Mumbai landmark Express Towers changes hands in Rs870 crore deal

The Express Towers is at Nariman Point, at one end of the South Mumbai seafront.
The Express Towers is at Nariman Point, at one end of the South Mumbai seafront.
Image: AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade
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It’s a landmark property at one of India’s priciest spots of land. It was built by a spunky newspaper baron who set out to built South Asia’s tallest tower in 1972, and succeeded. It is now home to marquee companies such as McKinsey, Blackstone, Warburg Pincus, Temasek and General Atlantic Partners, offering executives in corner offices an enviable view of the Arabian Sea and the Queen’s Necklace. It has now changed hands.

The Express Towers at Mumbai’s Nariman Point has got new owners as ICICI Ventures and The Indian Express newspaper’s Goenka family have sold it to American private equity firm Blackstone and Pune-based Panchshil Realty, which is owned by the Chordia family. Blackstone has invested in Panchshil Realty.

“I can confirm that we have exited our real estate commercial assets in Nariman Point. Don’t want to say much more than that,” said Anant Goenka, director at The Indian Express Ltd, in a text message responding to a request for comment. His father Viveck Goenka resigned from the board of Indian Express Newspapers (Mumbai) Ltd (IENL) on 8 May, according to filings with the Registrar of Companies. The Express Towers is owned by IENL, while The Indian Express newspaper is owned by The Indian Express Ltd. The Express Towers was built by Ramnath Goenka, who founded The Indian Express.

An executive from the Panchshil group, who asked not to be named, said that the value of the deal was Rs870 crore. Goenka as well as Shekhar Gupta, former editor-in-chief of The Indian Express, continue to own a small percentage of equity in the company. “Of the equity that we bought, we own 51% and Blackstone owns 49%” the executive said. The realty group is planning to lease out some 40,000 sq ft of office space that currently lies vacant in the building. The new owners will have access to 3,84,000 sq ft of total leasable area. The erstwhile owners continue to hold a residual stake because the offices and a printing press of The Indian Express continue to be located in the building.

Pune’s Chordia family has interests in real estate, hospitality and garments. The executive said the company was in advanced negotiations for 1.5 million sq ft of commercial real estate in a Mumbai suburb in yet another deal in the works with Blackstone.

As an office location, Nariman Point has lost some of its sheen, with many companies moving to the Bandra Kurla Complex and suburbs such as Powai with sprawling office complexes. The Panchshil executive said this was true, but there was still high demand for Nariman Point due to its proximity with the Bombay Stock Exchange, courts and the Mantralaya, the secretariat of the Maharashtra government.

The Express Tower deal was signed in April and the composition of the company board changed in May.

Gupta also owns a 9% equity stake in The Indian Express Ltd, the newspaper company. Even though he has left the company and moved to the India Today Group as vice chairman, the equity has not changed hands. The value of Gupta’s holding in the real estate company could not be determined. He could not be reached for comment.

Blackstone and Panchshil Realty have not responded to emails requesting comment. ICICI Ventures owned 49% stake in the company prior to the sale.

Sagar Chordia and Resham Atul Chordia have joined the board of IENL from the Chordia family. Blackstone principal Vikas Khadloya has joined the board representing the PE firm. Vaidehi Thakkar, a director at The Indian Express Ltd, continues to serve as a director on the board of IENL.