With Prestige Retail Assets, Blackstone to be Largest Mall Operator in India PE firm nearly doubles total area under operations to 10 million sq ft with recent transaction Sobla.Khan@timesgroup.com Bengaluru: US-based private equity major Blackstone Group 1s set to become the largest mall operator in India with the acquisition of Prestige Group's retall portfolio, nearly doubling the total area under operations to 10 millton Square feet, two industry executives awareof the deal told ET. Thetransaction iSpartof the $1.2billion deal currently on between Blackstone and the Prestige Group for the income-generating assets of the latter, with the retail arm being valued at $ 300 million. The acquisition will see Nexus MallsBlackstone's retail brand that operates nine malls tn Seven citiesmerge Prestige's portfolio with itsexisting business in India. "The Prestige acquisition will complete geographical presence for Blackstone as it was looking to expand tn the South. The focus of the firm 1S to complete the tranSaction and make a smooth transition Over the next 12-18 months," a person cited above said. The private equity major 1s eyeing opportunities in both metro andnon-metrocities tosupportthe next level of growth in retail portfollo. "There will be new opportunities in metros and their peripheries too, and tier Il towns. We are currently butlding the brand equlty as this 1s the opportunity to gain customer confldence, especially when the industry Saw almost zero sales in June to a 70-80% recovery now," satd Dalip Sehgal, CEO, Nexus Malls. However, he refused to comment on the deal. Blackstone's current portfolio of retail assets include 1.15-milltonsq-ft Elante Mall in Chandigarh, the 1i-milllon-sq-ft Seawoods Grand Central Mall in Navi Mumbal and two assets each in the citles of Indore and Pune. In November 2015, 1t had also acquired two malls in Amritsar and Ahmedabad from Alpha G Corp. The firm's current annual sales from existing retatl assets tots up toaround Rs 3,000 crore. "Over the past nine months, we have focused on upgrading and balancing retail assets, investing in marketing to gain customer confldence and building employee confldence through no retrenchments and salary cuts," Seng al satd. Blackstone 1s currently in the Nnallegs of closingan income-generating asset deal with Prestige Group for $1.2 bn that will see the private equity major acquire over 21 million sq ft across completed and under-construction office projects and retail malls, including two hotels. Blackstone has assets under management of $50bn in India. With $8 billion real estate investments, the firm has invested $6 billon in offICe real estate assets118 msft across 45 assets in 6 cities. while $2 billion has gone toward non-office real estate assets.