Monthly Archives: November 2008

Orissa episode of the Credai

The Orissa episode of the Credai has decided to reduce prices of their forthcoming housing projects by 5-10% in the coming 2 months in the wake of fall in raw material prices.

The strategy comes close on the heels of a call given by Credai to more than three thousand of its members in the country earlier this month to reduce prices to revitalize the falling consumer demand.

The price reduction in the forthcoming housing projects by the thirty-seven developers of Credai, Orissa will be effective from January 2009 after full development plan of the city, prepared by the IIT, Kharagpur is expected to come into force.

Following the price reduction, the residential real estate projects in the city will be available in the range of Rs 2,200-Rs 2,400 per square feet as against the existing rates of around Rs. 2,500 per square feet.

According to the CDP of Bhubaneswar, prepared by IIT, Kharagpur, about 30 lakh people need to be accommodated in the city in coming twenty years, as against the city’s present population of about thirteen lakh. To accommodate thirty lakh people in the city, an area of 9,286 acres has been earmarked for residential purposes in the new CDP.

Addressing the media, Mohammed Moquim, president of Credai, Orissa said “Credai Orissa has decided to reduce prices of all the upcoming housing projects by 5-10% to bring more affordability to the end customers in the wake of slide in raw material prices and falling prices of land.”

Further hw added that land prices are predicted to drop further by about 20 to 25% in the coming months and in such a scenario, Credai, Orissa will announce an additional cut in prices for the real estate projects by about 15-20%.

Property prices may go down in south mumbai

The terrorist attacks on Mumbai are likely to further pull down the sagging property prices in the city, especially in South Mumbai. South Mumbai, the most expensive property market is expected to face a dip in value across all segments, including rentals, in the next half year.

“It’s is too early to say anything now. However, the attack would definitely be a dampener to the sentiment, at least in the initial few months. The attack may also create a ripple effect on the property prices in the suburban market,” Pranay Vakil, chairman of Knight Frank India said.

Many property consultants had already assumed that South Mumbai property prices would further appreciate, though marginally, in the second half of the year due to demand-supply mismatch. With the government taking measures to attract more foreign business in recent years, there has been consistent interest in establishing and expanding operations in India, thus leading to an obvious pressure on real estate, especially in South Mumbai.

Price is usually a function of demand and supply. The excess demand for properties had been pushing up the prices in this part of the city till recently. “The attacks would spread negative sentiments in the property market. New property deals will be very negligible in the next few months,” said a senior official with Birla SunLife’s real estate division.

Realty cos fight shy of price cuts

Real estate companies seem little inclined to listen to the government’s call to reduce prices. Even as realty firms such as DLF, Parsvnath and Emaar MGF demand rollback of taxes, they are reluctant to commit any price cut.

An association of developers, Confederation of Real Estate Developers Association of India (Credai), has asked member developers to reduce prices, but no one seems willing to announce any cuts.

“The government has imposed a number of taxes on the real estate sector. It needs to roll them back,” said DLF chairman KP Singh. He, however, didn’t make any commitment on price cut. “Prices are a function of demand and supply. Today, supply is far ahead of demand,” he said, adding that housing demand will pick up only after interest rates are brought down to 6-7%.

Most developers are banking on the possibility that the Reserve Bank will slash rates that will in turn bring home buyers back into the market. Many developers don’t think it is possible to slash prices.

Delhi-based Emaar MGF feels lower interest rates and an improvement in general economic sentiment are the answer to revive residential market, not price cuts. Emaar MGF managing director Shravan Gupta says several micro-markets across the country have already seen a correction of 20-25%.

“We have already cut prices, which have brought our margin down to 15% from 30% last year. If we cut prices further, our margin will get wiped out,” said Mr Gupta.

Parsvnath Developers chairman Pradeep Jain, too, feels prices are unlikely to come down, even though builders may focus on small-size homes to bring down overall cost. “The ticket size will get smaller for making homes more affordable. But per square feet rate will not come down,” said Mr Jain. He is the president of the Delhi chapter of Credai, which gave a call to its 3,500 members on Wednesday to reduce prices.

There is a wide spectrum of views among developers on price correction in the residential market. Even as Emaar MGF’s Mr Gupta says a price correction of around 25% has been seen in several micro-markets across the country, Mr Jain of Parsvnath says prices have remained stable. Another Delhi-based realty firm Omaxe CMD Rohtas Goel says prices have reached ‘rock-bottom’ by having corrected up to 40-50%.

The correction, developers say, is not with respect to the rates at which transactions were made in the past. “There is no benchmark to compare rates of new launches. We can only compare it with our estimates of prices, which similar projects could have fetched in good market,” says Mr Gupta.

Therefore, price correction, as mentioned by developers, remains debatable. Developers say price correction can be seen only in new launches, as old buyers will not allow builders to reduce prices in an ongoing project.

DLF requests Haryana to refund licence fees

In a bid to seemingly boost its cash reserves, DLF, India’s largest real estate company, has requested the Haryana government to refund license fees worth Rs 235 crore for various commercial and residential projects in Gurgaon.

In two separate letters to the state government’s director of town and country planning department, DLF requested the authority to refund the license as well as the scrutiny fees for commercial and residential projects in various sectors of Gurgaon.

Developers usually acquire agricultural land from farmers and pay the government a conversion fee, or a fee for change of usage of land, and a license fee seeking permission to construct a commercial or residential project on the land. The government also charges a nominal scrutiny fee, which is a kind of a processing fee. The license fee is higher for commercial projects.

The Haryana government charges license fees of Rs 6.70 lakh per acre for group housing and Rs 2.15 crore for commercial projects with a floor area ratio (FAR or actual developable space) of 1.50 and Rs 2.70 crore per acre for FAR of 1.75, one of the highest such fees levied in the country.

DLF has sought refund for about 110 acre comprising 16 commercial projects in almost as many sectors, including 57 acre in sector 88 and 14 acre in sector 89. The company has sought complete or partial withdrawal of license fee in the scheduled projects.

Similarly, in another letter to the government, DLF has sought refund of license and scrutiny fees worth Rs 8.6 crore for multiple projects spread over 103 acre in Gurgaon. The company has not given any specific reason for withdrawal of license applications in either case, but only mentioned that the licenses were pending and were formally being withdrawn.

Even as realty players are struggling with a cash crunch, DLF chairman K P Singh on Tuesday said that the company faces no liquidity issues. However, he added that some projects have been deferred and some jobs cut due to weak demand. Seeking a refund of license fee is not an ordinary way of shoring up liquidity at any firm.

Changed usage of land and the license to construct a project on it is what differentiates raw land from development land. Development land fetches far higher value than a piece of agricultural land. In India, getting these licenses is a mammoth task.

Several multi-million dollar foreign investments, which came into the realty sector in the past few years, attached a huge premium to the land. Developers’ equity was mostly limited to the land. The ability to obtain licenses for construction in Indian is what put developers in a strong position vis-a-vis other investors, including private equity players.

Sahara Prime City to raise Rs 2000 crore to build townships

Realty firm Sahara Prime City said it would raise Rs 2,000 crore in the next 12-18 months to part fund development of 217 integrated townships across the country.

The company, which is planing to invest the amount in the first phase of the plan that will see development of 102 townships, is looking at both debt and private equity investments to raise the fund. The move by the firm follows consolidation of real estate business of the Sahara Group under it as the holding company.

“We plan to develop 102 townships in the first phase. The average project cost for developing townships would be 150 million dollar,” Sahara Prime City Head (Strategic Finance) Sandeep Wadhwa said. Asked about source of funding for the project that will spread over 100-300 acre, he said it was being done through sales, debt and promoters contribution but there is a gap of Rs 100 crore in each project.

“We will raise Rs 2,000 crore by 2009-10 fiscal as debt and private equity,” Wadhwa said, adding the company was in talks with banks, financial institutions and private equity firms. The company is open to selling stakes at both company and project level, he added. It is also in talks with global developers to form joint venture for townships development.

On initial public offer, he said the company would unlock value when market condition improves. Sahara Group had announced its plan to develop townships in 217 cities in 2004-05. It has launched nine townships where construction is in full swing and is planning to launch 22 more townships by middle of 2009.

Sahara Prime City has 20,000 acre of land, including 10,600 acre in Aamby Valley City near Mumbai.

Unitech repays Rs 200-crore loan to Indiabulls Financial

Unitech repays Rs 200-crore loan to Indiabulls Financial Real estate player Unitech has managed to raise around Rs 200 crore through partial monetisation of assets and internal debt restructuring within the group to pay back the 45-day debt taken from Indiabulls Financial Services (IBFSL). The deadline to pay back the debt was November 17.

Sources at Unitech revealed that money from the escrow has been handed over to IBFSL on Monday. After this, collaterals that Unitech had pledged with Indiabulls to secure the debt will be released to the company. With this payment, the company does not have any outstanding debt towards IBFSL. Indiabulls founder Gagan Banga confirmed that Unitech has cleared its loan, which was taken 45 days back (early October) within the stipulated time.

“Unitech had pledged some flats and hotels against the loan,” informed Mr Banga. He, however, did not confirm the amount of loan that was raised. Unitech’s total net debt as of June 30, 2008, was around Rs 7,700 crore. Earlier this month, the company had put its 2,00,000 square feet commercial office building in Saket, New Delhi, on the block, which is expected to fetch upwards of Rs 600 crore.

Sources said that Unitech is also looking for buyers for its underconstruction hotel in Gurgaon, which is valued close to Rs 300 crore. Unitech’s stock has dropped from a 52-week high of Rs 546.80 on January 2 to a low of Rs 26.60 on October 24. Its shares closed at Rs 42.75 on the Bombay Stock Exchange, down 6.56% from its previous closing of Rs 45.75.

The overall slowdown along with the increased home loan rates has translated into gradual slowing down of sales in the real estate sector. Most real estate developers today are cash-strapped and are looking at avenues of raising capital.

With bank lending becoming tight over the months and private equity players getting overcautious, the only way out for real estate companies has been to monetise their assets. Market sources indicate that a number of such deals are in the market, but investor interest is very low at the moment.

RBI sop fails to lift realty

It seems that the Reserve Bank of India’s move to ease lending to real estate hasn’t augured well with the banking sector. The apex bank effectively reduced the tax on lending to the real estate sector, which means banks can now more freely lend to the realty sector.

Considering the slump in the real estate sector with higher dips in demand for property and developers finding it hard to secure more land bank, which earlier was fulfilled with revenues generated from their projects itself, and increasing risk of rising NPAs of banks, the banking sector has come into focus once again.

The BSE Bankex was down 4.5% Monday at 10:38 am. The country’s largest private sector bank, ICICI Bank, fell 6.92% to Rs 368.55. It was followed HDFC Bank, which was down 6.09% to Rs 950, Axis Bank down 5.24%, Kotak Bank down 4.88%, Union Bank down 3.92%.

BSE Realty Index fell by 5.10%. Unitech was down 8.5%, Peninsula Lan falling by 6.11%, Indiabulls Realestate has fallen close 5.67%. Ansal Infrastructure was down 5.76%.

The benchmark Sensex was down by 2.6% to 9142.60.

Said Rahul Amritlal, an analyst with a CFP, “There is still concern left in the market with regard to trading considering the obscurity over global markets movement. We would see some respite after March-April period as the Assembly election proceeds. Till then, it would be range-bound activity as regards the Sensex movement.”

Saviour Group’s Project In Ghaziabad

Saviour Group, a company dealing in land acquisition and consolidation, has declared that it will soon launch an eco-friendly real estate project named Greenisle on Expressway (NH-24), Ghaziabad. The project, to be spread over six acres, promises to be India’s best evergreen real estate project, according to company directors, Mr Iqbal Singh Sodi, Mr Lakhbir Singh Gill and Mr Sanjay Rastogi.
Director of the company quoted that though the concept is still at a nascent stage, it is dynamic and fast catching up. The benefit of green concept is reduced environmental impact through energy efficiency.

FM assures more loans for real estate

Finance minister P Chidambaram assured real estate developers that government will impress upon banks to accelerate lending to realty, which is facing one of the worst slowdown in the recent times. A delegation of builders under the Confederation of Real Estate developers’ Association of India (CREDAI), met Chidambaram on Wednesday to complain against banks’ reluctance to disburse loans to the real estate companies.

A source, who was present in the meeting, said the government accepted that real estate is an engine of growth. At a time when the economy is facing a threat of slowdown, the sector could be used to revive it. Chidambaram, it is learnt, told the delegation that the government will not only help infusing liquidity in the system, but will also work to bring down the interest rates.

In the last couple of years, realty has been affected adversely because of rise in interest rates, which went up from 8% to around 12%. The interest rate was increased because of the sharp rise in prices of real estate assets, which RBI thought could create a bubble. To discourage the price rise, RBI tightened the provisioning norms, making loans to the sector costlier. At the same time, in the last nine months, when the inflation shot up to cross 6%, level RBI started tightening liquidity to keep price rise under check.

Such a steep rise in the interest rates increased the equated monthly instalment (EMI) of a loan for the same period by almost 40%. This has affected affordability factor of buyers adversely and in turn brought down buying of houses. According to the source,FM said the situation has now changed and the policy would also be tweaked accordingly, so that the interest rate on home loan comes down, making it more affordable.

It is learnt that RBI is considering to remove the high risk weightage on the home loan to enable banks to lend at lower rates. At present, banks have to make provisioning of higher capital against the home loan of more than Rs 30 lakh. Because of this, the interest rate of home loan above that slab is around one percentage point higher than that of less than Rs 30 lakh.

Unitech puts Delhi office on block

India’s second-largest property firm Unitech has put on the block its 2-lakh square feet office at upmarket Saket in New Delhi. Market buzz

suggests Unitech is in talks with HDFC to sell the property.

Both Unitech and HDFC admitted the property was on the block, but refused to confirm the deal. “I cannot confirm till we sign a deal,” Unitech chairman Ramesh Chandra said.

HDFC joint MD Renu Sud Karnad said Unitech wants to sell the property but HDFC was not interested in buying it. She said the Saket property was mortgaged with HDFC as collateral for the Rs 30 crore her firm had lent to the real estate developer. HDFC has a much larger debt exposure to Unitech, said Ms Karnad.

But a Unitech executive told ET that HDFC had agreed to buy the Saket property for Rs 450-500 crore and a formal agreement is likely to be signed by the end of this month.

Most real estate firms have been facing a severe cash crunch as sales have slowed down and credit has become tight. With the crisis deepening in the real estate space, rating agencies have been downgrading realty firms.

Indian real estate price can fall 60 to 70% from current levels in the next five years

The real estate sector in India may have seen its best time for the next several decades. The real estate markets now heads downward, as people cannot make their mortgage payments.
OP Bhatt, chairman of State Bank of India (SBI), the country’s largest bank, expects 50% correction in the housing sector prices in the country. “In India we may witness up to 50% correction in pricing in the mortgage markets. If that happens, it’s good news for the Indian banking system as NPAs would reduce and new business would fall-in,’’ he said at the concluding session of Ficci-IBA Conference on Global Banking: Paradigm Shift, in Mumbai on Saturday.
According to other analysts, the market can roll downwards another additional 15% to 20% before stabilizing.
The commercial and residential sectors in major metropolis are experience severe credit crunch, defaults and bank takeovers. The glut of unsold apartments is skyrocketing. The residential mortgage market is collapsing faster than the subprime mortgage market in America.

Omaxe promoter buys out co’s stake

Real estate prices are unlikely to see the heady levels of late 2007 and early 2008, anytime soon. That could make clear why more promoters are getting serious about tapping opportunities in the affordable housing.

On Tuesday, Rohtas Goel, chairman of Delhi-based real estate company, Omaxe, bought out the company’s 51% stake in National Affordable Housing and Infrastructure (NAFIL), the affordable housing subsidiary of Omaxe.

This purchase of 2,550 equity shares of Rs 100 each, could easily pass off as an insignificant transaction as the amount involved is just a paltry six lacs rupees paid by Mr Goel. The fact that NAFIL existed only on paper with no revenues on its books makes the transaction all the more intriguing.

When asked for the reason behind this move, Mr Goel said: “The high profile independent directors did not want Omaxe to bear the administrative expenses of a non-performing company, so we thought of divesting its stake in NAFIL to promoter group firms. And since I believed in this business model, I volunteered to buy Omaxe’s stake in NAFIL.”

Omaxe had proposed eighty thousand crore rupees investment in NAFIL, when the company was formed in May this year. This was to develop 10 lakh affordable homes in the next five years. Affordable housing is the segment that has been in demand despite the downturn in the real estate market.

Going ahead, this would be a good business opportunity, both for the investor as well as for the developer. Probably this prompted Mr Goel to increase his stake in NAFIL. Once NAFIL starts generating revenues, Mr Goel’s stake would be worth manifold the value he paid to purchase it.

Omaxe would have the first right of refusal. Still, if it was to pick up stake in the fully operational NAFIL at some point of time, Goel’s flagship firm would have to shell out a far higher valuation.

Affordable housing has been attracting interest both from private equity guys as well as developers. As this segment has seen the maximum demand potential in the near future, it has attracted a lot of other developers as well.

South-based developer Puravankara floated a subsidiary, Provident, for its affordable housing segment. Private equity firm Red Fort Capital (RFC) plans to invest Rs 430 crore over the next two years in affordable housing on the outskirts of Bangalore and Hyderabad.

Global private equity fund Warburg Pincus recently announced an investment of Rs 300 crore in Jaipur-based Mannat Group company, Unique Affordable Homes, for projects in north and west India.

DLF-Hilton JV hit by regulatory delays

The DLF-Hilton, the joint venture company formed between India’s largest real estate company and world’s largest hotel chain, has been hit by regulatory delays. The first project, The Hilton Garden Inn in New Delhi, which was supposed to have opened in December, is delayed due to local planning consents and license approval. However, Hilton Hotels Corporation, according to a senior official, continues to be committed to its relationship with DLF in India.

Faith Thoms, director of public relations and communication-Asia Pacific, Hilton Hotels said, “The Hilton Garden Inn Saket project was delayed on various regulatory grounds. We are looking forward to opening the property next year. Hilton Hotels Corporation continues to be committed to its relationship with DLF in India.”

DLF, in its clarification filed with the stock exchanges on Tuesday, too said, “For the benefit of the market in general, it is clarified that DLF’s JV with Hilton is on a firm footing and all plans for development of hotels stand as originally envisaged.”

Further Thoms said that the relationship (with DLF) has evolved positively, with an unprecedented 17 hotel projects currently under development. The first hotel under the alliance, the Hilton Garden Inn Saket in Delhi, is scheduled to open in 2009, Thoms added.

On further progress of the joint venture, Thoms said, “Other examples of our progress include ongoing development of the Hilton and the Hilton Residences in Kolkata which amount to 550 rooms, and the Hilton, Homewood Suites by Hilton and the Hilton Garden Inn projects in Dwarka which comprise over 800 rooms.”

“DLF will exercise prudence in build out phase for the hotel business, which could be pushed back by 12-18 months from planned date owing to existing liquidity constraints,” said DLF in its clarification.

Travel India Marketing launches serviced apartment in Malad

Mumbai-based Travel India Marketing has launched a 60-room standalone serviced apartment in Malad at an investment of Rs 15 Lakh. The company has commercially opened three apartments and will open the rest within six months. It has 25 apartments with a combination of three and four bedrooms. It is targeted at corporates especially long stays in and around the Malad area and from Mindspace, a business park which houses more than 200 companies. The rooms will be offered at promotional rates of Rs 3,500 per night till January 1, 2009, after which the tariff will be Rs 4,500 and above. The apartments have three or four rooms, a balcony, a common hall and a lobby area. There will be 24-hour butler service and home made food will be provided based on requirements.

“Service apartments are gaining popularity in Mumbai. There is always a room crunch in November every year especially for long stay guests. Also, companies are cutting down on the cost owing to the recession. Serviced apartment is the next best alternative. There are 9,000 rooms in the five-star category alone in Mumbai which is expected to increase to 11,000 by 2011.

Realty companies look at alternative financial support

With banks reluctant to lend to the real estate sector, developers are looking at alternative instruments of funding such as lease discounting for completing ongoing projects, especially the commercial ones.

The sector, which has been hit by the global financial crisis, has seen more than a 60% fall in demand in the last six months, say experts.

Under a lease or rent discounting agreement, banks lend to developers for new projects against rents they directly realize for completed projects, which also is mortgaged with the bank. Thus, banks are assured of guaranteed cash flows and also have physical assets in case of defaults.

Also, the rate of interest charged by banks for loan against rent, generally for tenure of five-six years, is generally 1%-2% lower than the benchmark lending rate. “Lease discounting is a much safer mode of lending, as the entire loan amount is covered through the rent agreement, and the banks are cushioned against defaults,” admitted a senior official from SBI Capital Markets.

According to real estate developers, for commercial projects, unlike the residential projects, where the funding is mostly through advances, lease discounting is a preferred funding option at present.

“Unlike other sources, bank loans against lease agreements have not dried up in the recent months. Also bankers are more interested in such safer modes of funding,” said Pradeep Sureka, president, Confederation of Real Estate Developers’ Associations of India (CREDAI) Bengal. Ravindra Chamaria, chairman and managing director, Infinity Infotech Parks, said, “For commercial project, internal accruals and banks have been major sources of funding.

However, banks are now selective in lending, and rent discounting is an option for developers who already have one commercial project on lease.” Sources in major PSU banks like Allahabad and Uco Bank said, they had limited exposure in the real estate sector and little headroom for further lending. Banks preferred alternative instruments like lease discounting, only after assessing underlying risks, said sources.

“We have entered into lease discounting arrangements with developers. However, one has to take into account several factors like proper lease agreement, credit rating and market conditions before entering into such agreements,” said sources in Allahabad Bank. “We have limited headroom for real estate sector, and have already exhausted the stipulated limit for real estate lending. If we had the limit, we would have considered, alternative and safer lending options to the sector,” said sources in another public sector bank.

In the recent months, unviability of commercial projects has prompted many developers to convert commercial projects into residential ones, said Pradip Chopra, chairman and managing, P S Group, which is also developing an IT project in Sri Lanka.

“Recently, many banks have extended substantial credit to real estate developers. For example, one of the public sector banks recently funded as many as ten real estate projects in Kolkata,” said Chopra.

For real estate developers with a national presence, the withdrawal of funds by foreign institutional investors have also been a cause of concern, prompting newer instruments for completing the ongoing projects.

“The FIIs withdrawal had a major impact on real estate projects. Evidently there is a slowdown in the pace of construction in commercial projects,” said sources in Unitech.

Good time to buy a home

It could be good time for those wanting to buy a home as developers have started reducing prices to shore up sagging sales. The real estate sector has grown 30- 35 percent during the last half decade, reflecting the fast increasing demand for office, commercial and industrial space. Even the demand for bigger homes, now considered within the range of prospering working classes, run amazingly.
But the economic juggernaut began slowing earlier this year because of inflation and a severe liquidity crunch, fallout from the US sub-prime crisis. Now economic activity may shrink as part of a global slowdown.
India’s growth estimates of 9% at the beginning of current year have been revised to well below 7 percent, and the effect is directly visible in the realty sector.
According to the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Assocham), the real estate sector is estimated to be worth at least fifteen billion dollar in which FDI is four billion dollar.