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India has given us the strongest results globally: Stephen Schwarzman, Chairman, Blackstone

MUMBAI: The USD 572-billion private equity giant Blackstone, which has pumped in USD 15.5 billion into scores of companies in the country since its entry 15 years ago, is bullish on the Indian market which has given it the strongest results globally. Of the USD 15.5 billion of total investments it has made into 40 companies (and only six record-breaking profitable exits), as much as USD 6 billion flowed into the country in 2019 alone, a record high for the firm. Addressing a select group of media over lunch here, Stephen A Schwarzman, the chairman, chief executive and co-founder of Blackstone, said, "India has given us the strongest results across the world. And am optimistic this (will) continue going forward." But Schwarzman, known for his 'don't lose money' way of risk taking, did not quantify the returns he has made from the India investments. Since his last formal visit to India in 2006, Schwarzman, who is spending hundreds of millions of dollars on philanthropy, education and the arts, also said the India he visited then is not the India of today.

The country has "changed enormously. India is a highly unusual market... despite the problems it is facing today, which is exacerbated by the crisis in the banking system, this market can come around for the better." "India's education sector is doing well, producing seven times more engineers than the US does annually. So it means it has all the preconditions for expansive growth as the economy has reached an inflection point," said Schwarzman, who founded Blackstone 30 years ago with USD 400,000, which has since grown to a USD 572 billion Wall Street gorilla. "Despite some hiccups, growth is happening at a good pace. Last year was a record for us with USD 6 billion investments. I see the same level of investment growth happening this year as well," said Amit Dixit, one of the senior managing directors at Blackstone Advisors India. The PE giant's largest exit was Intelenet Global Services, which was sold to French outsourcing giant Teleperformance for USD 1 billion in August 2018. Blackstone acquired it in 2013 for around USD 385 million and the return was its largest exit in Asia then. Blackstone invested in Intelenet twice in the last decade. It first picked up a stake in 2007 before selling to Selco in 2011. In late 2015, it bought the company back for USD 385 million. Blackstone pumped in USD 6 billion into India 2019 when it picked up companies like Aadhar Housing Finance from the troubled DHFL group for Rs 3,000 crore, stake in Essel Propack from the debt-laden Zee Group for Rs 3,211 crore, Akash Education, Indiabulls realty arm (Rs 1,600 crore), the tony One BKC property (Rs 2,500 crore) and Future Lifestyle. Blackstone is the largest realty investor in the country through its joint venture with the Embassy group, having launched the country's first REITs. Embassy Office Parks, the JV of Blackstone and Embassy, launched the first real estate investment trust (REIT) in March 2019, raising Rs 4,000 crore. Embassy Office Parks has a portfolio over 33 million sq ft comprising seven business parks and four city-centric buildings spread across Mumbai, Bengaluru, Pune and Noida. Besides the Embassy Group, Blackstone has also partnered with developers like Salarpuria Sattva Group, Indiabulls Real Estate, Panchshil Realty and K Raheja Corp, among others, totalling over USD 10 billion investments in realty sector alone.

March 05, 2020

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