India property legislation protecting home buyers passed into law



Mumbai // A much-awaited law on real estate in India aimed at protecting homebuyers was passed yesterday and is expected to help revive interest in property.

The real-estate regulation and development bill, which was cleared by the Rajya Sabha, or India’s upper house in parliament, is designed to bring transparency and regulation to the property sector. The lack of these factors had been deterring many potential homebuyers, including expatriates.

Under the new law, there will be harsh punishments for unscrupulous developers, as well as fines for delays. It also paves the way for the establishment of a real estate regulatory authority.

Anshuman Magazine, the chairman and managing director of CBRE South Asia, said that the legislation would have “a far reaching implication for the real estate and construction sector”.

He added: “If implemented in the right spirit, it could facilitate greater volumes of domestic as well as overseas investment flows into the sector. Homebuyer confidence in the property market is also likely to revive.”

Demand for Indian homes has been slack in recent years, as buyers have been put off by steep interest rates and high prices.

Anuj Puri, the chairman and country head of JLL India, said that the passage of the bill marked “an unequivocal victory for the Indian real estate sector”.

Mr Puri said: “Its enactment as a law will almost single-handedly revamp the way this sector works across the board, from developers to end-users and investors, to lending institutions and government agencies involved in the buying and selling of property.”

The bill applies to residential and commercial projects.

“The real-estate industry welcomes the major reform that promises to bring in much-needed transparency and accountability to the rather opaque sector, Mr Puri said. It will create a much needed consumer right protection umbrella for buyers of real estate, as well as creating lasting developer brands strong on quality and timely delivery of their projects.”

But Mr Puri added that a “single window” clearance was needed for developers to speed up permissions, otherwise builders could end up being unfairly punished for delays beyond their control to projects.

Anil Pharande, the chairman of Pharande Spaces, a residential developer in Pune, said the law would “have a profoundly positive effect on how both domestic and global investors view Indian real estate”.

Kishor Pate, the chairman and managing director of Amit Enterprises Housing, an Indian developer, also welcomed the move.

“Strict enforcement of project delivery timelines, verifiable construction quality and assurance of legal clearances will finally become a reality, and the consumer confidence, which had all but evaporated, will return,” he said.

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Mercer, the investment consulting arm of US services company Marsh & McLennan, expects its wealth division to at least double its assets under management (AUM) in the Middle East as wealth in the region continues to grow despite economic headwinds, a company official said.

Mercer Wealth, which globally has $160 billion in AUM, plans to boost its AUM in the region to $2-$3bn in the next 2-3 years from the present $1bn, said Yasir AbuShaban, a Dubai-based principal with Mercer Wealth.

Within the next two to three years, we are looking at reaching $2 to $3 billion as a conservative estimate and we do see an opportunity to do so,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Mercer does not directly make investments, but allocates clients’ money they have discretion to, to professional asset managers. They also provide advice to clients.

“We have buying power. We can negotiate on their (client’s) behalf with asset managers to provide them lower fees than they otherwise would have to get on their own,” he added.

Mercer Wealth’s clients include sovereign wealth funds, family offices, and insurance companies among others.

From its office in Dubai, Mercer also looks after Africa, India and Turkey, where they also see opportunity for growth.

Wealth creation in Middle East and Africa (MEA) grew 8.5 per cent to $8.1 trillion last year from $7.5tn in 2015, higher than last year’s global average of 6 per cent and the second-highest growth in a region after Asia-Pacific which grew 9.9 per cent, according to consultancy Boston Consulting Group (BCG). In the region, where wealth grew just 1.9 per cent in 2015 compared with 2014, a pickup in oil prices has helped in wealth generation.

BCG is forecasting MEA wealth will rise to $12tn by 2021, growing at an annual average of 8 per cent.

Drivers of wealth generation in the region will be split evenly between new wealth creation and growth of performance of existing assets, according to BCG.

Another general trend in the region is clients’ looking for a comprehensive approach to investing, according to Mr AbuShaban.

“Institutional investors or some of the families are seeing a slowdown in the available capital they have to invest and in that sense they are looking at optimizing the way they manage their portfolios and making sure they are not investing haphazardly and different parts of their investment are working together,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Some clients also have a higher appetite for risk, given the low interest-rate environment that does not provide enough yield for some institutional investors. These clients are keen to invest in illiquid assets, such as private equity and infrastructure.

“What we have seen is a desire for higher returns in what has been a low-return environment specifically in various fixed income or bonds,” he said.

“In this environment, we have seen a de facto increase in the risk that clients are taking in things like illiquid investments, private equity investments, infrastructure and private debt, those kind of investments were higher illiquidity results in incrementally higher returns.”

The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, one of the largest sovereign wealth funds, said in its 2016 report that has gradually increased its exposure in direct private equity and private credit transactions, mainly in Asian markets and especially in China and India. The authority’s private equity department focused on structured equities owing to “their defensive characteristics.”

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