This content is from: Local Insights

Japan: Funding infrastructure improvements

Yoshihisa Watanabe
The amendment to the Real Estate Specified Joint Enterprise Act (Act) took effect on December 20 2013. According to a survey conducted by the government, while the value of securitised real estate acquired in 2012 by vehicles established for a securitisation purpose (Vehicles) was estimated at approximately JPY 3.3 trillion ($32.5 billion), the value of the assets acquired by Vehicles established under the Act was only JPY 0.16 trillion (4.8%). This compares to JPY 1.55 trillion for Japanese real-estate investment trusts (Jreits) plus other major tax-efficient structures known to overseas investors such as the GK-TK, GK-YK structure and the like (JPY 1 trillion) and TMK structure (approximately JPY 0.64 trillion). Based on these numbers, it is obvious that Vehicles under the Act have not been widely used so far. It had been considered that the major reason for this was the Act's permission system and the strict requirements for obtaining permission from the government (for example, a Vehicle had to have a licence under the Building Lots and Building Transaction Business Act and the capital amount of a Vehicle had to be JPY 100 million or more). Practically speaking, only major real-estate companies could be Vehicles under the Act. However, this meant that investors in Vehicles under the Act suffered from the business risks that arose from other businesses that were conducted by such companies. As a result, investors, especially overseas investors, tended to refrain from investing in Vehicles under the Act. However, nowadays Japan faces an increase in dilapidated buildings, particularly in rural areas, and enhanced earthquake safety is required in relation to old buildings. To introduce more funds from overseas and the domestic private sector for the rehabilitation and renovation of such buildings, it came to be believed that the easing of the requirements of the Act was needed. The major point of the current amendment to the Act is to replace the permission system with a notification system and, under a given set of conditions, allow special purpose vehicles (sole purpose companies) which are assured of bankruptcy remoteness, to be Vehicles under the Act. It is expected that investment from overseas and the domestic private sector in the rehabilitation and renovation of buildings will, as a result, be stimulated.

Yoshihisa Watanabe

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