Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Real estate bookings outnumber deliveries in India; 10 to one

It's been long that we have heard of any possessions of the housing projects. Or is it that only launches of projects make news? "Yes , only
launches make news, which is relevant only to real estate developers to attract gullible buyers. How many times have possessions made news? Never" , said Manoj Thaldi, a prospective flat buyer to FINANCIAL TIMES. Manoj is looking for a project nearing possession.

Apparently, it's time only for new launches and no possessions (read delivery of goods promised in the contract). Let's take the most recent example of the Amrapali Group, which announced the launch of its new project Amrapali Zodiac, last week. About a couple of months back, it had announced Amrapali Empire. It's not just to do with Amrapali, other real estate developers like DLF, Vipul, Pearls, BPTP, Mahagun, Omaxe, SVP and Assotech - all fall in the same league. Omaxe and Assotech have announced about two to five projects in past five months in NCR and prominent cities of India.

Good news, so far, is for the customers of the Meriton Group; the developer soon promises to give away possessions. "We will hand over the flats of the Orange County project in Indirapuram to the flat owners, maximum by April 2010, which will exclude condominiums" , said Avnish Agrawal, one of the directors, Meriton Group, ABA builders. Though like any other project, Meriton Group's two projects - Orange Country and Olive County are also running behind time by about eight to 10 months.

Rohtas Goel, CMD of Omaxe, promises to deliver Grandwoods Noida, Omaxe Heights Faridabad, Omaxe City Sonipat, Omaxe City Bhiwadi, Lucknow, PDA OmaxeCity Patiala, within the next six months.

Ashiana is one of the builders in NCR, which is always praised amongst its buyers, for timely delivery of its projects. "We have always delivered our projects within time. The last one we handed over was Ashiana Upvan in Indirapuram and the one nearing possession is Ashiana Palm court in Raj Nagar Extension, Ghaziabad. We will start giving the possession from June 2010", Rohit Raj Modi, director Ashiana Homes Private limited and spokesperson Raj Nagar Extn NH-58 .

While the SVP Group's two projects - one Gulmohar Greens in Mohan Nagar and other Gulmohar Towers in Ghaziabad are nearing possession too. They too are running behind time by four to eight months. "We will give possession of Gulmohar Greens' flats by March 2010 and Gulmohar Towers' flats by April 2010," said Sunil Jindal, CEO, SVP Group.

Notably, when buyers book flats, builders promise them possession before time, which never happens . Also, they promise compensation if the project gets delayed. But do the buyers actually get compensation ?

"I am heading for possession of my flat in Indirapuram, which has got delayed by a year. Apparently, the builder is only talking about the registration money and last five per cent payment. He doesn't want to touch the topic of compensation. We won't even get it if we will not fight for it" , said Ganesh Sharma, a flat buyer.

Yes, even builders forget the compensation topic if a customer doesn't bring it into notice and fight for it. "Every builder company has a clause to pay and compensate its customers if a project is delayed. If the customer asks we do pay him/her compensation, considering it as a penalty on our part" , admitted Jindal of SVP group.

Now, buy prime office space for just Rs 5 lakh

Here is your chance to own a slice of office property at Nariman Point by investing just Rs 5 lakh. The 30-40% decline in property prices (from peak levels), coupled with firming interest rates have resulted in private equity (PE) funds eyeing investment opportunities in real estate rental space. A few fund houses have already begun seeking investment commitments from investors, indicating 16% to 22% as annualised portfolio returns.

PE funds investing in real estate rental space follow a simple investment strategy. These funds are suited for investors who are risk-averse and prefer returns similar to those from fixed income schemes. According to PE industry officials, Milestone Capital Advisors, Xander Real Estate Partners, Indiareit Fund Advisors and an investment arm of Delhi-based real estate company DLF are planning to launch rental yield funds in India.

“Real estate rental funds are launched when property rates are close to their troughs. This helps funds to buy property at lower prices. Moreover, yields of investments increase in a rising interest rate environment,” said Ashish Joshi, managing partner, Milestone Capital Advisors, which raised money for a second fund investing in rental assets.

A ‘rental yield PE fund’ only invests in properties that are either occupied or under long-term lease or rent. In simple terms, the money collected from investors is used to buy out the property from the current owner. Once the property is acquired, the PE fund becomes eligible to receive rent from tenants. The rent portion is restructured or re-negotiated regularly in order to meet the return profile of the investor. The fund (and its investors) gain by way of rent recovery and appreciation in property prices. PE funds, normally, invest in commercial property. The managers route a major chunk of the pool into office properties and the remaining into IT/ITeS parks, shopping malls and warehouses.

“The segment looks good as rentals are likely to go up 10-15% over the next few months. Demand for commercial real estate space will go up as supply has come to a standstill post the economic slump. This will not only improve yield for investors but also increase overall commercial property value,” said Kamal Khetan, vice-chairman & MD, Piramal Sunteck Realty.

Rental returns from real estate investments have been traditionally higher in India compared to other Asian countries. This is mainly due to the restrained capital flows and the lack of an organised institutional investment market. According to real estate experts, a sharp correction in rentals during 2008 and first half of 2009 will result in rentals surging over the next few months. The rental market usually reacts to the surge in equity market with a 5 to 8-month lag.
As per industry estimates, Mumbai office rentals have declined significantly over the past two years. Rentals in Nariman Point declined by a maximum of 14% from 2008 peak levels, and currently range from Rs 200-400 per sq.ft. per month. In the IT hubs of Gurgaon and Noida, rentals declined by almost 25% from 2007 peak levels, but have since stabilised. Hyderabad was one of the worst affected, as rentals dipped over 35% from peak-levels.

Investors who want to invest in rental yield funds should re-focus their investment strategies around rental income rather than property appreciation, which has been the case for most investors up till now. However, experts point out that the tax implications of investing in rental yield funds may turn out to be cumbersome.

“Rental yield funds have huge tedious tax implications. Investors will have to pay tax on income generated by way of rental yields. Moreover, expenses are high on such funds and are payable upfront to the fund manager,” said independent financial planner Gaurav Mashruwala. According to Mr Mashruwala, such funds will do well if asset are bought at lower price levels or just after a deep correction.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Facilities management is the next big thing in real estate space

Mumbai/Bangalore: When Jasmer Puri started his company 16 years ago, he used to shy away from telling his friends about his business. Having built Dusters Hospitality Services Pvt. Ltd into a Rs100 crore facilities management services firm, Puri no longer has reason to be embarrassed.

Facilities management refers to the maintenance and care of commercial or institutional buildings such as hotels, resorts, schools, hospitals or office complexes. The services include maintenance of electric fittings such as air conditioners and lighting systems, plumbing, cleaning, housekeeping and security.

With overseas companies increasing their presence in India, the real estate sector undergoing a revival and a growing emphasis on urban development and modernization of office spaces, the business is set for rapid growth, making it attractive for investors.


India’s facilities management market is valued at an annual $3.3 billion (Rs15,411 crore) and is expected to grow at a yearly rate of 25-30% over the next three-four years, according to consulting firm Netscribes (India) Pvt. Ltd.

“It is the biggest growth business in real estate spectrum in years to come,” says Anurag Mathur, managing director of Cushman and Wakefield India Pvt. Ltd, a commercial real estate services firm.

Dusters Hospitality Services counts the Taj and Marriott hotel chains, Four Seasons Hotel and JPMorganChase and Co. among its clients and has a presence in 15 Indian cities. Last month, the firm received Rs35 crore in funding from private equity firm TVS Capital Funds Ltd.

Other investments in this space include India Equity Partners and Beacon India Private Equity Fund’s investment of $33 million in A2Z Maintenance and Engineering Services Pvt. Ltd in October.

“As the property market grows, it will be difficult for the in-house management to handle FMS (facilities management services),” says Naushad Panjwani, executive director, facilities management, and project management, Knight Frank India Pvt. Ltd.

Such activities as housekeeping and maintenance services would be increasingly outsourced to service providers that are able to offer economies of scale and a cost advantage. FMS firms also deploy their own machines and equipment, ruling out the need for a client to buy anything, says Hanmant R. Gaikwad, founder of BVG India Ltd, an FMS firm.

“The advantage of outsourcing the FMS to these organizations is that they can service my needs all the time and I don’t need to worry about replacing people when they are on annual leave or they quit,” says Ranjit Deval, manager of administration at the Pfizer India Ltd office in Mumbai, which outsources its FMS to Knight Frank.

BVG, which received Rs40 crore from the Kotak Private Equity Group (KPEG) in February 2008, handles the facilities management for Rashtrapati Bhavan, Tarapore nuclear power plant and Hindustan Unilever Ltd.

“We were looking at infrastructure-services-related firms as a play and we clearly saw an opportunity in who was going to maintain all these places. We started looking at all the players in the FMS space and zeroed in on BVG,” says Nitin Deshmukh, chief executive, KPEG.

To be sure, FMS firms have no shortage of competition in a sector where entry barriers are low. Around 1,000 firms are competing for a share of the market in India, according to Netscribes. Local service providers often do not comply with statutory regulations, giving them a cost advantage over the organized sector, according to the consulting firm.

Meanwhile, realty firms are beginning to see FMS as a part of their main business. Anuradha Gandhi, business head, Property Solutions India Pvt. Ltd, the FMS business division of real estate firm Kalpataru Group, says, FMS is a natural extension of the core business of property development.

“It adds value and brings great edge to a company. If a property is not maintained well, its value goes down on its own,” says Gandhi.

NCR, Mumbai record strongest demand despiteNCR, Mumbai record strongest demand despite hike in prices hike in prices


The real estate sector has underperformed the Sensex by 16% in the past one month on concerns of the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) hawkish stance towards the sector and likely increases in mortgage rates. Our analysis of Mumbai’s apartment registrations data reveals that demand remains strong despite 5-30% rise in prices in the past five months. Thus, while prices in many pockets in the city are at their lifetime highs, registrations in October were the highest in almost two years. This leads us to believe that residential demand in metros has strong tailwinds and is unlikely to be affected materially by a small increase in mortgage rates. Our top picks are DLF Ltd and Housing Development and Infrastructure Ltd.


RBI increased the risk weightage on commercial real estate lending by 100 basis points (bps), which is likely to result in a 50-100bps increase in borrowing costs. Mortgage rates could also come under pressure, owing to inflation-related concerns. Headwinds of higher prices and mortgage rates are likely to weigh on real estate demand.


However, October was the strongest month in almost two years: Apartment registrations turned in strong numbers for the fourth straight month in October. Registrations during July-October were the highest since January-April 2007.

We believe a 50bps increase in mortgage rates will have marginal impact on affordability. This, in our opinion, is unlikely to have a meaningful impact on demand. We prefer developers with city-centre-oriented projects in Mumbai and the National Capital Region—the two metros that have recorded the strongest revival in demand.


ICICI Bank to focus on home-loans as real estate picks up

The country's largest private bank, ICICI Bank, today said it is focussing on the home-loan segment as the real estate segment is witnessing a comeback after the economic slowdown.

"We are focussing on the home-loan segment at the moment as there is a lot of activity in this sector (home) ... people who stopped buying a few months ago, are back again," ICICI Bank's Managing Director & CEO Chanda Kochhar told reporters here today.

The bank had recently launched a home-loan scheme under which 8.25 per cent interstate be fixed for the first two-years for loans sanctioned from December 1, 2009 to January 31, 2010, irrespective of the loan amount. The first disbursement of the loan should be availed before March 31, 2010.

From the third-year onwards, the Lender would charge a floating interest rate depending upon the then prevailing floating reference rate.

India tops Asian real estate investment markets

India leads the pack of top real estate investment markets in Asia for 2010, according to a study by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and Urban Land Institute, a global non-profit education and research institute.

The report, which provides an outlook on Asia-Pacific real estate investment and development trends, points out that India, particularly Mumbai and Delhi, are good destinations. Residential properties are viewed as more promising than other sectors and Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore top the pack in the hotel ‘buy' prospects as well.

The study is based on the opinions of over 270 international real estate professionals, including investors, developers, property company representatives, lenders, brokers and consultants.

Asia-Pacific hold up

Since the global economic meltdown, asset markets in the Asia-Pacific region have been holding up surprisingly well compared with their peers in Europe and the US. While pricing and rentals in the region fell steeply in 2008 and early 2009 in line with those in the West, markets across the region were boosted in the second half of the year by the remarkable resilience of the Chinese economy, which was buoyed by a series of fiscal and monetary stimulus measures.

As a result, many Asian markets have begun to flash positive signals toward the end of 2009. Transaction volumes have rebounded, although from a very low base, led overwhelmingly by China, the report said.

“The relatively stronger fundamentals and the lack of dependence on foreign demand are seen as key advantages as India has managed to mitigate the severe recession that has hit most other Asian countries.

“The recapitalisation by players in equity markets across Asia has been successfully replicated by some Indian developers, which has helped ease the liquidity stresses,” said Mr Gautam Mehra, India Leader for Real Estate Practice, PriceWaterhouse Coopers.

Unlike the US and Europe, distress sale in Asia had been relatively minimal. This was due to several factors, including a relative abundance of liquidity; low loan-to-value ratios, leaving borrowers less vulnerable to loan servicing problems when the prices declined, the report said.

Further, Asian banks remain well-capitalised, having experienced few major losses from derivative investments and also because of the ability of many large investment institutions to recapitalise via the capital markets, (particularly in Australia and Singapore) allowing them to pay down debt.

Tentative rebounds

Despite the recent bullish atmosphere, rebounds in most Asia-Pacific markets (with the exception of China) appear tentative and fragile. Although Asia-Pacific governments will probably be able to sustain high rates of liquidity for the foreseeable future, their near term prospects are probably tied to developments in the West and in particular the US, where de-leveraging is far from over.

“The idea that the recession is likely over gives rise to the widespread notion that global economies will now revert gradually to the same trajectories as in the past, which is normally what happens when recessions end,” said the ULI Chief Executive Officer, Mr Patrick L. Phillips.

He said the aftermath was likely to be different because the imbalances that led to the global downturn remain embedded in the system and could not be quickly eliminated. Moreover, with spending by the Western consumers no longer acting as the primary engine of global economic growth, a new driver was needed to boost the world's economy, and, in turn, the global real estate industry.

NIREM takes initiatives to develop human resources for Indian Real Estate

With the meteoritic growth in real estate sector during last few years, the property and real estate business also became more complex in structure and more international in scope, which created the shortage of trained real estate professionals. Then, the industry recognised the need for specialised real estate education. Also presently, at the taking off stage when real estate in India has again started moving up, Indian real estate requires people who have very strong professional skills across the spectrum of property business, for example, the property and real estate business in India today requires not a sales manager who has experience of selling everything but a sales manager who has studied real estate and is therefore expert in selling properties.

Infact, the Indian real estate industry leaders including top real estate developers, multinational real estate consultants, housing finance institutions etc have repeatedly aired their concern at the total absence of courses in real estate in India. Infact, there is no system of real estate education in India, which is visibly affecting the quality of human resources available to the Indian property market. Also, though real estate is one of the largest employers and there are thousands of vacancies at different levels and in different areas, developers are forced to spend huge time and money on selecting and training candidates from other sectors. Moreover, once trained, these people leave immediately for other opportunities and therefore the cycle of spending time and money on recruiting and training candidates from other sector continues for the developer.

In view of the above situation, IDS National Institute of Real Estate Management (IDS NIREM), www.nirem.org, has launched a one-year distance learning Post Graduate Diploma Program in Real Estate Sales & Agency Management (PGD-RESAM). This is the first such specialised real estate sales & marketing course offered in the country. Property market analysts also attribute launch of this specialised courses to qualitative growth of Indian real estate market and its movement towards next state from the nascent stage.

The course objective is to provide the participants with thorough knowledge and practical skills to plan & execute successful sales & leasing strategies for different types of properties, plan & manage real estate agencies and carry out basic appraisal.

This high impact, industry-driven and employment-oriented program offers both the fresh graduates who intend to pursue a career in real estate and the working professionals, an unequaled educational growth and career advancement opportunity. Further information can be obtained from www.nirem.org

Notes to Editor

About the Institute:

IDS National Institute of Real Estate Management (IDS-NIREM) has been established by 'The Industry Development Society for Real Estate', which is a real estate sector development and promotion body. NIREM is planned as a Centre of Excellence in Real Estate Education, Training, Consulting & Research. The institute is mandated to provide degree, diploma and certificate courses in addition to MDPs, Consulting and Research in different areas of real estate.

In addition to Learning & Capacity Development Initiatives, IDS-NIREM, aims to develop benchmarks for real estate sector, provide with comprehensive market data to end-users, retail & institutional investors and other stakeholders, facilitate simplification of asset acquisition and investment process, promote adoption of international standards including the financial and other disclosure norms, best practices and corporate social responsibilities etc.

IDS National Institute of real estate management is India's first real estate institute that offers courses in real estate in the following areas:

1. Commercial Real Estate
2. Real Estate Finance
3. Real Estate Sales & Agency Management

Apart from the above, Post Graduate Diploma courses in real estate management, development, real estate marketing, real estate finance, real estate investment, valuation & appraisal etc shall be introduced in next few months. These courses are aimed at developing potential candidates for different careers in real estate. A unique feature of IDS National Institute of Real Estate Management is that it provides a platform to start career in real estate to both-the fresh graduates and the experienced professionals already working in real estate and/or allied sectors.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Govt meet to help NRIs resolve real estate woes with developers

The ministry of overseas Indian affairs is bringing together real estate developers, government officials, both from the Centre and the states, and Indians living abroad in a first-of-its-kind seminar aimed at resolving property disputes in Delhi on Monday.

“The seminar would cover the role of different government and private agencies, measures to prevent disputes…and speedy way of disposal,” said a posting on the website of the Indian consulate in New York.

Indians living abroad are a “major source of foreign exchange remittances that has led to the present state of comfortable foreign exchange reserve in the country”, the posting adds, and a substantial amount of money earned by non-resident Indians (NRIs) is spent on buying property back home.

The ministry has been receiving a lot of complaints from Indians living abroad, mostly in the US, the UK and Canada, about properties not being delivered on time or usurped by local people, said Vayalar Ravi, minister for overseas Indian affairs. “This is an attempt to help NRIs and PIOs (persons of Indian origin) resolve disputes with property developers and state bodies in India,” he added.

The ministry is trying to start a “constructive dialogue” between NRIs and real estate developers, and include in it lawyers and government officials, according to an official responsible for holding the seminar.

“We need cooperation of the state governments as well,” said this official who did not want to be named because he isn’t authorized to speak to the media. “Only Punjab and Kerala have special cells to address problems faced by NRIs… We have been pressuring other states to start similar cells, launch fast-track courts and so on,” he added.

The meet could benefit thousands of NRIs, who on their own, can do little to pressure property developers to finish construction on time. Some have formed online groups to start collective bargaining but because they live abroad, haven’t had much success in securing their rights.

“It’s hard-earned money that we have invested back home,” said Asim Debnath, a US-based Indian who had bought a flat in a condominium in Rajarhat on the outskirts of Kolkata, which was sold only to NRIs. The property isn’t ready yet, and the developer is blaming the lack of civic infrastructure in Rajarhat township for the delay in completion.

“There isn’t much we can do,” said Debnath. “Local authorities and politicians do not seem to appreciate our concern.”

The attempt to bring together NRI home buyers and real estate developers should benefit “all stakeholders”, according to Pradeep Sureka, president of the West Bengal chapter of Confederation of Real Estate Developers’ Associations of India (Credai)—an industry lobby.

“But involvement of local government officials is crucial because real estate developers face a lot of problems with civic infrastructure, which slows construction,” he said. “While we are ready to be governed by regulations, we expect such regulations to be binding on agencies responsible for creating infrastructure.”

The seminar will give NRIs an opportunity to voice their problems, said Kaustuv Roy, executive director of property consultant, Cushman and Wakefield. However, such initiatives should be backed by strong legislation. “The biggest problem that overseas investors face is discrepancy between what is sold to them and what they receive in the end,” he added.

Godrej to build India's first green township in city

Godrej Properties Limited (GPL), a real-estate arm of conglomerate Godrej Group, will launch indias largest green township in january.
The eco-friendly project is coming up near Nirma University on Sarkhej-Gandhinagar road.

Adi Godrej, chairman Godrej Group, said that GPL has inked MOU with Clinton Climate Initiative (CCI) programme for the Ahmedabad township project to be developed in a joint venture with local partner Siddhi Group on about 225 acres of land.

Godrej was in town for the company's forthcoming IPO. Interestingly, Godrej Garden City' (GGC) is one of the 16 real-estate projects in the world selected by CCI, for climate positive development. Godrej group is also founder member of Indian Green Building Council (IGBC). The company will avail green building ratings for GGC from leading agencies.

The project will completed in a phase manner over next ten years, ending with 20,000 dwellings in the price ranging from Rs 20 to 35 lakh during the initial phases. However, the company also plans to build smaller flats worth Rs 10 lakh in the later stages, he said. The work for the first phase is expected to finish in the next two years with 500 dwelling units, mostly two and three BHK.

Apart from the use of solar power, water recycling and harvesting, GPL would use fly-ash bricks and develop many gardens, including a 10-acres park, said Milind Korde GPL, managing director. Amenities like sports complex, club house, schools, hospitals and high street shopping areas are also planned, he added.

Hyderabad based MP Rao, a green building expert and member of IGBC steering committee, said that as of now there is not a single green-integrated township in the country. In fact, IGBC is working on a draft for Green Neighbourhood Rating System to give ratings to upcoming townships, said Rao.

All about affordable housing

The city will host the annual MyBuild, an exhibition of construction industry, from December
The Builders Association of India, Mysore centre, has teamed with the Confederation of Real Estate Developers Association of India for the expo. The exhibition at the Chamundi Vihar stadium will be on till December 14 and is bringing builders, consultants and other key players of the construction sector on a common platform.

The aim is to showcase the recent trends in the construction sector, BAI Mysore centre chief S R Swamy said on Tuesday. "Since Mysore has emerged as one of the fastest growing metropolitan cities in the country with various developmental works underway, we are seeking to showcase them," he told reporters.

NICE MD Ashok Kheny will inaugurate the exhibition. Former minister Tanveer Sait and BAI state chief M S Nandakumar will attend, the organizing secretary N Subramanya stated.

The BAI will also hold a seminar BuildTech focusing on affordable housing. Urban development minister S Suresh Kumar will inaugurate the seminar, which will be on from December 11 to 13. Topics like architectural design, electrical design, latest materials and finance for affordable housing will be discussed. The meet will also focus on mistakes in the construction leading to wastage and look at the case studies, BuildTech chairman M S Ramprasad.

Dubai crisis to hit 200,000 Indians

About 200,000 Indians will be affected due to the Dubai crisis wherein real estate and construction sectors have taken a major hit, according to Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham) past president Anil K Agarwal.
Releasing a paper on 'Indo-Gulf business opportunities' here on Tuesday, he said the crisis in Dubai was a temporary phenomenon and will wane away with support from the government and others sectors.

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries - Bharain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE - present a lot of trade opportunities for India, he said. The Assocham has been promoting India as an investment destination for infrastructure, biotechnology, power, roads, IT and allied sectors. It has also created an Andhra Pradesh Investment Cell to attract investments to the state.

Dubai: 6 months too short to restructure Dubai World

"Investors in the GCC countries are not willing to invest in the US. They are looking at Asia, particularly India, for utilising their monies," Agarwal said.

India was negotiating for a comprehensive economic cooperation agreement with the GCC members. The free trade agreement for goods that India and GCC is likely to be finalised will give a boost to trade, according to Assocham secretary general DS Rawat.

The Arab countries account for 20 per cent of India's total trade and are a source for two-thirds of its energy requirements. Currently, over 5 million Indians are working in the GCC countries.

India's first private metro rail project is down, but not out


The Rapid Metro Rail Gurgaon (RMRG) Ltd -- India's first totally private metro rail project -- failed to get financial closure by November 30, 2009.
It is a Rs 900 crore project owned by IL&FS (74%) and DLF (26%) linking the DLF township in Gurgaon to Noida, covering a stretch of 5km involving six stations.

It was a disappointment for many who wanted this to be the precursor for clearing many other privately funded infrastructure projects in the country.Some view this failure to achieve financial closure with alarm, but there are others who see this only as a temporary setback.

After all, there are many who desperately want to see this project sail through. For instance, those who want IndiaĆ¢'s Commonwealth Games in Delhi to be an impressive show want this project to roll on.

It will complement the existing Delhi Metro Rail Corporation's network. Haryana's government too wants it, and has already given its go-ahead. IL&FS -- which has become one of the largest players in the real-estate sector both directly and indirectly (though several affiliates) -- lobbied hard to meet the deadline, as this project allow its investments in real estate to gain value.

It would pave way for IL&FS to become one of the biggest bidders for several other metro-rail projects proposed in India's cities. It would be a desperately needed morale-booster for IL&FS -- after it had burnt its fingers badly in the real estate and other development projects linked to Maytas in Hyderabad (IL&FS is now the majority shareholder of this beleaguered company).

DLF, India's largest real-estate player, also wants the RMRG because it would allow its landbanks and proposed townships in Haryana to get a significantly larger valuation.

So why could RMRG not achieve financial closure?

Not because funds were not available, says one analyst.

IL&FS has access to funds, and even now expects the financial closure to be achieved by March 2010.

The stumbling block was the non-clearance of permissions from the central government where its files have got stuck.

After all, once this project gets cleared, it establishes a precedent for other similar projects coming up all over the country.

It also paves the way towards ending the railways monopoly over the railway network.Today, the only semi private railway lines are those which are port linkages (thanks to the Adani group's Mundra Port).

Then there is the Mumbai Metro. Significant parts of this network are currently being constructed by the Anil-Ambani-Reliance group.

But Mumbai Metro is still owned by the state government, unlike the proposed RMRG.The land over which RMRG's rail lines are to be built is owned by DLF.Hence even the stations that come up will be managed by IL&FS-DLF.

In the absence of any clear policy of how to permit this, the financial closure could not be achieved. But many believe that such a policy should get cleared by the end of this financial year.

Significantly, such a policy is already being discussed in Delhi.It will allow for privatisation of airports, of major stretches of roads linked to real-estate-development-rights, and to the building of more metro rail projects.

This, say economy watchers, is an inevitable outcome of coping with India's infrastructure needs which could require money in excess of over$7 trillion (Rs 350,15,000 crore), several times India's annual GDP of $1 trillion.

The government does not have the money. The private sector can get it, provided it can actually own and run the project. It may be recalled that even the RMRG was to be originally developed by the Haryana government, but it went to the private sector because the state government did not have the funds. Ditto for several power projects across India.And ditto for several first class ports as well.

Backing such a policy are the ministries of roads and aviation. The Planning Commission
too is in favour of clearing such projects. Kamal Nath, Union minister for roads and highways has gone on record stating his preference to award large stretches of roads and highways to parties who can fund it themselves by earning money from real estate and development on either side of the roads.

This would effectively make the private sector mini-municipalities for some years, allowing them to introduce well-planned urban infrastructure, with suitable linkages. Praful Patel too has been lobbying for such a policy for allowing at least 200 private airports to come up across India.

Obviously such a policy, mooted by both ministries will require provisions permitting both land acquisition and protection from abuse of pricing (because all public utilities are essentially monopolies).

At the same time, fearful that they might lose clout, many elected representatives would
be reluctant to favour such amendments. But given India's desperate need for funds to finance both infrastructure and the creation of new jobs, the passing of such policies is likely to be just a matter of time.

Expected Regulation Would Encourage Foreign Investment In India


A three year lock in period for developers and foreign investors in the real estate market in India is expected to be scrapped.

The Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion and the Ministry of Commerce and Industry have put forward proposals to get rid of the statutory condition.

Developers and investors have long been critical of the policy saying that it is stifling investment.

Currently foreign investment in housing is subject to certain rules covering capitalization norms and the minimum area to be developed. But it is the fact that the original investment cannot be repatriated for three years from completion that is stifling investment, critics claim.

The government has indicated that it is keen to liberalize the Foreign Direct Investment regime in India.

‘The original restrictions on repatriation were a cautionary measure intended to prevent speculative investments in the real estate sector,’ one official said.

‘However, this sector has been feeling the pressures of the global economic crisis and has desperately been in need of greater capital and liquidity to fund its existing projects and growth,’ he added.

It is considered that a change will boost the real estate sector in India but also create jobs and greater domestic economic activity.

But there are some concerns that the proposed relaxation will result in a fluctuation of realty stocks and thus lead to market volatility.

But supporters say that less restrictions on foreign investments will help the economy overall.

Meanwhile developers in India are relieved that they do not have a lot of links with debt hit Dubai.

DLF, India’s largest real estate company, said plans to enter the Dubai market have now been postponed. ‘Luckily for us the one deal for which we were negotiating fell through,’ said DLF executive director Rajeev Talwar.

DLF was close to finalizing a joint venture with the now troubled Nakheel whose parent company Dubai World is trying to postpone debt payments while it restructures its finances.

Developer Omaxe, which has paid the first installment for buying land for two residential projects in Dubai, is considering pulling out.

‘There has been a slowdown in the Dubai real estate market.

Looking at the current situation, we are considering exiting the two projects,’ said chairman and managing director Rohtas Goel.

Returning NRIs boost demand for residential property

An estimated 25 million NRIs living in 130 countries in remittance have remitted US$52 billion so far this year. In fact India topped the list of countries flow followed by China and Mexico, according to World Bank report on Migration and Development Brief.

Migrant remittance flow to developing countries will be around $317 billion this year. It was $338 billion in 2008, higher than the previous estimate of $328 billion. A substantial portion of the NRI/PIO investment was directed towards Indian real estate.

The impact of global slowdown, job losses and unviable job offers has necessitated a section of NRIs to return to Indian shores. Time was when Gulf NRIs were bristling with confidence on noticing certain Gulf countries like Dubai in the UAE, Qatar and Kuwait changing local land laws to permit expatriates to invest in local real estate.

While a few HNIs had invested, others could not afford the high cost of local real estate and felt that they were left out in the race. But times have changed now.