The teaser advertisements with the huge X that have come up across India have whetted popular curiosity about the identity of the advertiser. Turns out this new real estate kid on the block, with a kitty of nearly $2 billion, is, indeed, a mutation — of a private equity fund into a realty pasha.
IREO (formerly Indian Real Estate Opportunities Fund) has quietly been garnering land assets, which today stand at 3,000 acres across seven cities. “We were not market-ready and wanted to get our dynamics in place before executing projects,” says Anurag Bhargava, Chairman, IREO, justifying the delayed entry despite having started operations in 2005-06.
He does admit that the timing of acquisition was not quite optimum. “The markets were clearly overheated in 2007 and we might have paid more for acquiring assets,” he concedes. Which is probably why the company went off the deals radar in 2008. Not that Bhargava is unduly worried, backed as he is by financial powerhouses like JPMorgan Chase and educational endowments from the likes of Stanford University.
IREO’s first major project, the Grand Arch, which is coming up over 20 acres of land in Gurgaon, and is scheduled to be completed in 2012, will house 842 units. The starting price has been pegged at Rs 4,550 per square feet, which may be a little high but given Bhargava’s private equity antecedents, he’s more than willing to gamble on that.
Who’s putting in the money
Global financial institutions, including JPMorgan Chase, TPG-Axon, Citadel Investment Group and Tiger Partners; Sovereign Wealth Funds such as Temasek; University endowments such as Stanford University, University of Minnesota and University of Notre Dame, among others, have invested in IREO. HNIs such as the Getty Family and Chris Hohn as well as global real estate developers, like Stephen Ross, the Reichmann Family and the Taubman Family, are also backing IREO.