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Plaza Centers to invest 50b rupees in India

Israeli group will build entertainment, commercial centres

(MUMBAI) Israeli-owned property company Plaza Centers said yesterday that it would invest 50 billion rupees (S$1.87 billion) over the next 5-7 years to build entertainment and commercial centres in fast-growing India.

Plaza Centers, a subsidiary of Elbit Medical Imaging Ltd, will build 50 malls and multiplexes in Indian cities, some in ventures with local Indian developers, said Abraham Goren, executive vice-chairman, Elbit Imaging Group.

‘We have been very active in central and eastern Europe for the last 10 years, and when we started thinking about where else we wanted to be, we thought of India,’ he told a news conference.

‘We think India has a lot of potential, and we plan to be here for a very long time,’ he said.

Plaza Centers picked India over China because of the widespread use of the English language, a familiar legal system and the openness to new ideas in India, he said.

‘India was an obvious choice over China,’ he said.

Plaza Centers has begun construction of a mall in western Pune city in a venture with an Indian developer, and has picked sites in Bangalore, Chennai, Kochi and Trivandrum.

Mr Goren said the first centre would open by end-2008 or early 2009.

India’s fragmented US$350 billion retail industry is forecast to double by 2015.

But the expansion of large Indian firms and the entry of foreign retailers has led to protests by traders, farmers and owners of small shops, who fear massive job losses.

The protests are a natural reaction to change, Mr Goren said. ‘India’s not the first to see protests against retail,’ he said.

‘Everywhere, retail goes through a process of evolution, and everywhere, human nature is the same. It is natural when there is a change from one system to another,’ he said.

Indian developers including DLF Ltd, Unitech Ltd and Peninsula Land Ltd also develop malls, office and residential complexes.


Source: Reuters (Business Times 4 Sept 07)

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