Friday, January 23, 2009

Housing bubble comparisons - US vs India has an article on the reasons why the US housing bubble went bust. At the end of the article there is a paragraph which downplays the impact of the Indian housing bubble and focusses on the Indian tendencies towards home ownership among other things. What the article fails to mention is the meteoric rise in prices over short period of time, the affordability issue in cities like Mumbai, Delhi, the black money aspect of the construction business and finally the steep drop in realty construction company stock prices. This the exact soft marketing which we have discussed and now see in action.

The lending scenario in India -

A subprime crisis of this nature and magnitude is unlikely to occur in India, thanks to some very strict bank policies that are in practice.
As a general rule the borrower needs to pay a down payment that covers 15-20 per cent of the cost of the property. This by itself is a test of the borrower's credit worthiness and enables him to have a stake in the property. Also, the bank safeguards its lending interests by ensuring that the money lent is below the market value of the property making allowance for a nominal dip in property prices.

Another important factor is the initial screening banks conduct to confirm the eligibility of the loan seeker for the requested loan amount. Banks make sure that the EMI of their loan applicants does not exceed 50-55 per cent of their monthly incomes. This ensures that as long as the borrower is able to maintain his current income levels, he will have no trouble in making his monthly payments.

Moreover the Indian sentiment revolves around buying a house and spending a lifetime there. Home buyers looking to live in the house purchased rarely change homes in short time frames while in a place like America embracing change is second nature. A situation like this may be far away for India, as we are a growing economy, where mortgage levels are not comparable to developed economies.
We also have strict regulatory bodies like the Reserve Bank of India [Get Quote], which ensures that loan products that could produce systemic risk never make it to the market. Besides this aspect, a favourable market does not exist in India for similar loan products like the Option ARM. The psyche of the Indian consumer does not easily accept debt instruments and a loan is usually high priority and the focus is usually on closing it as early as possible.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Satyam land grab scandal

How many people feel that Hyderabad real estate is headed for the steepest drop among IT cities ??
Prosecution opens Raju can of worms

Hyderabad, Jan. 22: Government agencies today portrayed a hydra-headed Satyam scandal involving bogus employees, systematic skimming of money, countless land deals as well as a cover-up and laid the blame at former chairman Ramalinga Raju’s door.

The disclosures, made in court and outside, were rebutted by Ramalinga’s lawyer who termed them “concocted”.

Public prosecutor Ajay Kumar opened the floodgates in a metropolitan court, changing the complexion of the revelations that have so far been confined to “leaks” by unnamed sources.

“Investigations reveal that he (Raju) had created false employee accounts for over 10,000 bogus employees and siphoned off almost Rs 20 crore per month in their name,” Ajay Kumar told the court today. The prosecutor also claimed that Raju had “stashed almost Rs 7,000 crore in the accounts of his mother and brothers”.

Later, officers of the Andhra criminal investigation department (CID), which is handling the case, said the erstwhile Satyam promoters had been crediting the money each month for four years to as many as 13,000 non-existent employees.

The officers gave the break-up as 10,000 bogus employees and 3,000 retired ones. “The then Satyam management has given hikes, promotions, bonus and LTA to these invisible employees all these years,” a sleuth said. If true, the amount on this count alone adds up to Rs 960 crore.

In the evening, the CID went on record to say it had found documents suggesting 400 benami companies were used to acquire vast tracts of land.

“The documents reveal a mind-boggling land acquisition spree by the Satyam promoters across the country,” said V.S.K. Kaumudi, the inspector-general heading the CID investigation.

The payments for the land deals were made from domestic and overseas accounts of the promoters, the CID said.

The benami companies have been floated by SRSR Advisory Services, a company through which the promoters used to control Satyam, the CID said.

Ramalinga’s younger brother Suryanarayana, apparently a key figure managing the SRSR cash, has not been seen in public since Tuesday night. The police have impounded the passports and frozen the bank accounts of 18 relatives of Ramalinga.

Late tonight, the CID raided six apartments across Hyderabad allegedly used by the promoters to “dump” papers and documents. The sleuths are examining their authenticity.

Prosecutor Ajay Kumar told the court where Ramalinga was produced this afternoon that the promoters had generated false documents for around 2,000 acres in and around Hyderabad so that Maytas Properties, the family’s realty venture, could raise bank loans. Nearly Rs 3,300 crore in loans were allegedly raised using the land documents.

The prosecutor claimed that fake fixed deposit certificates worth Rs 4,000 crore had been found. Some had been mortgaged to raise loans.

Ramalinga’s lawyer, Bharat Kumar, said the CID had never asked his client anything about the alleged non-existent staff, bogus land papers and fake FD receipts.

Bharat Kumar pointed out that the public prosecutor was making verbal allegations without mentioning them in the petitions filed this morning. Government sources later said the chargesheet would mention the specific points.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Open Yale courses on Finance

Robert Schiller, the bestselling author of "Irrational Exuberance" teaches a finance course at Yale. Its fantastic to see the contents of the course online. Stockmarket investors and speculators need to digest this course before burning money at the altar of greed. Here is the link. Knowledge is power.

Devanahalli realty dreams grounded

This is HUUGGGGGEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The house of cards in Devanahalli has collapsed. Couple of years ago, one of my friends servants sold their family arid farm land in Devanahalli for 1.5crores. Lucky for them they could escape the poverty at the expense of the speculators. They ended up buying a house in R.T Nagar and were very happy to send kids in to decent schools. Unfortunately the educated IT folks gambled and ended up as suckers. Life comes full circle.

DNAIndia reports

Bangalore: Another dream built around the Bengaluru International Airport (BIA) is crashing. Investors who pumped in lakhs of rupees to buy housing plots in the vicinity of the BIA in Devanahalli hoping to encash the boom, are in for a shock.

Addressing a DCs' meeting in the city on Friday last, chief minister BS Yeddyurappa announced that the state government is reconsidering sanction granted to conversion of agricultural land to non-agricultural purposes.

If the Yeddyurappa government indeed reconsiders the conversion sanction, the result could be that all lands in the vicinity of the BIA will remain solely agricultural. Neither can houses be built on these lands nor can they be exploited for any other real estate purposes.

According to official estimates, at least 90% of the Devanahalli lands are agricultural. Besides real estate sharks having invested huge sums of money on these lands, scores of housing societies have carved up small residential plots in the area and sold them to the public.

The government had, in fact, even floated a local area planning authority, the Bengaluru International Airport Planning Authority (BIAPA), to streamline development.

However, it is now being argued in the official circles that the government might face problems in future on various fronts, especially infrastructure facilities and civic amenities, if large-scale conversion of agricultural lands is allowed.

"There are reports from geophysicists that the groundwater level has depleted considerably in the area and borewells have to be dug up to more than 900 feet deep to strike water. The selection of Devanahalli for locating BIA itself was wrong for this reason alone. We have only provided water supply to the BIA and an adjoining industrial estate. The demand for drinking water from a public utility can just not be met if the newly formed layouts and housing colonies of the area are developed," a senior official in the revenue department said, explaining the context of Yeddyurappa's statement.

"The government will not be able provide any more civic amenities like drains and sewerage treatment plants for the new residential enclaves coming up under BIAPA," he said, adding: "We have strict provisions in revenue laws that agricultural lands cannot be passed on to non-agriculturists whose income from other than agriculture sources is Rs two lakh and more."

The official said that reasons to curtail development of Devanahalli lands are manifold.
"There are no proper revenue records maintained at the taluk office on several survey numbers. Sixty per cent of the lands are grants to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. This can only complicate conversion sanctions," he added.

Offtopic items of interest : America on Sale

As everyone is reading the bad news flowing out of New York, London, Tokyo, Mumbai and every financial capital of the world, all is not bad for the consumer with cash at hand. Some of the deals I'm seeing these days is incredible. Most consumer goods are discounted 70% now online with many even upto 80-90%. Here are some links which I'm following. These are items I would never pay even the normal sale price but at 80%, I'll buy them anytime. If people have more links please post and I will compile them. I'm looking forward to a day when we can have a list of properties which are on fire-sale. It looks like that day is not far. The bigger issue which everyone needs to consider is whether their job is secure enough to pay off the house, even if it was bought at fire sale prices. How many readers think their job is secure ? I know mine is not. comments ??

Express Sale

The site has reduced the discounts to 30% from 80%. I guess the 80% was the gimmick to attract page views

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Sobha, Unitech offload assets to pay debts

Cash-strapped realtors look to offload assets reports

The developer has debt obligations worth Rs2,500 crore coming due by the end of March

Bangalore / New Delhi: India’s second largest developer by market value, Unitech Ltd, is selling parts of its 14,000-acre land bank, leading a trend among realty firms putting up parts of their properties for sale to tide over a financial crunch and repay debt.

About 30 plots of the company in the National Capital Region centred on New Delhi, that are part of Unitech’s mixed-use developments and were dedicated for building hospitals and schools, are now up for sale.
“We are selling some of the plots but not all of them,” a company spokesperson said. “We have already sold two such plots.” He declined to give further detail.
Unitech had earlier said it was looking at “monetization” of some of its completed properties to meet debt commitments. The company is trying to sell land parcels in Noida and Gurgaon, both on the outskirts of New Delhi, to meet its debt obligations, analysts say.
The developer has debt obligations worth Rs2,500 crore coming due by the end of March. Unitech is trying to raise funds to repay this debt through several measures such as selling some hotel, office and retail assets and by diluting equity at the company and at the project-specific levels.
Unitech, which is holding an extraordinary general meeting of its shareholders on Monday to seek approval for an enabling resolution to raise up to Rs5,000 crore through various means, has to repay Rs1,100 crore in the next two weeks and meet further debt obligations of Rs1,500 crore over the next three months, according to a 15 January report by BNP Paribas Securities.
“The management has hinted that it is in the process of raising Rs800 crore to tide over the near-term liquidity crisis,” Sandeep Mathew, an analyst with BNP Paribas, wrote in the report. “Failure to do so could lead to forced sale of underlying assets (primarily land).”
In the heart of Bangalore’s business district, a 1.5 acre plot has been put up for sale by Sobha Developers Ltd, a leading developer in south India.
The land, strategically located close to the city’s main shopping and business district of MG Road, at the junction of Church Street and Museum Road, is a fetching piece of real estate in an area that is one of the most expensive in the country’s technology hub.
The builders, analysts said, have been trying to sell off the plot for the last four months, where it had initially planned a shopping mall and a hotel. But the high asking price of Rs120 crore has kept away buyers. The money will be pumped into Sobha’s under-construction projects that are delayed and to repay expensive loans.

Realty firms are looking at other avenues to manage cash flows as debt has become more expensive, analysts at Credit Suisse India Research said in a 13 January note. The report states that Sobha, for example, borrowed funds at 24-30% for short-term periods in October-November and seems to have defaulted on some repayments during this period.
Unitech borrowed at 19% in the same period. “These borrowings are due for payment in January which could become a problem for both Sobha Developers and Unitech as volumes in the property sector are yet to pick up. With mutual funds having stopped lending to this sector and private banks reluctant to lend, Sobha is selling off its ‘excess’ landbank,” the report states.
Unitech and Sobha Developers are only two of many such cases of forced land sales in the past few months that have witnessed aborted land deals, low demand and few sales, pushing developers to defer launches, stall projects and scurry for cash to beat the financial slowdown.
Sobha Developers managing director J.C. Sharma declined to comment, citing a so-called silent period firms need to observe ahead of quarterly results announcements.

“The Church Street land was bought on a 60-year lease period and the developer is planning to re-lease it away. But the sale price is too high,” said a Bangalore-based real estate consultant close to the negotiations. The consultant didn’t want to be identified.

“These are land parcels that would have been bought in the last two-three years at steep prices and where construction hasn’t yet taken off. There are some buyers still—mostly high-net worth individuals—who can buy, but are hard bargainers. With demand being low, it is a buyer’s market now, putting developers in a tough situation,” he said.
Tables have turned for developers, who till the beginning of 2008 would scout for land and pay steep prices. Not any more. “Today, I am flooded with proposals from builders wanting to sell some land assets. But where are the buyers?” asked Praveen Kumar, chief executive officer of One Third Earth, a property and land advisory in Bangalore.
“Many developers are selling the licensed land or developed/under construction projects to get working capital,” said Manish Aggarwal, director, land and industrial agency, at consultancy Cushman and Wakefield India.

Developers are selling assets that will fetch the maximum price such as hotels, office or land licensed for residential group housing.

Land prices in the periphery of cities across India have on average fallen by 25-40% over the last few months, said Aggarwal. “Should the landlords or developers decide to price their products rationally, it is expected that there may be an interest for joint development, joint venture transactions for sellable projects starting from July-October quarter this year,” he said.