Easier exit window for foreign investors in infrastructure projects

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NEW DELHI: The government is planning to a give easier exit window to foreign investors in construction, housing and township projects, hoping to spur greater equity inflow into the debt burdened sector and help faster completion of delayed projects.

The measures are continuation of the government’s ongoing drive to make FDI policy more attractive. Under the current rules, 100% FDI is allowed in the construction, housing and township but subject to a threeyear lock-in, a condition that was imposed to ensure speculative money does not flow into real estate but has also had the unintended consequence of stifling genuine investments.

The sector attracted $1.3 billion FDI in 2012-13, down 58% from $3.1 billion in 2011-12. The department of Industrial policy and promotion (DIPP) is now mulling allowing foreign investor to exit after completion of the project or three years, whichever is earlier, as proposed by the ministry of housing and urban poverty alleviation (MHUPA).

Easier exit window for foreign investors in infrastructure projects

Most housing projects are running one to two years late because of slowdown and shortage of funds because of elevated debt levels.

“Though DIPP is yet to finalise on the relaxation in FDI conditions, but the exit window to developers after project completion seems suitable. However, greater clarity would be needed on the definition of completion,” said a government official in privy of the matter.

“Providing an exit door to the foreign investor on project completion before 3 years will be a good sign. This would make entry and exit simpler like it is in other countries. But I am doubtful if it will lead to an immediate dollar inflow”, said Anshuman

Magazine, CMD, CBRE, an international real estate consultancy firm. However, industry feels there should not be any exit clause. “Most townships or housing projects take more than 3 years to construct anyways. What difference will the exit on completion make? A foreign investor should be allowed to exit whenever it wants, as per the agreement between him and the Indian player”, said RR Singh, director general, National real estate development council.

The other changes under consideration include reducing the minimum capitalization of the eligible construction project in which FDI can come in to $ 5 million against $ 10 million presently for wholly owned subsidiaries and from $5 million to $2.5 million for joint ventures with Indian partners.

MHUPA has also asked for a reduction in the minimum built up area from 50,000 sq mt to 20,000 sq mt. However in case of serviced housing plots, minimum land area may remain the same at 10 hectares.

DIPP is looking into all these but is opposed some of the more liberal proposals like the urban development ministry’s suggestion foreign investors be allowed to purchase land and other immovable assets for construction purpose. “This is nearly the same as saying allowing FDI in real estate business, which is not permitted”, said the official.

Urban development ministry has also recommended that foreign investment up to 49% be free from any entry condition to attract foreign capital providers that do not have long-term interest in construction assets.


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