18 Apr, 2008, 0052 hrs IST,Sanjeev Choudhary & Vivek Sinha, TNN
NEW DELHI: The subprime crisis may have struck in the US, but real estate companies around the world are feeling the heat. The meltdown in property firms’ valuations in other economies, including India, China, Japan and the UK, has surpassed that of the US with Indian real estate companies witnessing one of the biggest falls. Some leading Indian real estate firms are trading at about 34% discount to their net asset values (NAVs), which implies that property firms are being valued at just two-thirds of the assets they hold.

This makes India the second-most affected nation after Malaysia in the first quarter of 2008 among key property markets, according to a Citigroup report. Interestingly, in the US, the property market index is trading at just 12% discount to its NAV. Its performance is even better than the global index, which is ruling at an 18% discount. NAV is the present discounted value of all future cash flows of a property firm. It factors in the existing landbank, overall development opportunities and project execution of a property firm. It is a valuation tool for real estate firms.

Analysts say the discount to NAV shows that the Indian property market is on a downswing. According to ICICI Direct real estate analyst Rupesh Sankhe, “Historically, when the property market cycle is on an upswing, firms trade at a premium to their NAVs, and during a downturn, this tends to get reversed with shares trading at a discount. Since real estate stocks are high risk, the trend gets amplified.”

Indian property stock prices have dropped as much as 50-67% and underperformed the Sensex by 23% in the first quarter of 2008. Such a sharp fall has widened the discount to their NAVs, which was just 1-2% in November ’07. This is despite the fact that Citigroup has lowered the NAVs of Indian property firms by 9-27% in its analysis. Real estate consultancy firm Cushman & Wakefield joint managing director Sanjay Dutt says high interest rates have made property firms with high debt exposure prone to rapid erosion of corporate valuations.

He added that each segment of the domestic real estate sector is facing problems: “With the exit of speculators from the residential market, the transaction volume is down by almost 40%. Secondly, a large part of the IT & ITES space is occupied by US and Europe-based MNCs, but in the first quarter of this year, a majority of them didn’t commit to any space and we don’t expect it to change in the second quarter either. In the office space, rates have started softening due to new supplies. Majority of the mall developers are also hit as cost of servicing debt has gone up and private equity funds are being cautious in investing in the sector.”

Valuations in the Indian real estate sector had peaked in January, when the benchmark stock market index, Sensex, also hit an all-time high, with realty stocks trading at over 20% premium to their NAVs. After the stock market crash, DLF, Unitech and Purvankara traded at a discount of 18%, 26%, and 49%, respectively, to their NAVs. Regionwise, Malaysia fared worse than India with property stocks here trading at a marginally higher discount compared to India. The correction in Chinese property stocks seems to be the deepest since November last year. Chinese property stocks are trading at a discount of 27% to their NAVs compared to a premium of 5% in November. The US, in fact, saw marginal reduction in discount since November ‘07.

Some risks appear to be priced in and the valuations seem attractive, but there could be more volatility ahead, says the Citigroup report, pointing out that the sector is highly vulnerable to capital flows as risk appetite tapers off.
Courtesy IndiaTimes
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  • US Housing Loan Crisis

    It’s another record in the real estate market, and it’s not a good one. RealtyTrac, the online foreclosure sale site, which has also been tracking foreclosure activity since the beginning of 2005, reports the single largest one-month volume of foreclosure activity it’s ever seen.
    Foreclosure activity in April--that’s default notices, auction sale notices and bank repossessions (so yes there can be more than one hit on the property, but we look at the total percentage increases)--was reported on 243,353 properties. That’s a 65% increase from April of 2007.
    Alright, so what about all the reports that borrowers are being helped, and all those programs to find and refi borrowers, and what about the word from some other sources that foreclosure numbers are actually dipping?
    Well here’s a disconcerting answer: Apparently the system, that is whatever court or clerk or local bureaucratic office is stuck with recording all this stuff, is stressed. In Ohio, for example, I’m being told that it can take two to six months to get your filings in the system.
    "In states like Michigan, we’re hearing from some of the trustees who actually do the foreclosures that the lenders have asked them to slow down because they don’t want to process any more into a market that won’t absorb the properties back through sales," says Rick Sharga of RealtyTrac.
    In Florida, a St. Lucie County court actually added a night shift to handle the massive backlog of foreclosure filings. The clerk of the courts was quoted as saying the caseload has become, “just horrendous.” The court used to handle about forty filings per month.
    In January they were tracking 715 foreclosure filings. Some are reporting lower numbers because the numbers simply can’t get into the system.
    The folks at RealtyTrac, and granted these folks list foreclosed properties for a fee, say they don’t believe we’ll see the numbers start to slow until the second quarter of 2009. May and June of this year, according to banking estimates, are supposed to be the peak of adjustable rate mortgage resets from subprime loans initiated in 2006.
    Lower interest rates on Libor (one of the most common of benchmark interest rate indexes used to make adjustments to adjustable rate mortgages) and other indices that correlate to ARM loans could help, as could continued efforts from FHA and lenders. But the sheer volume, it appears will remain high for now.
    All those foreclosed homes on the market will continue to push inventories up and push prices down in neighborhoods across the country.
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