Lehman invests in Indian real estate project

The real estate arm of the US investment bank commits $175 million for a 50% stake in a Mumbai project being developed by Unitech.
Indian real estate developer Unitech will sell a 50% stake in a Mumbai project to Lehman Brothers Real Estate Partners for $175 million.

The project, which is near the Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC), Mumbai's new financial services district, comprises one million square feet of office space and is being developed on a joint basis by Unitech and a Mumbai partner, the Western Expressway JV.

On the same site Unitech will also subsequently develop a one hundred acre mixed-use development which will include offices, residential property and hotels. The total area which can be developed at the location is 18 million square feet. Unitech said in a written statement that it intends to create a high-profile development along the lines of Roppongi Hills in Tokyo, Canary Wharf in London and Battery Park in New York.

Unitech added that it intends to expand the relationship with Lehman to encompass both future phases of this specific project and other projects in UnitechÆs portfolio, both in Mumbai and elsewhere in India.

Unitech has been exploring various options to raise funds for both its capital-intensive real estate projects and a planned foray into telecommunications.

In September 2006 the company floated Unitech Corporate Parks in the Isle of Man as an investment vehicle for projects in Indian real estate û specifically those which are being developed for the information technology and IT-enabled services sectors. In December 2006 Unitech Corporate Parks raised ú360 million ($702 million) through an issue on LondonÆs Alternative Investment Market (Aim). Shares which were sold at ú1 each currently trade at ú0.65.

Then in January this year Unitech informed the Singapore stock exchange that Unitech Office Trust, a business trust it was creating in Singapore, was considering an initial public offering there. This structure was pioneered by Ascendas in July 2007. Ascendas garnered considerable demand for the Ascendas India Trust and was able to raise S$500 million ($362 million). Difficult market conditions have forced Unitech to put its plans on hold, however.

UnitechÆs shares closed 5.9% higher at Rs199 ($4.64) on the National Stock Exchange in India yesterday. The broader market index, the Nifty, also gained around 1.2% to close at 4,572 points, with real estate stocks driving part of the bullishness.
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