Israeli Real-estate Developers Discovering the Subcontinent

Israel's real-estate companies have found a new market of interest - India.

Gazit Globe and Alony Hetz Properties & Investments invested massive amounts in the United States and Europe; Elbit Medical did the same in eastern Europe. And now they are migrating to India.

Haaretz has learned that Gazit Globe's Chaim Katzman is locating sites to build commercial centers in India, while 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, the company bought two sites and is in talks over four more. The cornerstone for its first Indian commercial center will be laid shortly in a neighborhood north of Mumbai.

India is undergoing a process of urbanization, and as a result, western investors are pouring in, a top capital market source said. The country, one of the fastest growing in the world, is developing a middle class, partly based on India's burgeoning high-tech industry. While income per capita has grown, its "mall culture" has lagged behind, which therefore, has attracted Israeli and other developers.

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

Gazit Globe said it already intends to expand its investments in Europe, and possibly in Asia.

Alony Hetz said it is examining many potential deals in several venues, but has nothing concrete to report.