Puravankara Projects sets up office in Saudi Arabia
NEW DELHI: Bangalore-based real estate developer Puravankara Projects is venturing into Saudi Arabia to cater to the housing needs of non-resident Indians living in the country.
There is a large interest among Indians in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to invest in luxury and affordable homes in India and with a new office in Al Khobar, Dammam, Puravankara is hoping to tap into this growing market for its projects in India. The company has had a presence in Dubai for over two decades.
To reach out to NRIs, the company has also set up a 24/7 sales support desk in India through which Indians anywhere in the world can reach out at any time.
"The office in Saudi and the 24/7 sales desk would help many Indians abroad who have always thought of owning a home in India, but have not had the time or the means to help them in the decision making," says Jackbastian K Nazareth, chief executive officer of Puravankara Projects.
Godrej Properties partners with Royal LePage to tap Canadian buyers
Godrej Properties has announced that it has partnered with Royal LePage to help Canadians and non-resident Indians (NRIs) invest in India’s growing real estate market.
There are a large number of NRIs who are looking for opportunities to invest in India. This partnership would provide them a platform to access the residential developments offered by Godrej Properties across the country.
Pirojsha Godrej, Managing Director and CEO, Godrej Properties, said, “It is important for Godrej Properties to have a strong and experienced partner to extend our project portfolio to Canada. Royal LePage’s trusted name and national reach made them our preferred choice. This partnership will help us connect with the Indian community across Canada.”
“Godrej Properties is a subsidiary of Godrej Group, a well known and trusted organization in India with 115 years of experience,” said Phil Soper, President and Chief Executive, Royal LePage. “We are excited about leveraging their experience to the benefit of our network and clients.”
“Royal LePage is committed to exploring new ways to provide excellent service, meet evolving client demands and create new opportunities,” Soper added. “Our partnership with Godrej Properties provides Canadians and non-resident Indians easier access to new opportunities while working with a trusted Royal LePage agent.”
The dipping rupee in the past few months has brought a lot of cheer to US-based NRI Tarun Arora. His loyalties are not misplaced, but his glee is justifiable. With the rupee weakening consistently, he will now be able to buy a house in India.
"I have been planning to purchase a house in Mumbai as an investment for some time, but since the property prices have been going up steadily, I kept postponing the decision," says the 35-year-old hardware engineer.
However, as the real estate market has now turned sluggish and the depreciating rupee adds more power to Arora's dollars, he is likely to acquire a property at a cheaper rate. "I expect the developer to offer a good discount as the demand for real estate is low. Also, my mortgage payments will be lower compared with the sum I would have had to pay a year ago," he adds.
Anuj Puri, chairman & country head, Jones Lang LaSalle, reveals that realty purchases by expatriates constitute about 8% of all property transactions in the country. "NRIs prefer to buy real estate as it is considered one of the safest investment avenues. It is also a source of rental income and there is surety that the capital value will appreciate," he adds.
Another reason is that there is a slowdown in most economies worldwide, while a few sectors are still lucrative in India. So, for the Indians who are living abroad and plan to return if they get better job opportunities here, investing in real estate while the prices are stagnant, makes sense.
If an NRI finances the property through a bank loan, he would have to pay much lower monthly payouts compared with the amount he would have had to dispense a year ago (see How weak rupee benefits NRIs). The rupee was valued at 45.04 against the dollar on 22 June 2011, while it was trading at 57.15 as on 22 June 2012.
So, the buyer ends up saving nearly 27% on his monthly payouts. Also, in case he remits his savings to India, he can get more rupees for his dollars. While last year, he could have got Rs 45,040 for every $1,000 that he sent, he now stands to receive Rs 57,150 for the same amount.
How an NRI can buy property
What are the things that NRIs need to keep in mind while buying property in India? They can purchase any number of residential or commercial properties, but cannot opt for agricultural land, plantation land or a farmhouse. They cannot acquire such property even as a gift, though there is no bar on inheriting it.
If you are of Indian origin with a US or UK passport wanting to buy a property in the country, you need to have a Person of Indian Origin (PIO) certificate as eligibility proof. If you do not have this, you can produce your mother's or your father's birth certificate. You will have to submit these documents at the Indian embassy of your country.
An NRI can avail of a loan from a bank in India or its branch abroad to buy a property here. Says Sandeep Sadh, chief executive officer of Mumbaiproperty.com, a Mumbai-based real estate portal: "An NRI can get a loan of up to 80% of the property value just like ordinary citizens. The loan, however, will be disbursed only after the NRI registers the property." Most Indian banks have set up branch offices overseas to help the NRIs process these loans through their Indian offices.
There are some additional documents that an NRI may need to submit with the loan application form. These include a copy of the passport and visa, and a general power of attorney in favour of a local person as drafted by the bank and duly attested by the Indian consulate at the place of residence.
If he is employed abroad, some banks may ask for a copy of the appointment letter and contract, salary certificate, specifying name, date of joining, designation and salary details, as well as bank statements for the last six months (both domestic and international), and a copy of local income tax returns filed in the country of residence.
The down payment can be made through a direct remittance from abroad, traditional banking channels or deposit accounts in India. "Banks take into account the NRI's repatriable income, along with any other income he might have earned in India, while calculating his loan eligibility," says Sadh.
An NRI can also transfer funds through his Foreign Currency Non-resident (FCNR) account, Non-resident External (NRE) account or a Non-resident Ordinary (NRO) account to buy property. An NRE account can be opened by depositing foreign currency in the account. This currency can be tendered in the form of traveller's cheques or notes.
An NRO account is similar to the usual bank account and can be opened by an Indian who is going abroad with the intention of becoming an NRI. An NRI can also open this account by sending remittances from his home country or by transferring funds from another NRO account that he holds. Such an account offers the same facilities as an NRE account, except that any repatriation done through this account needs be reported to the RBI by filling up forms that have been prescribed by it.
Other than the mandatory stamp duty and registration charges, the NRI buyer is also required pay taxes on the property if it is let out on rent. As for the rental income, the rules applicable to resident Indians are valid for NRIs as well.
However, the NRIs living in countries with which India has a Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) can avail of lower tax rates. So, if you work in the US and receive income from India, you will have to pay taxes only in the US.
You can inform your Indian payer not to deduct tax at source by submitting a Tax Residency Certificate, issued by the US IRS to the payer in India. If you do not submit this and tax is deducted, you can claim credit in the US return. However, you will not be able to avail of tax deduction on home loan repayments unless you file your returns in India.
BANGALORE: Residential property sales in Kerala have dropped up to 40% in the last three quarters as non-resident Indians, who account for 70% of the demand, slashed investments due to project delays, high prices as well as better returns on bank deposits.
Top builders such as Sahara Group, DLF, Unitech, SRK Group, a Day Properties and Abad Builders have either delayed, downsized or shelved their projects due to dwindling interest among NRIs, who have been driving up property prices in God's own country about 20% every year.
"Property brokers' business from NRI clients has almost halved," TKC Jose, president of Real Estate Agents Association of Kerala, said. "The market has been stagnant and we have not seen much activity from NRIs in the past six month," he said.
Typically, July-August and October-December are considered peak seasons for NRI property purchases in India. July-August is summer vacation in the Gulf region --where most of the NRI remittances to Kerala come from. But brokers and developers say there has been tepid response so far this year despite increasing remittances due to the depreciating rupee.
"Normally, property sales pick up once the rupee falls, but that trend is not seen," says SN Raghuchandran Nair, managing director of Kerala-based real estate firm SI Property. As per a World Bank report, $64 billion of remittances poured into India in 2011 due to weakening rupee and robust economic action in the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) countries. It is estimated that money sent by emigrants living in the GCC countries such as Oman, the UAE and Saudi Arabia to Kerala is equivalent to the state's budget.
Most NRI investors blame long delays in project delivery for their decision not to invest in property. S Jose, a senior official working with a multinational food processing company in Dubai for 10 years, invested in property in Kochi in 2005 and was promised possession in two years. He is still waiting. "My money has been misused... Now I would only invest if the property is recommended by someone known to me," he says. Industry insiders estimate that around 70% of residential properties in a price bracket of Rs 2,700 to Rs 4,000 per sq ft, under construction across Kerala, are delayed by over two years now. There are some 10,000 such properties. "NRIs are very cautious and are only buying property in projects which are completed or nearing completion. They do not want to risk their money," says PA Varghese , senior VP marketing of Skyline Builders, a Kochi-based real estate company.
Another issue worrying many NRI investors is high property prices in the state. Increasing NRI investment in the residential segment over the past few years in cities such as Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode has led to over 20% increase in the capital value annually. Investments have slowed down since October last. Property prices across India have crossed the peak level of 2007, but residential property sales are down anywhere between 10-50 % in the country, mainly due to high property prices and rising cost of borrowing. In Kerala, apartment sales have fallen 20-40 %, diminishing the industry's attraction as a safe investment haven.
"I had earlier decided to invest an additional Rs 80 lakh to purchase property in Kerala, but now I prefer to put the money in the bank," says Zubin J, a Keralite based in Dubai. He had bought an apartment worth Rs 70 lakh in 2005 and is still waiting for its possession. In a high interest rate regime, many banks offer assured return of 9.5% on fixed deposits, making many NRIs park their money in banks than invest in property. George Sebastian, promoter of Kochi-based property brokerage firm Global Properties, says some NRIs are investing in land, coconut grooves and farmhouses rather than apartments.
"Investing in other asset class gives them double return on their investment with lower risk," he says. Experts say NRIs are having problem in their own economy and they would rather play safe. "They want to follow the wait-andwatch strategy in the hope that property prices will come down," Siddhart Goel, national head for research Cushman & Wakefield, says.
SMALL IS BEAUTIFUL
The drop in NRI demand has forced most builders to redesign projects to smaller units, so that they can capture the local demand and reduce project cost. "Modifying projects is the order of the day as builders look to generate cash flow. Small builders are unable to sustain as many buyers have stopped payment as properties get delayed," says K Srikant, chairman of SFS Homes.
PROPERTY SALES dropped up to 40% in the last three quarters as NRIs, who account for 70% of the demand, slashed their investments REASONS INCLUDE project delays, high prices as well as better returns on bank deposits APARTMENT SALES have also fallen 20-40 %, diminishing the industry's attraction as a safe investment haven.
Indians own more than a hundred of 900 apartments in Dubai’s Burj Khalifa
NEW DELHI: Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest tower and perhaps the poshest address in the Gulf, is fast acquiring a distinct Indian identity.
Indians now own more than a hundred of 900 apartments in Dubai's 828-metre skyscraper, a sign of the growing financial power of the community in the West Asia.
"Indians have bought between 100 and 150 apartments since its completion in 2010," an executive of project developer Emaar Properties said on condition of anonymity.
The figure reflects a growing trend among well-heeled Indians to invest in property in the West Asia, especially Dubai, the luxury hotspot where the real estate market is on a rebound after the slump in 2008.
Here, the depreciating rupee is no dampener.
"Indians are the No. 1 when it comes to buying property in Dubai. They buy, sell, flip regularly, and we are getting a lot of queries from them," said Manish Khatri, vice-president of business development and investments at Dubai-based SPF Realty.
Khatri said more than half of SPF's business comes from Indians.
Prominent Indians who have acquired an address in Burj Khalifa include actors Mohanlal and Shilpa Shetty, Shetty's entrepreneur husband Raj Kundra and lawyer Rohit Kochhar.
BR Shetty, the owner of the Emirate's NMC Hospital and money transfer firm UAE Exchange, is reported to have bought the entire 100th floor, while NV George, who owns 14% stake in the Kochi International Airport, has bought seven apartments in the iconic building.
"It's a huge status symbol to own an apartment in the building," said Delhi-based lawyer Kochhar, who set up an office in Dubai recently. He has the option of inviting clients to the exclusive owners' lounge on the 123rd floor, he added.
Buying property in Burj Khalifa, however, offers more than just a coveted address. "There is a huge demand for rental in this building," George said, alluding to the six apartments he has rented out. George sold one two months ago for a 50% profit. Property dealers confirm real estate prices are on the upswing in Dubai, West Asia's trading hub.
"Property rates are going up and investors see a good opportunity for price appreciation in this market," said Parvees A Gafur, chief executive officer at Dubai-based Propsquare Real Estate.
Property prices in the UAE had plummeted during the global financial crisis, with several project developers halting sales. They started stabilising early this year following a pick up in economic growth. "Since January this year, rates have risen 20%-30% in the prime areas of Dubai," said Khatri of SPF Realty.
Apartments in the 206-storey Burj Khalifa now cost between 38,000 and 45,000 per sq ft, up from 31,600 per sq ft last year. When the market was at its peak in 2008, the same property was fetching 1,06,000 per sq ft.
Real estate brokers say that while the Burj is a favourite, Indians have also been buying in many other projects across the region. "Many are buying property here to get easy access to the region to set up businesses," Mudassir Zaidi, a regional director at property advisory firm Knight Frank, said.
Indian, Iranian investors leading ‘millionaire bandwagon’ snapping up Burj Khalifa''s luxury apartment
London: Indian and Iranian investors are reportedly leading the way in snapping up luxury apartments and shop spaces in the tallest man-made structure in the world, Dubai’s Burj Khalifa.
Government officials in Dubai have revealed that while more than 128 million dollars from Tehran has already been blown on the 828 meter high Burj Khalifa in the last six months, more money has arrived from Indian investors, who are keen to exploit the 700 dollar to 1,000 dollar per sq ft price, which is up to ten times cheaper than prime London locations.
Iranian investors have been in Dubai for a long time. They have money here, which can be easily invested. Iranians usually buy property through their company due to sanctions,” the Daily Mail quoted an employee of Oliver Essex, a consultant which specialises in Burj Khalifa property, as saying.
“Iranians have problems getting finance, which is why they are mostly involved in cash buys. We have sold three floors on the Burj, and this involved Iranian buyers,” a Dubai-based real estate broker added.
Dubai, 100 miles across the Gulf, has been a major trading hub for Iran for more than a century, with an estimated 8,000 Iranian traders and trading firms registered in the emirate, the paper said.
The Burj Khalifa boasts the world''s first Armani hotel on the bottom floors, houses 900 Dubai residences, 37 floors of office space, a fine dining restaurant and an observation deck, the paper added.
Foreign investor purchases in freehold projects in Dubai are still dominated by Indians who retained the number one spot since foreign ownership regulations were applied, a new research has revealed.
According to the Real Estate Investment Promotion and Management Centre at the Dubai Land Department (LD), Indian investors have bought a total of 2,153 properties valued at Rs. 5,670 crore (3.751 billion dirhams). Pakistanis are at the second spot for having bought a total of 1,814 properties at Rs. 4,400 crore (1.713 billion dirhams).
The research revealed that the total value of direct foreign investments in the real estate sector exceeded Rs. 33,300 crore (22 billion dirhams).
The funds were pumped by foreign investors of various nationalities to buy 12,875 roperties including buildings, lands, apartments and residential villas during the first half of 2012.
"The real estate sector performance is moving from strength to strength over the past two years. The market has been attracting more foreign investors, which reflects the solid national economy and its excellent growth potentials,"Majida Ali Rashid, Chairwoman of the Real Estate Investment Promotion and Management Centre, said.
Sultan Al Akraf, senior director of the real estate registration services at the Dubai Land Department, said the figures reflect an ongoing upside trend and a positive growth in the realty market performance.
He said the total value of real estate transactions has exceeded Rs. 95,380 crore (63 billion dirhams) in the first half of this year - a 21% growth year-on-year. The results have been achieved through 18,953 transactions.
Tax haven property markets thrive as political scrutiny grows
London: A judicial crackdown and mounting political pressure on legal tax avoidance are failing to deter companies from setting up in European tax havens.
Growing numbers of accountants, banks and consultants are signing lengthy office leases in Luxembourg and the Channel Islands as they flock to serve customers seeking the legal ways to cut their tax bills offered by having a offshore base.
That is in stark contrast to the traditional financial districts of London and Paris, where letting markets are lacklustre.
The tax avoidance business is alive and well, tax adviser turned campaigner Richard Murphy told Reuters. The economic downturn is not having any impact on this type of banking.
More than seven percent of offices in London's financial district are vacant - more than double the rate in Luxembourg's three business districts. Jersey's has close to no vacant prime office space, said consultant Montagu Evans.
The equivalent of about seven soccer pitches of office space was let in Luxembourg in the first half of 2012, the highest level in four years, with almost 60 percent taken by banks, accountants and business consultants, data from property consultant Jones Lang LaSalle showed.
The picture is similar in offshore centres in the Caribbean. Though hard data is thin, local property agents told Reuters the best Barbados offices are close to full occupancy while law firms and accountants expanded throughout the recession in the Cayman Islands.
Offshore centres tend to be characterized by their small geographical size, low tax regimes and financial sectors that are disproportionately large to the size of their domestic economies.
Last month, a Reuters report showed Starbucks had legally lowered its UK tax bill with inter-company loans, paying royalty fees to foreign subsidiaries and allocating money made in the UK to other units in so-called transfer pricing.
Last week, British Prime Minister David Cameron said he was unhappy with the level of tax avoidance by big companies.
Jersey and Guernsey are the world's top offshore centres according to the Global Financial Centres Index, which scores cities on taxation, corruption, regulation, quality of staff and airports and the ratings of local employees.
In a list of global financial centres by size headed by London, they rank 21st and 31st respectively, while landlocked Luxembourg, which the index said competes i n a similar way to offshore hubs, came 23rd.
They gained a reputation for sheltering tax exiles thanks to banking secrecy laws and have been targeted by G20 leaders in a crackdown on secretive financial centres that includes Switzerland's banking system.
Jersey and Guernsey generally tax companies at zero percent, while Luxembourg has low sales taxes and does not charge companies on interest made from loans to the UK.
In 2009, all three signed up to an international 'white list' of areas that are attempting to clean up their act by agreeing to internationally agreed tax standards.
But the recent reports linking them to tax reduction strategies by companies including Amazon and British celebrities such as comedian Jimmy Carr have triggered political anger and kept the negative image alive, even though what they do is legal.
Businesses don't always take notice of public outcry, said Prem Skikka, professor of accounting at the University of Essex.
Societe Generale took the most space of any company in Luxembourg in the first half of 2012, signing a deal for about 98,000 square feet in a new office block for about 10 years, local property agents said. The bank declined to comment.
It may sound counterintuitive but what's been driving the Luxembourg market for the last 12 months is the financial sector, said Pierre-Paul Verelst, Jones Lang LaSalle's head of research for the Benelux region.
Chinese banks are also shifting their European offices from London to Luxembourg.
On Jersey, accountant KPMG moved into a new office twice as big as its previous one in August while PricewaterhouseCoopers will move into a newer, larger office in coming months. Both signed 15-year leases, said Montagu Evans.
Accountants, banks and lawyers that advise companies on offshore tax planning often take much larger offices and hire more staff than their clients, whose presence in these hubs can sometimes amount to no more than a letter box.
Jersey has the right tax neutral and transparent infrastructure in place to attract clients like private equity companies to the island, meaning PwC will stay for the long-term, said Brendan McMahon, PwC partner in Jersey.
Moving to new premises is a sign of our confidence that economic conditions in Jersey will improve, said Jason Laity, KPMG Jersey's managing director.
Other residents of the rocky islands off the French coast include private equity tycoon Guy Hands, commodities trader Glencore and Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank.
But as the political temperature rises, some have expressed fear over the fragility of what are relatively small property markets as the scrutiny grows.
The market has been very robust, said Chris Daniels, managing director of Jersey at BNP Paribas Real Estate. But with all the uncertainty that surrounds us, these guys could almost disappear overnight.
Canadian NRI Bob Dhillon keen to enter Indian realty mkt
New Delhi: Canada-based NRI billionaire Bob Dhillon is considering investing up to USD 100 million (about Rs 540 crore) in the Indian real estate market and is planning to approach the Haryana government for developing a township near Chandigarh.
Dhillon, the President and CEO of realty firm Mainstreet Equity Corp, is visiting India as part of a large business delegation accompanying Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
"I am looking at Haryana, more specifically areas adjoining Chandigarh, for development of a township. I am in the process of discussion with the state government," he told PTI.
Dhillon, whose family hails from Tallewal village in Barnala district of Punjab, noted that the ageing population of Indian diaspora in Canada -- most of them are of descendants of Punjab -- is looking for a second home in India. The planned project would be near upcoming international airport.
On likely investment, he said: "Under the right circumstances, we would consider investing USD 25-100 million in India."
He said the investment in India might be in his personal capacity.
Asked about the Indian market, Dhillon said: "India is a developers' dream because of its demographics, migration from rural to urban areas and collapse of joint family system."
Stating that India needs institutional capital to deal with the rising housing demand, he said the government should make changes in laws to attract foreign investment.
The clarity in ownership rights, easy repatriation of capital and pragmatic landlord-tenancy act are required for easy inflow of institutional capital, he said.
"I would be in the best market of the world, if the policies were tweaked to my appetite," Dhillon said and hoped that the Indian government, which has made changes in retail FDI, would give priority to housing sector as well.
On his Toronto Stock Exchange-listed realty firm Mainstreet, he said the company, which acquires and rents apartments, has assets worth about USD 1.2 billion and has an annualised revenue of approximately USD 90-100 million. The company has over 8,000 apartments in Canada.