Banking
Builders keeping prices high despite rising inventory and debts

Currently around 68% of flats in Mumbai cost more than Rs1 crore while 95,000 flats have remained unsold which may take three years get absorbed. While the bad debts are increasing there are new funding avenues opening for realtors 

The growing concern over bad loans, in addition to Moody’s downgrading of the State Bank of India (SBI) has painted a grim picture of the economy, especially banking sector. One of the major sectors causing the bad debts is real estate. However, despite incurring huge debts, realtors so far have refused to reduce prices thus alienating buyers.

According to Reserve Bank of India, Indian developers held a total of $24.4 billion (about Rs1.22 lakh crore) of outstanding credit at the end of June 201 an increase of 23% from last year. DLF, India’s biggest realtor, saw almost Rs1,000 crore increase in its debt during the July-September quarter. Currently, the company has a debt of Rs22,519 crore. Mumbai-based realtor HDIL has incurred a debt of Rs4,000 crore as of September end.

However, realty prices continue to be high, and hence sales are suffering. Pankaj Kapoor, managing director, Liases Foras said, “About 95,000 flats remain unsold in Mumbai, which amounts to some 110 million sq ft of area. It will take 36 months to absorb this inventory.”

A recent study by Liases Foras revealed that at present around 68% of flats in Mumbai cost more than Rs1 crore. Homes that are ‘affordably’ priced between Rs25 lakh to Rs50 lakh, are usually located at distant places and are in filthy and unliveable conditions.

With no sales, banks are seeing a rise in number of non-performing assets (NPAs).  LIC Housing Finance reported a gross NPAs at 0.64% (Rs359 crore) as on 30 September 2011 against 0.74% (Rs320 crore) same period a year ago. The company’s net NPAs were 0.12% to Rs66 crore as against 0.24% (Rs102 crore) for the corresponding period.

A sector analyst with a leading brokerage house said, “If there are no sales (especially in metros like Mumbai and Delhi), there are chances that more houses will remain unsold. Non-performing assets can then increase in numbers.”

Mr Kapoor said that many new launches have seen lower prices, but prices of the unsold inventory continue to be high. “Builders will only reduce prices if other sources of money dry up,” he said.

However, realtors may have another good option opening up to them. Recent media reports hinted at government reversing its decision to re-classify private equity with built-in options as foreign debts.

A Macquarie report says, “In early October, the foreign investment policy update had introduced an innocuous clause that says ‘Only equity shares, fully, compulsorily and mandatorily convertible debentures/ preference shares, with no in-built options of any type, would qualify as eligible instruments for FDI.

Equity instruments having in-built options or supported by options sold by third parties would lose their equity character and would have to comply with ECB guidelines”. In other words, now builders may find it easier to get private equity funding.

Some experts believe that allowing builders to extend the term for loan repayment has also created problems. “If loans to realtors are not allowed to be extended beyond a point, they will be forced to sell,” said the analyst.

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US carriers unhappy with American aid to Air India

The Air Transport Association, a trade group representing America’s biggest carriers, has shot off a letter to US Exim Bank chairman Fred Hochberg opposing the decision, saying Air India’s financial ill-health should disqualify it from getting American help

New York: Calling Air India “one of the most poorly-run airlines in the world”, American carriers have opposed the US Export-Import Bank (Exim) Bank’s $3.4 billion support to it to buy Boeing 787 Dreamliners, reports PTI.

The Air Transport Association (ATA), a trade group representing America’s biggest carriers, has shot off a letter to US Exim Bank chairman Fred Hochberg opposing the decision, saying Air India’s financial ill-health should disqualify it from getting American help.

The US Exim Bank had last month decided to give loan guarantees of $1.3 billion to support Air India’s fleet acquisition from Boeing and another $2.1 billion preliminary commitment to support future deliveries of the US aerospace company's planes to the Indian national carrier.

A decision to this effect was taken early October by the board of directors of the Export-Import Bank of the US.

In its response, Exim Bank’s general counsel said the bank stood by its decisions and processes, though it would investigate some of ATA’s assertions about its procedures, a report in the Wall Street Journal said.

“Air India’s borrowing is backed by a sovereign guarantee of the Indian government and its business plan has been vetted by Exim Bank staff,” the report quoted a US government official as saying.

The official said support to foreign buyers of Boeing planes was important since if the US plane maker could not sell airplanes to foreign buyers like Air India, its chief rival Europe’s Airbus probably would.

Air India has pending orders for 27 Boeing Dreamliners, the deliveries of which are expected to begin by the end of this year. These are part of the 68-aircraft order placed by the national carrier with the US plane manufacturer.

The Exim Bank support would enable Air India raise finances for acquiring latest technology aircraft at competitive interest rates compared to commercial financing.

ATA opposed the Exim Bank’s backing for Boeing sales, partly because US airlines are not eligible to receive it as domestic purchases are not considered exports, the report said.

It quoted ATA’s counsel Michael Kellogg as saying that the organisation was unhappy with the US government subsidies to foreign buyers of Boeing jetliners since “the bank’s support for foreign airlines injures US carriers.”

Mr Kellog said Air India is “generally considered one of the shakiest, riskiest and most poorly-run airlines in the world.”

The letter, which focussed on Air India, asked Exim Bank to slash subsidies to all overseas buyers of Boeing jets.

The letter, quoted by the Journal, states that Air India’s “long-running financial losses and widely reported management problems should disqualify it for US support.”

ATA also criticised Exim Bank for not being sufficiently open about its decision making.

US carriers believe that “foreign airlines are starting to flood international routes, including routes to the United States, with excess capacity, subsidised by the US government,” Delta Air Lines chief executive and ATA chairman Richard Anderson said in a written statement supporting ATA.

Subsidised competition “is crowding US carriers out of these markets and costing American jobs,” he said.

“The fight boils down to a dispute over which creates more high-value American jobs: Airlines or Boeing and its suppliers,” the Wall Street Journal report said.

Boeing is America’s biggest exporter and relies on a vast industrial base, majority of which is in the US.

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RBI sees bad loans of Rs5 lakh crore from power, realty and infra

RBI fears stressed assets of Rs5 lakh crore from power, real estate and infrastructure sectors on higher interest rates and slow growth. The rise in NPA may reflect very badly on bank’s book

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) fears that bank loans of around Rs5 lakh crore (Rs5 trillion) may come under stress due to rising interest rates and slow revenue growth. The sectors affected most by the bad loans would be power, aviation, real estate and roads. Experts believe that if economic activity does not pick up, the rising non-performing assets (NPAs) from these sectors will have a severe impact on the books of Indian banks.

Subir Gokarn, deputy governor of the RBI, on 8th November, had said that the NPAs of banks are not posing any threat to the banking system. However, sources confirm that the RBI is expecting huge bad debts of Rs5 lakh crore from various sectors.

According to the sources, the central bank has arrived at the amount considering possible NPAs from the state electricity boards (SEBs), real estate due to slow demand, particularly from the metros, and de-growth in aviation sector on higher cost of turbine fuel and excess capacity.

During the second quarter of the current fiscal, bad loans of listed banks in the country rose by 33% to Rs1 lakh crore due to rising interest rate and sluggish growth.

Power sector is under financial strain due to increasing losses by SEBs and non-execution of new projects because of the regulatory hurdle. Last year, power distribution companies, lost about Rs40,000 crore due to subsidised tariffs. Currently, experts say, banks are hesitating to extend fresh loans to these companies. Allahabad Bank, a public sector lender, has already frozen lending to power sector companies.

Macquarie Economic Research, in a report, noted that losses by SEBs would result in huge state fiscal deficit: “The last audited, published review of SEB finances in FY10 reflected an average loss of Rs.0.86/kWh in India, the FY11 annual SEB losses (without accounting for subsidy) have been reported by media to be around Rs700 billion+ (US$15bn, 0.9% of GDP). Incorporating the SEBs losses (subsidy received basis) would result in the state fiscal deficit widening from 2.3% of GDP to 3.0% of GDP in FY12,” Macquarie said.

According to rating agency, CRISIL, advances of around Rs56,000 crore, or 12%, which is the exposure of domestic financial institutions’ to the power sector, may turn into to bad loans if power distribution reforms are not taken soon. CRISIL said the sector also suffers from huge aggregate technical and commercial losses apart from the wide gap between average cost of power supply and actual realization.

Things are not rosy for the Indian aviation sector, as well. Kingfisher Airlines is not the only one under mounting debts. The entire sector is hit by the rising aviation turbine fuel cost, which is the major operational cost and over-capacity created due to more leased aircrafts by the companies. At the same time the yield per seat has fallen.

According to the estimates by Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA), an aviation industry consultant, during FY12, Indian aviation sector is likely to make a net loss of around Rs12,500 crore. Usually, the airlines cover the losses through additional funding from banks in the form of loans as working capital. Experts believe that in case there is a default, it directly affect the bank’s balance sheet.

Same goes with Indian real estate sector. According to RBI, Indian developers’ outstanding credit rose 23% to $24.4 billion or about Rs1.22 lakh crore at the end of June 2011 from a year ago period. However, with surging input costs and slumped sales, realtors are finding it tough to repay their dues. High inflation scenario has also made taking loans expensive. DLF, India’s biggest realtor, saw its debt going up by almost Rs1,000 crore during July-September 2011 to Rs22,519 crore. Mumbai-based realtor, HDIL has incurred a debt of Rs4,000 crore as of September end.

A series of scams hit the union government since last year, which has taken toll on the infrastructure projects such as construction of highways. Non-execution of these projects has put in financial strains on the infrastructure sector that may lead to possible default on loan repayment. According to a media report, the 20 biggest loans given by banks are related with infrastructure sector. Experts say that the rising input cost and interest rate is also escalating the cost of the projects.

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