LIC mega sale: Insurer to sell land, buildings to raise up to $7 billion

LIC has tasked an internal team to work out a sale plan for its real estate assets across the country.
LIC has tasked an internal team to work out a sale plan for its real estate assets across the country.

Summary

Some of LIC's premium assets include the Jeevan Bharti building in Delhi's Connaught Place; LIC building in Chittaranjan Avenue in Kolkata; and buildings housing the Asiatic Society and Akbarally's in Mumbai. An LIC executive said the actual value may be five times their current valuation.

Mumbai: Some of India's priciest real estate across top metros may go on the block soon, with the Life Insurance Corp. of India (LIC) planning to raise $6-7 billion from the sale of its plots and commercial buildings.

LIC, India's third-largest landlord, has tasked an internal team to work out a sale plan for its real estate assets across the country, two people aware of the matter said, adding the process may start with Mumbai.

“We are working on the plan. There are multiple options we are internally discussing. The valuation exercise will be key. What is the best route to monetize the real estate assets is yet to be formalized," said one of the two people cited above, both of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Some of LIC’s premium real estate assets include the Jeevan Bharti building in Delhi’s Connaught Place; LIC building in Chittaranjan Avenue in Kolkata; and buildings housing the Asiatic Society and Akbarally’s in Mumbai. At the time of their last valuation, LIC’s real estate assets were pegged at a conservative 50,000-60,000 crore, the two people said. LIC, India’s biggest insurer and the largest investor in its stock market, owns assets worth over 51 trillion.

Also read |  LIC plans to buy a private health insurance company

“For the formal asset sale process, a fresh valuation work for the LIC-owned buildings may be carried out," said the second person. Many LIC buildings have never seen any sale transaction and their market value is not known, the person said, adding the actual value may be "at least five times more than the conservative one," which works out to be around 2.5-3 trillion.

Emails sent to LIC, department of investment and public asset management (Dipam) and the department of financial services remained unanswered. Dipam's approval is mandatory for asset divestment processes of all government-owned firms.

Better profit

LIC clocked 40,676 crore net profit in FY24 compared to 36,397 crore in FY23, as renewal premiums improved, investments earned better returns, and value of new business (VNB) inched up. LIC will pay its shareholders a dividend of 6 for FY24. If the property sale plans go through, it may lift LIC's profit and potentially lead to better dividends.

According to the second person, a new owner may redevelop, redesign or utilize the buildings in different ways.

LIC may consider forming a separate entity to hold the real estate assets and manage their monetization, the first person said, pointing to the challenge in valuing these assets.

He said LIC also owns the famous State Bank of India building at Mall Road in Mussourie, Uttarakhand; and two separate buildings forming headquarters of prominent media houses in New Delhi and Lucknow.

“There are many such so-called marquee properties the insurer owns. But the valuation has to be done appropriately. The price discovery can happen only through an auction process piece-by-piece. But for that, certain amendments to the LIC Act and changes in laws will be required," the second person said.

There have been plans to sell LIC’s real estate assets in the past, but they never took off primarily due to legal disputes. The plan has gathered pace now due to the government’s renewed push to monetize real estate properties under PSUs.

Also read |  Centre's stake sale in LIC now likely in FY2026

“To implement the monetization plan, the government has to speed up the legal resolution process. Many LIC properties are in litigation. Ideally, there should be a separate court to deal with the disputes related to assets of PSUs such as LIC," said the second person. He said most of the properties owned by LIC get revalued every 2-3 years. But litigation either interferes with the process of valuation or the fair value of the asset itself.

Struggling to retain market share

The plans come at a time when LIC is struggling to protect its market share. LIC’s total premium income for grew barely 0.22% year-on-year to 4.75 trillion in FY24. The state-owned insurer’s first-year premium dropped 4.04% during FY24, while the private insurers saw a 12.11% rise in new business at 1.55 trillion. This pulled LIC’s market share down to 58.87% in FY24 as compared to FY23.

While drawing up its asset monetization plan, LIC may need to balance between visibility and monetary aspirations, the second person said.

Also read |  LIC sells fewer policies but records higher net profit of 40,676 crore in FY24

The vast expanse of LIC’s properties was originally aimed at increasing the insurer’s visibility.

“Insurance is a business of managing risks. For LIC, the presence of properties across the country helps in its branding and as an insurance company, the presence of the insurance company’s offices basically acts as a reassurance to the trust that the general public have put in us as policyholders," said the second person.

However, the scale of real estate ownership has become large and therefore, according to the second person, it makes sense for LIC to monetize the vast bank of assets as a non-core business.

Catch all the Corporate news and Updates on Live Mint. Download The Mint News App to get Daily Market Updates & Live Business News.
more

topics

MINT SPECIALS