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Wells Fargo closes India RE arm

The US bank has decided to shut down its real estate investment office in India, revealing some disillusionment with the real estate sector in the country.

The $1.4 trillion US bank Wells Fargo has chosen to close its real estate investment business in India, calling the closure a “business decision”. Local media have been blaming “growing investor discontent in India,” pointing especially to the impact the falling exchange rate has had on real estate.

Wells Fargo continues to have a presence in India, which was solidified largely in 2008 with its $15.1 billion acquisition of global banking group Wachovia. Unlike most other international banks, Wells Fargo chose not to downsize its India operations at the onset of the global financial crisis, and even went on a hiring spree at the time.

The real estate team of Wells Fargo in India was fairly small, according to the firm. In a statement a Wells Fargo spokeswoman said: “Wells Fargo recently made a business decision to close its real estate investment business in India. We have offered our services to the small number of impacted team members to help them identify other opportunities.”

Several of Wells Fargo’s India real estate team have already found other opportunities. Puneet Bhatia, who was the senior vice president for real estate Asia at the bank, has joined Mumbai-based Shapoorji Pallonji Investment Advisors as director and head of investments.

Sandip Kundu, who was a managing director for real estate at Wells Fargo and had been with the firm since 2006 including his time at Wachovia, has not officially announced any future plans. However, the Economic Times reports that he is in the process of launching his own fund.

Wells Fargo declined to comment on details of the office closing when approached. However, Jones Lang LaSalle managing director Ambar Maheshwari told the Economic Times: “India is falling out of favour due to its weakening macro environment. Majority of foreign funds that are operating here have not been able to fetch solid returns on their investments. Given a choice, they are doing all they can to consolidate their positions.”