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Demonetisation was blessing for realty sector, RERA and GST will clean it up

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GST

By Vinod Behl 

Though the government’s radical measure of demonetisation has disrupted the economy and has hit the real estate sector — already reeling under prolonged slowdown — it will turn out to be a blessing in disguise in the medium-to-long term.

As an asset class, real estate has been a big source of generating and consuming black money. The cash component in real estate has been there at various levels, beginning with land transactions where it amounts to 30-50 per cent. The cash payout is quite high in luxury housing too. The consumption of cash has been as high as 30 per cent in secondary market transactions.

The primary market transactions, however, are by far bereft of cash component as home purchases are financed through loans from banks and housing finance corporations. It is another matter that even in primary market deals, developers have been encouraging cash payouts by luring property buyers with good discounts on property price.

The speculative buying by investors through offerings like underwriting and pre-launches has also been involving cash payout, leading to artificial price hike and in turn making homes out of the reach of masses.

Demonetisation, coupled with the government’s move to check benami transactions through legislation and curbs on cash transactions, was meant to clean up the system.

This sudden ‘shake up’ was, however, not without its adverse impacts. Demonetisation badly affected the liquidity in the capital-intensive real estate sector, deepening the problem of massive fund shortage/cash crunch faced by developers reeling under delayed deliveries, which deterred buyers from purchasing property.

The impact was more evident in markets like NCR and Mumbai which were largely investor-driven, compared to southern markets of Bengaluru and Chennai and even Pune in the west, which have been end-user driven. The premium/luxury residential segment, in which the cash component was more in transactions, got impacted by demonetisation.

Real estate experts’ belief that the impact of demonetisation is only short-term and will not have long-term impact, stems from the fact that developers who have been following transparent and fair practices have not been affected by demonetisation and instead it worked out to their advantage.

This also turned out to be a positive development for big global real estate consultants like JLL India which doubled its profits in 2016 over 2014-15, with 60 per cent revenue growth.

One key positive impact of demonetisation and RERA (Real Estate Regulation Act) has been that speculative investors deserted real estate and end-users/genuine buyers, who were all these years pushed to the sidelines, came out in large numbers. Now, it is the property consumers who are driving the real estate market, especially residential market, aided by the government’s pro-industry and pro-consumer initiatives.

The step to promote affordable housing and according real estate industry status for the purpose of making easy and cheap funds available to the sector also helps.

Demonetisation has particularly boosted foreign funding. The transparency brought in by demonetisation, aided by RERA, GST reforms and liberalisation of FDI norms, has boosted the confidence of foreign investors, which is clearly evident from the spurt in foreign investments, particularly from pension funds.

This will inject much needed liquidity in the sector starved of funds. Targeting consumers, the government under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY), is providing substantial interest subsidy to home buyers. The clampdown on floating cash in the system has contributed significantly to curbing inflation which, in turn, helped RBI in cutting interest rates, thereby boosting home buying.

The proposed measures to liberalise FSI norms and rationalise stamp duty, will give further fillip to the residential sector, particularly affordable housing.

Demonetisation had a salutary impact on property prices by curbing cash transactions and checking speculative pricing, in turn increasing affordability, which is a key to achieve the government’s flagship mission of ‘Housing for All’. RERA & GST are further aiding demonetisation to control prices.

The key provisions in RERA, to speed up project completion, by checking diversion of funds through mandatory escrow account, stringent penalties to check project delays, together with the government’s move to make all building sanctions online, will go a long way in checking time and cost overruns of real estate projects, thereby controlling home prices.

The ban on pre-launching of projects under RERA will also check artificial spurt in pricing. GST has come to tackle the flow of cash in the purchase of building materials by introducing input credit tax. Further, the government’s plans to liberalise FSI norms, especially for affordable homes, and rationalising stamp duty will have a sobering effect on property prices.

But for some little lingering effect, economists and real estate experts believe that the overall downside impact of demonetisation has faded and its impact is not going to be there in the next quarter.

Says Ashwinder Singh, formerly CEO of JLL India & now CEO of leading real estate consultancy, Anarock Consultants: “Other than in terms of the initial confusion-induced decline in sentiment, the trend that is emerging now, points towards a recovery in buying sentiment with serious buyers already returning to primary markets.”

The entire demonetisation exercise undertaken by the government and aided by other reforms, like Benami Property Act, RERA and GST, is to be looked at in the backdrop of the government’s multi-pronged policy to create institutional and regulatory framework for speedy and steady growth of the economy. And at the centre of all these initiatives is real estate, which is a key contributor to GDP. Going forward, these policy initiatives will help make real estate more organised, transparent, credible and affordable, making the sector investor and consumer friendly.

IANS

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Vodafone retrospective tax decision was erroneous: Jaitley

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Vodafone Tax Case

The decision taken by the previous UPA government to tax British telecom multinational Vodafone Group retrospectively was an “erroneous” one, the likes of which the ruling NDA would be loath to repeat, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said on Saturday.

He was responding to a question from the audience here on the issue at the ET Global Business Summit here.

“I always felt Vodafone tax decision was an erroneous decision. This government decided it will not be taking any retrospective decision,” Jaitley said.

It was precisely for this reason that the Long Term Capital Gains Tax reintroduced in the Budget earlier this month had been exempted for investments made up to January 31, 2018, he added.

The Budget 2018-19 has proposed to tax long-term capital gains on equities exceeding Rs 1 lakh at 10 per cent, which is expected to bring in revenue of Rs 20,000 crore.

However, capital gains made on shares until January 31, 2018, will be “grandfathered”, Jaitley said while presenting the budget, adding “we have protected all investments coming in before February 1”.

Vodafone is facing tax claims and interest totalling more than Rs 22,000 crore in India, which includes Rs 14,200 crore for acquiring Hutchison’s stake in 2007.

The UPA government had said that the Hutchison-Vodafone deal was liable for tax deduction at source (TDS) under the Income Tax (IT) Act. While the Supreme Court subsequently quashed the demand in January 2012, the government amended the IT Act retrospectively, putting the liability back on Vodafone Group.

The company last year said an international arbitration tribunal would begin trial on Vodafone’s challenge to India’s retrospective legislation to seek Rs 22,100 crore in taxes.

In this connection, the UK India Business Council (UKIBC) has said thatb predictability and clarity regarding retrospective taxation would help British companies to invest more in India.

“I think that if there was more clarity, certainty, predictability around retrospective taxation and (resolving) the Vodafone issue that would help the UK companies make their investment decisions in India,” UKIBC Managing Director Richard McCallum told IANS over a telephonic interaction on Friday.

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Equities recoup on value buying after 3 weeks of losses

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Mumbai, Feb 24: After three weeks of consecutive losses, the key Indian equity indices bounced back from their lows to close this week with humble gains on value buying by investors.

Market observers said futures and options (F&O) expiry infused volatility in the domestic markets, amid global cues and a slew of domestic developments like the $1.8 billion fraud reported by the Punjab National Bank (PNB) and a weakening rupee due to the continuous outflow of foreign funds.

However, losses were trimmed as bargain-hunting by investors on the last trading day of the week lifted the benchmark indices.

On a weekly basis, the barometer 30-scrip Sensitive Index (Sensex) of the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) edged higher by 131.39 points or 0.39 per cent to close at 34,142.15 points.

The wider Nifty50 of the National Stock Exchange (NSE) closed trade at 10,491.05 points — up 38.75 points or 0.37 per cent from its previous week’s close.

“The week gone by saw the Nifty bouncing back from a low of 10,302 to finally end with a modest gain. This week’s gains came after three weeks of losses,” Deepak Jasani, Head, Retail Research, HDFC Securities, told IANS.

According to D.K. Aggarwal, Chairman and Managing Director of SMC Investments and Advisors, markets across the globe fluctuated wildly — highlighting the market’s fragility — as investors continued to assess the quickening pace of economic growth and the prospects of the US Federal Reserve’s tightening efforts.

“Back home, the sentiment of market participants have been dented by factors such as surging US bond yields, a multi-crore fraud in India’s second-largest public sector lender PNB and the return of long-term capital gains (LTCG) tax on equities, which put a break on the record-setting market rally,” he added.

During the eight trading sessions following the detection of a $1.8 billion fraud in one of the branches of the PNB, the bank’s shares on the BSE have plunged almost 30 per cent to Rs 113.40 per share.

Gitanjali Gems, the other listed entity involved in the fraud case, also witnessed an eight-day fall in its shares, nosediving 60.54 per cent to Rs 24.80 per share.

“The consolidation in the domestic market continued due to the NPA (non-performing assets) issue in public-sector banks, trade deficit, conflict between NSE and SGX, rise in bond yield and depreciation in rupee due to selling by FIIs (foreign institutional investors),” said Vinod Nair, Head of Research, Geojit Financial Services.

On the currency front, the rupee weakened by 51-52 paise to close at 64.73 against the US dollar from last week’s close of 64.21-22.

Provisional figures from the stock exchanges showed that FIIs sold-off scrips worth Rs 5,781.98 crore, while domestic institutional investors (DIIs) purchased scrips worth Rs 5,972.69 crore during the week.

Figures from the National Securities Depository (NSDL) revealed that foreign portfolio investors off-loaded equities worth Rs 3,054.94 crore, or $468.06 million, during February 20-23.

Sectorwise, Jasani said: “The top sectoral gainers were IT, metal and Bank Nifty indices. The top losers were auto, realty and pharma indices.”

The top weekly Sensex gainers were: Tata Consultancy Services (up 4.76 per cent at Rs 3,076.90); Yes Bank (up 3.75 per cent at Rs 323.60); Infosys (up 2.74 per cent at Rs 1,155.65); Kotak Bank (up 2.67 per cent at Rs 1,079.85); and Coal India (up 2.49 per cent at Rs 310.55).

The losers were: Bajaj Auto (down 3.70 per cent at Rs 2,988); Asian Paints (down 3.65 per cent at Rs 1,101.90); Mahindra and Mahindra (down 3.29 per cent at Rs 719.30); Tata Motors (down 2.73 per cent at Rs 360.45); and Tata Motors (DVR) (down 2.32 per cent at Rs 203.85).

IANS

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In the Indian system politicians are accountable but regulators are not: FM Jaitely on Banking frauds

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arun Jaitely
Finance Minister Arun Jaitely at Global Business Summit (Photo-ANI)

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Saturday told that cases of periodical willful default are much more dangerous than business failure and bank frauds.

Speaking at Global Business Summit the leader pointed out that these kinds of incidents not only harm the economic atmosphere like the ease of doing business but also scars the economy.

The finance minister Jaitley also said, “If a fraud is taking place in multiple branches of banking system & no one raised the red flag, doesn’t that become worrisome for a country. Similarly, top management who were indifferent, multiple layers of auditing system which chose to look another way, it creates a worrisome situation.”

The leader also referred that Regulators plays important roles and decide the rules of the game and they have to have a third eye which perpetually is open.

“Unfortunately, in the Indian system we politicians are accountable but regulators are not,” he added.

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