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Axis Asset Management Company (AMC), a unit of Axis Bank, is padding up to foray into the real estate funds business through the alternative investment fund (AIF) route. It has hired real estate funds veteran Balaji Rao to head the business and build a core team of eight to 10 people in the investment and asset management verticals. “We will do several AIFs. We can do structured debt, equity, commercial real estate, etc. We can also do affordable housing and invest in tier-II cities,” Rao said. Before joining Axis, he was managing director (MD) at Indic Capital Advisors, supervising the operations of the $630-million Sun Ares Real Estate Opportunity Fund.
He also served as MD of Starwood Capital.Rao said Axis had impressive housing and construction finance linkages which he would leverage. “Real estate is on the cusp of a turnaround. It is the right time for domestic funds to participate in the financing of real estate assets,” he added. This is his first stint as a manager of domestic funds. Other domestic investors such as Piramal, HDFC, and IIFL are investing heavily in residential projects. Foreign investors such as Blackstone, GIC, and Brookfield are investing in commercial real estate. ICICI Prudential AMC and Reliance Mutual Fund also have real estate funds businesses. Rao did not discuss the targeted assets under management (AUM). Axis AMC’s AUM is Rs 750 billion. Chandresh Kumar Nigam, MD and chief executive officer, Axis AMC, said: “Balaji’s experience in business development, acquisitions, and project executions will be an added advantage to our existing asset-management capabilities.” Axis has also hired Sushant Pote from Portman Holdings as vice-president.