In India, private equity firms see new allure in old world retail

Tue Jul 12, 2016 7:00pm EDT
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* Blackstone, Xander seek investments in shopping malls in India

* Consumer spending in India set to top $3.6 trillion by 2020

* Ikea, H&M, Aeropostale and GAP to roll out more stores

By Aditi Shah

NEW DELHI, July 13 (Reuters) - E-commerce in India has been booming and online giants like Amazon are spending big bucks on the world's fastest growing major economy. Yet some investors are pouring money into retail mainstays of a bygone era - shopping malls.

Private equity investors like Blackstone and Rothschild-backed Xander Group are looking for malls in India, betting that people will flock to stores as more foreign brands open and online retailers ease their aggressive discounting.

Indian malls, which are evolving from ramshackle collections of stores to modern plazas complete with air conditioning and family entertainment centres, are seen as a gateway to brands that a growing middle class aspires to own.

The rise of the mall in India, at a time when many in the United States are becoming debt-ridden white elephants, has been helped by a flurry of new regulations that are encouraging investors to take a fresh look at traditional retail.

They include easing foreign investment rules for single-brand retailers, longer shopping hours and a new framework for establishing real estate investment trusts (REITs).   Continued...