Property firms look East

Erez Meltzer, CEO of Africa Israel, said that despite the opportunities in the Far East, investment in Israel's real estate market will continue.

Israel's leading real estate and development companies are targeting investments in India and the Far East even as they continue to invest in the local market, which is generating high yields as prices rise. "This century clearly belongs to Asia," said Dr. Surinder Pruthi, chairman of leading real estate development and management companies in India at the Globes Israel Business Conference in Tel Aviv on Monday. "There is a huge market economy developing and a young population fond of spending that will be seeking housing. It is safe to invest in India and today there are multiple choices of public-private partnerships for investment into office, residential, hospitality and other projects." "Speaking on the panel "Where the real estate opportunities are," Segi Eitan, CEO of Property & Building Corp., said India was certainly a target country. "India is the growth engine for us, but you need to have a local partner to diversify risk," Eitan noted. "We still see potential in the commercial property market in Israel. There are still deals to be made." The potential of the residential market, however, is more problematic, he said, particularly in the center of the country. Similarly, Erez Meltzer, CEO of Africa Israel Investments, said that despite the growth opportunities in the Far East, Israel will remain the home base and that investments into the local real estate market, in particular, in Jerusalem, will continue. "As the supply of properties, in particular in the center of the country, is getting scarcer and scarcer and demand rises, prices will continue to rise and yields will be high," added Natan Hetz, CEO of Alony Hetz Properties and Investments. He said India was the playground for large players and the the company was examining opportunities in other Asian countries such as Vietnam. "There is a shortage of 80 million flats in India while only 4 million flats a year are under construction," said Hetz, pointing to the wealth of opportunities this situation was creating. Despite the US subprime mortgage crisis, Chen Schein, a partner at Ernst & Young, said the real estate market could expect a good few years ahead. "We have learned the Indian market over the past two years and we believe it is the place to be. Although risks are high, there are yields of 25 to 30 percent and the demand for housing will only continue to grow," said Schein.