practice in the US, Australia, Singapore and other nations where REITs are common, Sebi has decided to allow these trusts to invest primarily in completed revenue-generating properties.

To ensure that REITs generate continuous returns, Sebi said at least 80% of the REIT’s assets has to be invested in completed and revenue generating properties.

And only up to 20% of assets can be invested in properties that are being developed, mortgage-backed securities, debt of companies in the real estate sector, equity shares of listed companies that derive at least 75% of their income from real estate, government securities, or money market instruments.

No REIT can invest more than 10% in properties that are under construction.