Friday, March 06, 2009

Roubini in India

Nouriel Roubini was in India. The video of his talk is here.

Quotes from his speech.

And if the policy responses are not coordinated and cohesive, the recession could well be L-shaped in nature and the pain could be protracted. The slowdown in emerging economies like China, Korea and India has conclusively proved that the decoupling theory is humbug. The world today is connected by trade, capital and financial channels. This is evident from the slowdown of both the capital and trade flows in these emerging economies. No wonder, their growth has declined from 7 per cent to 3 per cent; these countries have hard-landed already.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

CNBC gives financial advice

I wish someone in India can compile coverage of the moronic analysts on CNBC India.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Detailed Analysis on Indian Real Estate - From Edelweis & CreditSuisse

Key points from the report are ;

* Volumes are closely linked with GDP growth and real returns on properties
but share a weak relation with interest rates

*Down cycles in real estate cycles tend to give up their entire gains (in real terms) of the
preceding up move.

*Implications for Indian real estate – an additional correction of 35%

* Impact on Indian developers:
-Negative real returns on property are likely to drive property investors to exit holdings,
keeping prices under pressure, keeping large project launches by developers at bay
- Developer volumes and sales are likely to remain highly subdued over an extended period
of time and debt servicing will get increasingly onerous for developers

* Capitulation, though delayed, is likely to return to haunt the sector

* Volume recovery is likely after GDP recovery with a 1-2 year lag

I am not saying the market is going to behave as exactly stated in the report; good to know the trend across many geographies. People should understand that real estate (particularly in India where no professional cos., data, regulation) can not be treated(speculated) like securities.Its just a redistribution of capital from one hand to another; essentially zero sum game.

If anyone who worked in the IT/Finance for the last 5 years and saved money conservatively like the old generation; they need not worry about any recession/lay off and would be able to survive for more than 10 years in any medium size town. Because of the delusion and madness; all the capital flowed from US/UK/Europe finally ended up on the hands of politicians.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Builders default and some offer Rent to buy + Swiss Banks

Pune apartments developer offers sale plan to tenants

Livemint reports
The campaign, branded ‘Rent Today and Own Tomorrow’, invites potential buyers to rent apartments of their choice on 11-month contracts, with the option of buying the apartment anytime during this time
Sudha Menon

Pune: A Pune-based developer may have a solution—at least temporary—for the hundreds of realty firms faced with dwindling demand for homes: Rent out apartments and hard-sell a purchase option to the tenants.
Mont Vert Homes has kicked off a ‘Rent Today and Own Tomorrow’ campaign, inviting potential buyers to rent apartments of their choice on 11-month contracts, with the option of buying the flat anytime in the interim.
“Paying rent hurts and is often considered a waste of money, so what we are telling our customer is that once he decides to buy the apartment, we adjust the rent paid towards the down payment for the house. That way, he has not lost the rent amount,” said Manish Kaneria, director of Mont Vert Homes.

Buyers under pressure as builders begin to default
Some small developers are yet to start on their projects; buyers are asking these firms to return booking amount
Shabana Hussain

New Delhi: It is more than two years since Kamal Sachdeva and brother Harish booked villas in Faridabad, an industrial area south of New Delhi that is fast becoming a housing destination, with Pal Infrastructure and Developers Pvt. Ltd.
Sachadeva made a down payment of Rs3.5 lakh and was promised possession of a 1,200 sq. ft house built on a 1,350 sq. ft plot by the end of 2007. He says not only has he not yet received possession of the property, construction has not started since he made his booking in February 2007.
Some four months ago, Sachdeva, a finance professional with a New Delhi automobile company, asked Pal about the progress at the project. Pal informed him, he says, that it did not have the land for the project proposed to come up at Sector 78 of Faridabad.
“I want my investment back but the company says it will only give me a six-month post-dated cheque at an 8% rate of interest. Earlier, they had said they will give a 12% rate of interest,” says he. “I don’t want post-dated cheques because I have heard the company’s cheques are bouncing.

Swiss Banks reports on

Kudos to the author for raising the important issue. As everyone knows,Indian politicians are the ones to lose the most, if their names are made public. Who will bell the cat ??

Under pressure from federal authorities, Swiss bank UBS is closing the hidden offshore accounts of its well-heeled American clients, potentially allowing their secrets to spill into the open.

In a step that would have once been unthinkable in the rarefied world of Swiss banking, UBS will shut about 19,000 accounts that prosecutors suspect have gone undeclared to the Internal Revenue Service. UBS will transfer the assets to other banks or other divisions within UBS, or will mail checks directly to the account holders, creating paper trails for federal prosecutors who are examining whether UBS clients used such accounts to evade taxes.

The clients now face stark choices: They can cash their checks, and thereby alert the authorities to any potential wrongdoing, or not cash them, effectively losing their money. Or they can transfer the money to new banks, a procedure which, in the case of foreign banks, requires depositors of more than $10,000 to report the new account to the Treasury Department.

UBS, the largest banking institution from Switzerland, has also committed to provide names of the top 250 persons who have kept money in offshore accounts, out of 19,000, to US authorities. UBS has also committed to pay a fine of $780 million to settle claims that it has defrauded US Internal Revenue Service.

The original charges are that the UBS offshore accounts have helped Americans hide $18 billion in 19,000 accounts. But now, the US state department is compelling it to disclose about 52,000 American accounts kept with UBS.

Swiss authorities used to argue that if there is no criminality under Swiss laws (which do not recognise currency violations and tax evasion as offences) the information on offshore accounts could not be divulged.

The same position was taken in Bofors case also. Now that wall has been breached by this US agreement with Swiss authorities.
UBS, the world's largest private bank, also said that it would stop offering to American clients offshore private banking services that are not declared to the IRS.

In all these discussions, one critical aspect is not to be missed -- the wealth hoarded by Indian leaders in commerce/ politics/ military/ arts, etc in the foreign banks for the last five to six decades.

A recent development makes us alert to our own wealth stored abroad.

Liechtenstein is a country as well as a convenient "letter box" for moneyed people all over the world to hide their ill gotten wealth. Its crown prince, Alois von und Zu Liechtenstein, is angry with Germany for launching a massive tax-evasion investigation involving funds hidden away in his countries vaults. Germany's intelligence agency seems to have paid an unnamed informer more than USD 6 million for confidential and secret data about clients of LTG group a bank owned by the Prince's family. The revelations have already led to the resignation of the head of Deutsche Post - the former German mail service -the world's largest logistics company in the world.

The German foreign intelligent agency BND seem to have got more than 700 clients of the LTG bank and the German prosecutors are using this information to target hundreds of suspected tax evaders in the last few days. In the meantime LTG claims that the "stolen data' contain information about 1400 clients and only 600 of them are Germans.

The German government has announced that it would share information on accounts held in the tax haven with any government that wants it, for free.

Intriguingly, Indian government was silent on this issue and did not approach the German government for a long time for a look into that data. Later, it wrote a cursory letter under pressure from Opposition but has not disclosed the response of the German government.

It is common knowledge that trillions of dollars of Indian money is in various tax heavens like Antigua, Switzerland, Bahamas, Liechtenstein, Isle of Man, and St Kitts, etc.

Throughout the Nehruvian socialistic period, under-invoicing of exports and over-invoicing of imports was very common. Along with that, substantial portion of external earnings were siphoned off to these tax heavens. In a socialistic way, all leaders, be they from business, politics, film, sports or bureaucracy, participated in creating what we may call secular wealth cutting across caste and creed. Also, good portion of the defence commissions were settled abroad. Plus some of our bureaucrats and entertainers and artists have also accumulated wealth abroad. This lobby is well-entrenched and one of the main losers in the appreciation of the rupee.

Worst part of the story is the loss of these deposits to Swiss banks themselves up on the death of some of these depositors who have not passed on the relevant account information to their progeny.
The Swiss banks appropriate such sums after some years (seven to ten) after the death of the beneficiary if there are no claimants.

These are operated using codes but most of them require passport and its number as a proof. That is the reason one finds some persons travelling to Switzerland with all expired passports. Zurich is the only European town which has Hindi slogans written on the side of its trams. Of course it is supposedly linked to Bollywood, but the India traffic to Zurich has to be seen to be believed.

It is estimated that between $500 billion and $1,400 billion is hoarded in Swiss banks and add with that the money stashed in territories like Virgin islands and Bahamas and other assorted tax havens. We need to take steps to bring it back to India. The mechanics can be worked out in terms of amnesty and Swiss bonds issued against these dollars. It can tremendously boost our foreign exchange reserves and facilitate infrastructure investment.

To start with, we can add one column in our election affidavits regarding wealth accumulated abroad. Of course, the politicians are not going to declare the ill-gotten wealth. But, it may be useful for future regarding provision of false affidavits. The entire tax efforts of countries like India are subverted by these deposits.

The second and most important issue pertains to financing of terrorism. These secretive and non-transparent tax heavens can be a serious threat to India since the sources and uses of funds are not clear. The lesser the transparency, the greater the threat for civil societies. From that point also, it is imperative for us to get these vaults open.

The third point is that this should become a major issue in World trade and financial negotiations since what belongs to us cannot be denied to us for long. The entire issue of global financial flows and cross-country free flows become meaningless due to the presence of these tax heavens. Indian lead will shake the world and help large number of African and Latino countries.

Already, the Polit Bureau of CPI [M] has asked for government action in the light of the UBS developments.

Baba Ramdev, too, has demanded that politicians take steps to bring back the money.

It may be difficult to expect the major parties to take it up since the hands of many of its leaders are stained with rust and dust of Swiss bank vaults.

In the case of Bofors, it was the government of the day versus the opposition parties, and now it has to be a mass movement against all these tainted leaders. The citizens of India should fight to uphold the values of our republic which is not just a market or museum piece but a living civilisation wounded by colonialists and looted by current thanedars ruling the roost in the corridors of power. If the leaders keep quiet on this burning issue, we can conclude the elite of the country has failed us. Of course, the DDM (Desi Dork Media) - both electronic and print - will be campaigning to "fill up pubs' in the name of freedom- rather than any serious issue. Our media has become just entertainers and not interested in any important issue.

Let us remember that past history suggests that the elite of India failed India and not the ordinary farmers or workers. The elite helped in the plunder and devastation caused to this country.

The thunderous silence of our elite in politics/ media/ business/ bureaucracy and arts speaks volumes about our collective guilt.

"No criminals" in politics is a good campaign. But can we have leaders with funds stashed abroad? The black money abroad is the Gangotri of all crimes. It shows our distrust about our mother land and contempt for Dharma. Let us deal with that first.

The writer is professor of finance and control, Indian Institute of Management - Bangalore, and can be reached at Views are personal.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Bringing down the house

DLF Chennai buyers have shown how group activism can cause builders to buckle to their knees. Developers have been milking the buyer for too long with overnight double digit price increases. It is time they get paid back in their own coin. I particularly like the line
"It is an unfortunate situation in which buyers are going back on a signed contract,” a senior representative of the developers’ association said. If customers take unfair advantage of the market situation then they would have to face the consequences of the breach of contract"

If the market was still in the bullish phase, developers would care less and cancel lower priced bookings and resell at a higher price. We need a lawyer to clarify what is a breach of contract ? What happens if someone cannot make payments due to job loss ? The Hindu has to be commended for its quality reporting.

Bring down prices or else….’

A worrisome trend developers are facing is of buyers wanting to pull out of a contract after construction has started.

Breach of contract fears.

R. Balaji

“During two decades of our doing business in Chennai never have buyers wanted to cancel after a contract was finalised and construction started,” says Mr R.V. Shekar, Managing Director, Lancor Holdings.

A leading developer in Chennai , Lancor Holdings is among those feeling the heat of a slow market in the form of buyers trying to back out of a deal midway.

Breach of contract

Earlier, the company has accommodated buyers who wanted to back out because of personal or professional problems. But now Mr Shekar says it is the ease with which customers are considering a `breach of contract.’ Their demand is: Bring down prices or else… they threaten to walk out and take others. And these are people who have signed on the dotted line and made more than one initial payment.

As of now it is not a major issue for Lancor but is certainly worrisome. Developers and buyers may end up spending time and money on litigation, says Mr Shekar.

For instance, at a Lancor project on NH 45 where over 230 of the 640 apartments planned have been sold, all the approvals are in place and work has started. Over 150 buyers have signed the agreement and the property has been registered for 58 more customers. But about 30 buyers want to back out even after making a firm commitment, he says.

The reason: if one developer cuts down on prices why cannot another?

Mr Shekar has explained to the customers the rationale behind the pricing — basic price of Rs 2,100 and an all-inclusive (covered car park, registration, club membership, taxes) price of Rs 2,640 but some are in no mood to listen.

When there is a proper contract in place and the company is keeping to its commitment, the law will have to take its course, he feels.

Lancor is among the victims of the fallout of DLF Homes’ controversy where a large group of buyers have come together to enforce a price cut. An unprecedented event in Chennai that has grabbed wide attention. Leading builders dismiss the DLF issue as an aberration. But if it sets off a trend then they would have to depend on the judicial system to come to their aid, they say.

According to representatives of the Confederation of Real Estate Developers Association of India-Tamil Nadu, developers are now keen on having an arbitrator in place. Next week the association hopes to empanel an independent body headed by a senior advocate to look into buyer-seller disputes. “It is an unfortunate situation in which buyers are going back on a signed contract,” a senior representative of the developers’ association said. If customers take unfair advantage of the market situation then they would have to face the consequences of the breach of contract.

‘Time delay’

According to Mr Chitty Babu, Chairman and Managing Director, Akshya Homes, a developer who has delivered over 600 apartments on the OMR , the problem is partly due to the delay in statutory approvals and due to builders and buyers transacting unapproved projects.

A major factor is the time delay when the customer makes the initial payment in an unapproved project. When there is a long wait customers develop cold feet. If approvals come on time, the banks clear the loan and start sanctioning funds and the customers will be fully committed. Fast approvals will save nearly a fifth of the project cost for the customer, he says.

A Bill Maher video on the how badly F**** the US economy is