To promote investment in the real estate sector through Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs), the Security Exchange Commission Pakistan (SECP) has introduced a new Public-Private Partnership (P3) model under REITs, besides completely revamping the regulatory framework for REITs.

The amendments have shifted the regulatory structure from approval-based to disclosure-based issuance, reducing entry barriers for new REITs, making REITs competitive with the unorganized sector led real estate projects, cutting down regulatory approvals and attracting domestic and foreign investment into the formal real estate sector of the country. The regulations have been finalized after extensive consultations with all stakeholders, with a view to bringing in amendments in conformity with domestic market conditions and in sync with globally recognized norms.

The revised framework has made clear segregation between conventional and infrastructure categories, i.e. Non-PPP REITs (for conventional projects) and PPP REITs (for P3 infrastructure projects). REIT Management Companies (RMCs) may pursue developmental, rental or hybrid options under both these classifications.

Moreover, a number of regulatory approvals and document submission requirements have been rationalised. A REIT Scheme can invest in real estate, either directly, or through acquisition of shareholding of the company (the SPV model) that owns the real estate. In the SPV model, the earlier condition of transferring the title of real estate in the name of the REIT Scheme is eliminated.

To speed up and simplify the process, approval of real estate is no longer required from the SECP, as the onus of evaluating quality of real estate is placed on the RMC and the trustee. Limits on leverage and performance fees have also been uncapped and permission has been granted to allow use of customer advances allowed for project related expenses.

Also, the holding’s in the REIT Scheme by strategic investors and RMC have been rationalized by linking the same to initial fund size. Further, the existing Non-PPP REIT schemes are allowed to acquire additional real estate in existing REIT schemes with the approval of the unitholders.

The PPP REITs are allowed to partner with the government for PPP infrastructure projects. It is ensured that the REIT regulations would not create any interference with the terms of the concession agreement, the main document governing PPP infrastructure projects. The P3 model of infrastructure REITs provides a viable solution to streamline investments for the country’s ever-growing infrastructure needs.

The author is a senior business reporter with bylines in leading newspapers and magazines across Pakistan.

The writer is a member of staff
The reporting desk can be reached at info@thecorrespondent.com.pk

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