China’s largest commercial developer, Dalian Wanda, hopes to grow a bit bigger still by investing as much as $10 billion in India over the next decade.
Wanda chairman, Wang Jianlin – currently reigning as Asia’s richest man – is in the subcontinent this week, and met with Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi on Tuesday. Following that top level meeting, Wang went on to charm local government leaders with promises of industrial townships and mall projects financed by Chinese money and filled with Chinese manufacturers and brands.
Wanda, which is one of China’s biggest foreign investors, already has investments in India through a partnership with Reliance Group that was set up in 2012, but the company’s current plans are said to be the first significant investment by a Chinese company into Asia’s largest democracy.
Building Towns – Complete with Airports, Schools and Hospitals
Wanda’s ambitious Indian schemes centre on the construction of industrial communities, complete with airports, schools, hospitals, shopping malls and theme parks, a senior official from the Chinese developer told the Indian press.
In China, Wanda has rapidly expanded from a few malls in 2005 to more than 100 malls nationwide by the end of 2014. Earlier this year, Wang declared that the company would build 900 malls in China within the next decade. Traditionally, the company has included residential and even office space in its Wanda Plaza mall projects, but does not have in-depth experience with industrial development in its home market.
In China, the company has recently turned its attention to building a chain of theme parks which it says will rival Disney for appeal and incorporate local cultural elements, rather than branded characters.
Following the meeting between Modi and Wang on Tuesday, Wanda went on to meet with top officials from the city of Gurgaon, just south of New Delhi to ask for help in locating 7,000 to 9,000 acres (2832 to 3642 hectares) of land for their first industrial township development. In total, the company says that it hopes to build five such industrial parks in India over the next five years, and is hoping for close partnerships with local governments.
The Times of India quoted a Gurgaon official who met with Wanda and as being impressed with the scale of the Chinese ambitions. “Dalian Wanda has huge plans, which also includes setting up an international airport and a power plant under this integrated industrial township project. They are looking for an enormous chunk of land between 7,000 and 9,000 acres or even more,” the local government decision-maker said.
Looking for Government Support
India’s government has recently relaxed regulations and practices regarding foreign investment in the property sector, making the market more attractive to overseas investors.
In meetings with central investment promotion bodies in India, as well as with state governments, Wang was said to show interest in investment incentives offered by local governments, as well as in the procedures for acquiring land. In all the Chinese contingent visited government officials in Delhi, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra, as well as with central authorities.