Illustration: Sameer Pawar
The year was 2009. Indian real estate was in a shambles, as were real estate private equity funds, especially foreign ones, which provided an opportunity for homegrown firms to launch their funds. One of them was the Aditya Birla Group-backed Aditya Birla Real Estate Fund (ABREF).
In 2010, ABREF raised ₹1,056 crore; but in August 2018, when the fund’s lifecycle came to a close, it was yet to exit most of its investments or return even the principal amount.
ABREF was raised by Aditya Birla Sun Life AMC Ltd, previously known as Birla Sun Life Asset Management Co Ltd. The fund’s documents show that it was primarily raised on the assumption that demand for residential realty would reach 7.5 million units by 2013, led by Mumbai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad.
By 2015, the fund had invested 44 percent of its capital in Mumbai and 28 percent each in the National Capital Region (NCR) and Chennai. It had a mandate to invest in equity, equity-related and debt instruments of companies engaged in construction and development of real estate assets, including residential, commercial, retail and other projects. It, however, invested only in residential projects.
Ironically, though, even as the fund’s private placement document says “residential realty—the juicy bit”, there is no juice for the investors of this fund.
According to documents accessed by Forbes India, ABREF’s life tenure was six years, with two one-year extensions, which ended this August. It was a close-ended fund, meaning the capital had to be returned by the end of its life. In August, ABREF notified its investors that due to the global financial crisis and subdued real estate markets, coupled with a liquidity crunch, the fund had been unable to liquidate its position and return capital to investors. And that they were seeking an extension.