A look at working of Foreign Estate Investment Trusts 

Engineering Post Report

Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) are investment schemes that own and most often, actively income-producing real estate. Through such schemes, investors may own, operate or finance income- generating  property  across various real estate categories. A REIT investor owns  real-estate  backed units that sell like other  units/listed security, thus enabling the holder of the units to invest directly in real estate .

Pakistan’s REIT sector has shown growth  during the last more than three years with  prioritization of  the sector by  the government, the capital market, and banking regulators. Security and Exchange Commission of Pakistan( SECP’)’s widespread  outreach efforts  coupled with  supportive. Fiscal initiatives and timely regulatory  reforms, creating flexibility and efficiency  in the REIT model with reduced entry barriers and more options for structuring  a real  estate  transaction   under a broader REIT  project umbrella, have felled  unprecedented investment  in the sector. As on December 2022, the size of the industry  was Rs 167 billion. Since then, the number of REIT schemes has increased to thirteen, with 18 Non-Bank Finance Companies ( NBFC)’ having REIT management services license.

Sometime back, State Bank of Pakistan had notified amendments  to  the Foreign Exchange Manual, allowing investment  by foreigners in units of REIT  schemes through  private placement/ issuance of  new units and/or  transfer of existing  units to the non-resident investors on a repatriate  basis  under the general  exemption  provisions. Although investment in listed REITs was already allowed through a special permission Account (SCRA) , foreign investors  earlier required  special permission  from the State Bank of Pakistan for investment in unlisted REITs.

REITs provide  a transparent , well-structured and better governed mode of investment for the foreign investors targeting Pakistan ‘s real estate sector. With the immense  potential  to  fundamentally  reform Pakistan’s real estate sector and  revolutionize  its development through better documentation, formalization, and enhanced  investor protection mechanisms, REIT Scheme can offer a  wide range  of benefits to both local and foreign investors. More importantly,  an independent trustee overseeing a REIT Scheme  ensures that the funds  collected are used dedicatedly for the  particular REIT project and the scheme  is operated  under the applicable laws and relevant  constitutive documents.

REIT schemes can enable the  foreign investors to easily diversify  their portfolio  by investing  in a range of real estate projects managed by the professionals having duly required experience in the local  real estate sector and the financial markets, both local and foreign.  A conducive tax environment  quite obviously can also ensure a level playing field for local and  foreign investors, and once a scheme is listed  as per the mandatory listing rule, necessary liquidity  and flexibility are also  made available for easier entry  and exit.

Strong upside potentials, robust governance arrangements, and enhanced  transparency and investor protection mechanism, being in place,  can hopefully  be expected to position Pakistan’s REIT sector  as a viable  emerging investment destination destination  for the foreign investors, eyeing  exposure to the real estate sector of the country.