Israel's Developers Discover India

Gazit Globe, Alony Hetz and Elbit Medical are actively looking for sites in the subcontinent

Israel's real estate companies have found a new niche: they are exporting their competition to India. Gazit Globe (TASE: GLOB) and Alony Hetz Properties & Investments (TASE: ALHE) invested massive amounts in the United States and Europe; Elbit Medical did the same in eastern Europe and now they are migrating to India.

TheMarker has learned.that Gazit Globe's Chaim Katzman is locating sites to build commercial centers in India, and that Nathan Hetz of Alony-Hetz is seeking land to construct housing and offices. Elbit Medical is in negotiations to build giant shopping centers in the subcontinent, at an investment of hundreds of millions of dollars.

One Israeli center already deeply involved in Indian property investment is Big Shopping Centers, controlled by Yehuda Naftali and managed by Eitan Bar-Zeev. Big has been operating in India for two years, with a local partner. Insofar as is known, it bought two sites and is in talks over four more. The cornerstone for its first commercial center inIndia will be laid shortly in a neighborhood north of Mumbai.

India is undergoing a process of urbanization, explains a top capital market source, and western investors are pouring in. A middle class is developing, partly based on India's burgeoning hi-tech industry.

The country has one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. Income per capita has grown, but its "mall culture" lags, hence the attraction for Israel's, and other, developers.

Most of the Israelis will operate via local partners, says the capital market source.

Gazit Globe commented that it already said it meant to expand investment in Europe, and possibly in Asia as well. Alony Hetz commented that it examines many potential deals in many places and has nothing concrete to report.