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SEBI's ban on Jermyn Capital continues till Nov 2010
Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) said the restrictions imposed on Jermyn Capital LLC (JL) restraining the company from accessing the Indian securities market and from buying, selling and dealing in securities in the Indian market will continue till 30th November 2010.

However the order from SEBI said the revised timeline debarring Jermyn from dealing in the securities market is subject to the Supreme Court orders dated 5th December 2008, and 14th May 2009.

Earlier in 2007 the market regulator, while dismissing an appeal of JL, had said that the appellant was not a fit and proper person because Hugh Hamilton Andrews who managed the operations of the appellant was a close associate of Dharmesh Doshi who was a close associate of Ketan Parekh, a key accused in the stock market scam of 2001. SEBI said since Doshi and Parekh did not enjoy a good reputation, it was legitimate to infer that Andrews too did not enjoy a good reputation.

Doshi was director of Ketan Parekh entity Triumph International Finance (India) Ltd (TIFIL) and was also director of Jermyn Capital Partners Plc, (Jermyn plc) a 100% subsidiary of TIFIL.

SEBI said its investigations revealed that JL and Jermyn Plc were connected and Mihir Kapadia was on the board of both the entities and also a shareholder of JL, earlier known as Triumph Securities UK Plc.

Kapadia sold his entire holding in JL to Andrews on 1st June 2008 and resigned from both JL and Jermyn Plc on 1st June 2008 and 31 March 2008, respectively. Similarly, from 30th November 2008, Doshi also called off his association with JL.

Taking into consideration these two facts SEBI in its latest order on 23rd June 2009 observed that even after the person severs the association, there should be a moratorium before he can be considered fit and proper again. It said the ban on JL will continue till expiry of two years from the cessation of association between Jermyn Capital Partners Plc/JL and Dharmesh Doshi.

In January 2006, the market regulator debarred Jermyn Capital, a sub-account of the foreign institutional investor Taib Bank EC from accessing and dealing in securities in the market till further notice. Later the Securities Appellate Tribunal (SAT) turned down JL's appeal against SEBI order in September 2006 and also dismissed JL's review petition in March 2007.

In 2008, JL filed two civil appeals before the Supreme Court, which also dismissed both the appeals and referred the matter to SEBI with a request to dispose of the appeal within six months. -Yogesh Sapkale [email protected]

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Low-cost homes: too far and no time limit for possession
Following in the footsteps of Tata Group and Unitech, the Future Group has also entered in to affordable or low-cost housing projects. Future Group's unit FH Residencies has formed a joint venture with Kolkata-based developer Sumit Dabriwal, for building affordable, branded, ready-to-move-in homes.

Kishore Biyani, founder and chief executive, Future Group said it intends to be a Rs130 billion company by 2011 and the foray into building ready-to-move-in houses is part of the plan. The company has yet to work out the pricing strategies, but it would be affordable.

This is a national tie-up with Sumit Dabriwal and the target buyers would be young, working class, who are pressed for time, so we would take care of everything needed for a home, Biyani said. One more cash rich group entering into low-cost housing project is good news, but there are some concerns about the theme itself. In his recent letter to shareholders, Deepak Parekh, chairman, Housing Development Finance Corp (HDFC), said: "Affordable housing is not about box-sized, budget homes in far-flung places where there is no connectivity to work places and little surrounding infrastructure. Affordable housing has to be able to cut across all income segments and has to make economic sense in terms of proximity to the work place. The agenda for affordable housing requires combined public-private collaboration and a strong political will to enforce change."

Developers have recognised that the real demand no longer lies in the premium segment and are therefore opting to build smaller, no-frill apartments. 'Affordable housing' is suddenly in vogue. But this is a bit of a misnomer. Some correction in prices has happened, developer margins have come off, but real estate prices are still high, he added.

An industry associate has suggested the government and realty players should jointly undertake low cost housing projects in rural areas where shortage of houses is estimated to be more than 47.43 million up to 2012.

Developers are now reintroducing one-bedroom apartments, which seemed to have disappeared from the market. Further, with interest rate reduction, many who were earlier out-priced are now able to come back into the housing market. While these developments are positive, the real agenda for affordable housing has still not been brought to the table, Parekh said.

Talking about the shortage in affordable urban land, Parekh said the inability to adjust land policy with the changes in demand and supply conditions has led to serious shortages of urban land at affordable prices, encroachments on public and private lands, irrational land use and absence of spatial plans in cities.

The total urban land stock in India is only 2.3% of the country's total geographical area, but houses 30% of the country's population.

Parekh said there is a need to bring in additional urban land on a regular basis through a policy change and the floor space index (FSI) should be increased at the same time urban infrastructure should also be upgraded.

Talking about the role of housing boards in the development of houses, the HDFC chairman said although some state housing boards are performing their duties, in recent period many of them have shifted their focus to merely selling land for profit and sitting on cash surpluses. Such profits should be mandatorily ring fenced and deployed only for affordable housing, he added.

Separating challenges of urban housing from rural housing, Parekh said the government need to go for key reforms like permitting the mortgage of agricultural land for residential purposes and introducing title insurance which could give the much-needed thrust to rural housing.

There is such a compelling need for state level real estate regulators whose role would be to oversee and monitor the affordable housing agenda, promote real estate reforms, ensure transparency especially by mandating that flats be sold only based on carpet area and most importantly, act as a platform to protect buyers from real estate fraud, the HDFC chairman said. -Yogesh Sapkale [email protected]

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