India continues to hold its position as the world’s fastest growing G-20 economy. On the back of improved investor confidence and better policy reforms, India’s economic growth stood at 7.6% in the year ending March 2016, an uptick from the previous year (7.1%). However, after the demonetization drive undertaken by the Indian Government in November 2016, growth projections were lowered. The impact of demonetization was expected to be catastrophic for the economy, however, actual figures released for the initial months of 2017 have been encouraging; indicative that the economy is already on its way to fully absorb the impact of the policy.
The year 2017 is expected to be a year of fructification – with the results of all policy initiatives taken in 2016 beginning to take shape. Most of the steps, including Real Estate Regulatory Act (RERA), Goods and Services Tax (GST) and Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs), are aimed at improving transparency and enhancing the overall investor sentiment.
The year 2016 witnessed a majority of real estate investment concentrated towards well leased/well organized office developments, followed by residential and alternate sectors such as retail, logistics and hospitality. Retail assets witnessed a particular interest in the past year with players such as Blackstone, GIC etc. acquiring assets in Mumbai, Pune and Chennai. In 2017, proactive government policies are likely to provide a more secure environment for investors. While office and residential are expected to remain traditional drivers; however, alternate sectors such as retail and warehousing will also come to the forefront.
2016 Global Economic Overview
The global economy continued to face headwinds in 2016, particularly from landmark global events such as BREXIT and the US elections, to the rise of protectionism in the West. The global GDP growth stood at 3% in 2016 and is expected to increase slightly to 3.3% for the year 2017.
The Asia Pacific GDP growth stood at 4.3% in 2016 and is expected to ease slightly to 4.2% in 2017.The emerging giants – China and India are expected to lead regional growth – accounting for over 75% of the overall share in the APAC region. Southeast Asia is also expected to see robust growth backed by positive demographic trends. In China, the GDP growth is expected to decelerate to 6.5% or even less, owing to the shift in export-led economy to domestic demand driven growth. However, the recent signs of stabilization in Industrial Production and fixed asset investments confirm that a hard landing remains unlikely.
2016 Indian Economic Overview
India continues to hold its position as the world’s fastest growing G-20 economy. On the back of improved investor confidence, lower food prices and better policy reforms, India’s economic growth stood at 7.6% in the year ending March 2016, an uptick of 50 basic points from the previous year (7.1%). According to the IMF World Economic Outlook Update and the Moody’s Investors Service, the economy was expected to grow at 7-7.75% during FY 2016-17 and the subsequent year. However, after the demonetization drive undertaken by the government in November 2016, growth projections were lowered. The RBI lowered its earlier estimate of 7.6% GDP growth to 6.9%, while several other agencies lowered their growth estimates from 7-7.5 to 6-6.5% for the year ending March 2017.
The Central Bank has reduced the repo rates six times since January 2015, bringing the repo rate to a six-year low of 6.25%. This monetary easing was largely done on the back of a softening inflation target amidst slightly slower, but steady economic growth. However, in the February policy review, the Central Bank has moved away from an accommodative to a neutral stance, which indicates that the RBI feels that from a policy perspective, the correct interest rates have already been achieved.
The Demonetization Conundrum
In November last year, the Indian Government decided to discontinue the currency notes of INR 500 and 1000 denomination to address the long pending issue of circulation of unaccounted cash in the economy. The exercise did result in a short term disruption across various sectors such as agriculture, Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG), consumer durables, jewelry and real estate.
The impact of demonetization was expected to be catastrophic for the economy, however, the actual figures released for the months of January and February 2017 have been quite encouraging; indicative of the fact that the economy is already on its way to fully absorb the impact of the policy. The recent GDP figures are a testimony to the strength of the Indian economy, with GDP growth for the quarter ending December at a resilient 7%, as against the slashed expectations of 6-7%. The table 1 highlights the impact of demonetization had on various segments.
|Table 1: Short term Impact of Demonetization on Various RE Segments|
|RE sector||Short-term impact due to demonetization|
|Residential||Demonetization will infuse transparency in pricing and increase affordability across cities. With banks being flush with cash, a rationalization in mortgage rates has also been witnessed; thereby catalyzing end-user demand. Developers are topping this up with attractive schemes/payment plans to offload their unsold inventory.|
|Retail||While sales of luxury goods witnessed a short term dip; however, the long term consumption story remains intact. The various indicators on consumer confidence, consumer good sales, auto sales indicate positive consumption patterns.|
|Office||No immediate impact seen on transaction activity and new supply. Supply slippages anticipated in the short term, owing to regulatory / infrastructure delays. Increased participation likely to be seen from institutional players, as the operating environment becomes more transparent.|
|Industrial/ Warehousing||Supply slippages expected; as landlords are witnessing difficulties in completing under-construction supply. With most of the supply in the segment being unorganized, the elimination of the cash component is making deal structuring difficult. With limited availability of quality supply and GST in the offing, the timing is opportune for organized players to enter the segment.|
|Investment Markets||While residential remains the mainstay, other asset classes such as commercial, retail, etc. are also coming to the fore. The flavor of debt financing has been changing with lending rates and terms becoming more rational/flexible. The policy thrust of the government in 2016 to ease the funding and operating environment is expected to work in favor of spurring organized sources of capital into real estate.|
|Source: CBRE Research, Q1 2017|
Policy overview and impact on Indian Real Estate in 2017
The year 2017 is expected to be a year of fructification – with the results of the all the policy initiatives taken in 2016 beginning to take some shape. Most of the steps, including Real Estate Regulatory Act (RERA) and the Goods and Services Tax (GST) to Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs), are aimed at improving transparency and enhancing the overall investor sentiment towards real estate.
These changes will catalyze ease of doing business in the country, while supporting corporate entities entering or expanding their footprint across leading cities.
|Table 2: India Policy Overview|
|Policy initiative||Key highlights||Current status||Expected impact in 2017|
|Budget 2017||Affordable housing given ‘Infrastructure Status’, Relaxation in area measurements and completion timelines, tax sops for affordable housing
Increased investment outlays for infrastructure sectors, Monetization of airport land assets, Public-Private Partnership (PPP) mode announced for airport operations
Taxation benefits relating to capital gains tax for Joint Development Agreements and relaxation of holding period of capital gains on properties
|Post the government thrust, increased PE interest in the affordable housing segment; rising private player interest in infrastructure projects||The thrust given to affordable housing and infrastructure development in the budget, will work in conjunction with the various investment easing regulations during the year.|
|Implementation of the Real Estate Regulatory Act (RERA)||The Centre has set a deadline of 1st May 2017 for the act to come into force; all the states are required to establish their authorities by the deadline||The Centre released rules applicable for Union Territories including Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Daman & Diu, Lakshadweep and Chandigarh
Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh have notified guidelines
Delhi, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh have released draft/final rules
|Speedy settlement of disputes, due to the presence of a regulator
Boost foreign/domestic investment due to improved transparency
Expected increase in housing sales, due to improved buyer confidence
|Passage of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Act||Post passage of the Act in August 2016, a four tier GST rate structure of 5%, 12%, 18% and 28% across commodities has been proposed||As of December 2016, the Act has been ratified by all states except certain states such as Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, UP and West Bengal||Post adoption of a uniform GST rate, the warehousing sector in particular is expected to be positively impacted; corporates expected to consolidate and opt for larger warehouses. This is likely to attract PE investments, as deployment of capital expected to become easier|
|Revised REIT guidelines, November 2016||Increasing the share of under- construction properties in a REIT portfolio from 10% to 20%
A minimum cap of 200 on the number of unit holders
Removing the limit on the number of sponsors
The REIT shall refund money, if it fails to collect subscription amount of exceeding 90%
Revising the definition of infrastructure under “real estate” or “property” to include:
|Leading RE stakeholders are restructuring portfolios, in order to include assets in the country’s initial REIT listing||The country’s first REIT listing is likely to occur in the coming quarters Relaxed and clearer regulations likely to lead to an increased investor interest; inclusion of more asset classes under real estate expected to result in better quality of such “newer” assets, going forward|
Office Sector – Sustained Growth, New Strategies
Strong Leasing Momentum, Marginal Supply Rationalization in 2016
Looking at the key market trends for 2016, Bangalore and Delhi NCR dominated the office leasing activity, followed by Hyderabad and Mumbai. Hyderabad, in particular, witnessed a steep rise in occupier demand, with absorption more than doubling from 2015 to cross 6 million sq. ft. in 2016.
The traditional demand driver - the IT/ITeS sector maintained its dominance in 2016 as well, along with steady demand from Banking, Financial Services and Insurance (BFSI) and engineering and manufacturing sectors. Space take-up comprised both expansion and new lettings; driven by domestic and US-based occupiers, largely for their back-office operations.
Supply on the other hand, fell by about 12% in 2016, dropping to 35 million sq.ft. from approximately 39 million sq.ft. in 2015. The drop was largely on account of construction slippages in Delhi NCR (Gurgaon and Noida). With the traditional supply propeller witnessing a slowdown, development completions in 2016 were dominated by Bangalore and Mumbai. Rental trends displayed a clear divergence in 2016; rental growth began to taper in core micro-markets of cities such as Delhi NCR and Mumbai, while beginning to rise in decentralized peripheral micro-markets of cities such as Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai and Pune.
Demand in 2017: Increasing Decentralization, Rising Share Of Smaller Cities
Office leasing activity is expected to sustain in the short-term, backed by companies looking to expand or consolidate operations. However, we expect leasing activity to be marginally impacted in the medium to long- term, with space take-up likely to touch about 40 million sq.ft. While the top three cities (Delhi NCR, Mumbai and Bangalore) are likely to continue their dominance in the overall space take-up, the share of cities like Hyderabad, Chennai and Pune is also expected to rise; as these cities are increasingly being preferred by corporates for setting up operations/expansion. Demand is likely to continue to be driven by mainstay sectors such as IT/ITeS (mainly led by ITeS), BFSI, engineering and manufacturing; consulting and research will also remain an active sector.
The table 3 highlights the anticipated sectoral growth drivers across cities in 2017.
Supply in 2017: Dipping Construction Slippages, Increased Space Options in Decentralized Locations
Supply across the seven cities is expected to marginally rise to touch about 38 million sq.ft. in 2017. Completion delays across cities are likely to abate, particularly in Mumbai and Delhi NCR which are expected to witnessthe completion of pent up supply, post the resolution of regulatory/infrastructural delays. As this pent up supply gets released, the supply pipeline in 2017 will be dominated by Hyderabad, followed by cities such as Bangalore and Mumbai. Most of the upcoming supply will be in the peripheral/sub-urban locations, which is likely to attract enhanced enquiries and strong pre- commitment activity in the coming months.
On a positive note, we also expect a rise in quality supply - in the form of well-connected/located projects, with several states revising their Transit Oriented Development (TOD) policies in 2016. Under the new policies, developers would be able to increase the space offered in projects located within a certain distance of existing/planned Mass-Rapid Transit System (MRTS), thereby offering quality options to occupiers for future operations.
Additionally, instances of institutional funding for commercial projects is likely to increase in the near future with such supply expected to enter the market in the medium to long-term.
|Office outlook for 2017|
Overall Office Market Sentiment in 2017
Economic uncertainty due to an anticipated protectionist policy environment in the US, might have an impact on the office sector in India. A likely change in the US outsourcing policy is also likely to adversely impact the expansion plans of global corporates in India. outsourcing destination and the cost arbitrage offered is unlikely to be impacted in the short to medium term; however, any protectionist measure undertaken by the new US regime will certainly have a long term fallout on the sector.
The following table highlights the key drivers and inhibitors for the office market in India.
Residential Sector – Reforms to Catalyse Growth
Residential Sales and New Launches Remained Subdued in 2016
Prominent developers retained attractive schemes and discounts to attract potential buyers, which also included being flexible on pricing and payment schedules, especially for projects with quality construction, appropriate sizes and prime locations. Overall, India’s housing market continued to shift from a pure price play mechanism towards a market driven by commitment to delivery and right pricing strategies. With the landmark RERA Act, 2016, having been passed by both the houses of the Parliament, and state level legislations coming into place, the year 2017 looks like a watershed year for India’s residential market.
Supply in 2017: Supply Rationalization in the First Half; Green Shoots of Recovery Might be Visible in the Second Half of the Year
Housing supply in India during the first half of 2017 is expected to rationalize on account of cautious developer sentiment; largely due to the demonetization drive and the anticipated implementation of RERA. Limited/high cost of funding and sizable inventory pressure among developers might lead to delays in existing project completion timelines. Henceforth, majority of the developers would also aim at completing and delivering their existing inventory in hand, rather than launching new projects. However, the extent of the decline in new project launches is expected to vary across cities.
By mid-2017, it is expected that the impact of demonetization on the macro-economic sentiment might start dissipating; reduced mortgage rates (besides other policy steps by the government to enthuse the housing sector) is likely to revive the homebuyer sentiment. In the light of greater transparency, backed by government’s efforts at reviving housing sales and introduction of a national regulatory authority, developers with a strong track record will be encouraged to launch new projects across markets.
Demand in 2017: Housing Sales to Remain Dormant in H1 2017 Despite Favorable Lending Environment
Housing sales are expected to remain dormant in the first few months of 2017, both in the primary and secondary markets. This is likely to be followed by a period of relative stability in the second half of the year, as homebuyer enquiries are expected to rise due to a favorable lending and policy environment. As a result, we might see a greater proportion of housing sales for end- use purchase; especially in the mid-end to affordable category.
On an annual basis, the cities of Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai and Pune are expected to witness an overall stability in housing sales by the end of 2017. Increase in demand in the mid-end / high-end and affordable segments, along with a relatively larger presence of end use buyers might resuscitate the decline in sales by the second half of 2017 in these markets, thereby instilling stability on an annual basis.
Prominent and credible developers would continue to observe stable sales activity backed by better credibility, sufficient funding, better quality of construction, timely project delivery, and better amenities; as compared to smaller players (mostly unlisted) who might face capital crunch and low sales margin.
|Residential outlook for 2017|
Retail Sector – Getting Investment Ready
Robust Demand From Occupiers, Private Equity Bullish on Retail in 2016
The private equity investment landscape was particularly vibrant for retail real estate in 2016. The cumulative investments by private equity/ wealth funds were estimated to be more than USD 700 million across major retail assets.
Supply in 2017: Southern Cities Expected to Lead Fresh Supply Addition
The year 2017 is likely to be positive for retail witnessing an increased quality supply with an addition of almost 7 million sq.ft. of Grade A supply, to be led by the Southern cities of Hyderabad and Bangalore. Even though we see a strong supply pipeline, the demand for organized retail space will continue to exceed the supply in most leading markets. With fresh supply on radar expected in cities such as Hyderabad, Bangalore, Chennai etc., we are likely to see global and national brands execute their entry and expansion strategy in these cities, leading to a more uniform development of retail space across India.
As retail real estate expands beyond the realms of high streets and malls to quasi-retail locations (in the form of dedicated space at key business parks and office complexes), especially in cities such as Delhi-NCR, Mumbai and Bangalore; retailers especially in the F&B segment are expected to be attracted to such retail concepts.
|Retail outlook for 2017|
Logistics Sector – Changing The Rules
Leasing Growth Continues in 2016, Demand Picks Up Across Smaller Cities
This growth momentum continued and a milestone for warehousing demand was achieved in 2015 as leasing activity reached an all-time high of approximately 10 million sq. ft. by year end. Demand sustained and further broadened in 2016 with slightly more than 10 million sq. ft. of space take-up. Also, the demand is no longer limited to the top three cities; the share of relatively smaller cities such as Hyderabad, Chennai, Kolkata and Pune in the overall space take-up increased during 2016. Collectively, these cities leased 49% of the total space transacted during the year, as compared to 25% during 2015.
Demand in 2017: Consolidation and Expansion Activity to Drive Demand
Demand for warehousing space is anticipated to remain robust throughout 2017 with consolidation of operations being amongst the biggest drivers for warehouse demand. This will be closely followed by expansion activity of existing players and entry of new occupiers into the country. As a trend, the size and scale of warehousing operations has improved in the past few years.
The average size of warehouses leased across the top seven cities went up from approximately 60,000 sq. ft. during 2012 - 2014, to around 100,000 sq. ft. during 2015 - 2016. This trend of leasing large modern warehouses is likely to continue, due to an increasing focus on supply chain efficiency, amidst an improvement in the quality of space offered. Large urban centres such as the Delhi NCR, Mumbai and Bangalore are likely to continue as major hubs for warehousing activity. In the north, demand is likely to be concentrated around warehousing hubs in Gurgaon. While in Mumbai, Bhiwandi is likely to continue as the most preferred micro-market for leasing space. In the South, warehousing locations in the Western Corridors of Bangalore may witness bulk of the leasing activity in the city during 2017.
Smaller cities are anticipated to catch up and garner a relatively larger share of demand going forward. Cities such as Ahmedabad, Kolkata, the Western Industrial Belt of Chennai and the Northern Corridor of Hyderabad are likely to be on the radar of companies planning to penetrate into the Indian market further.
|Warehousing outlook for 2017|
Capital Markets – Eased Investor Environment
Conducive Investment Environment
Asset valuations are at their most attractive levels in the past decade. This, combined with a favorable regulatory environment is resulting in unprecedented interest from offshore equity investors, large Indian corporates and HNIs. They believe that the industry finally offers a level playing field with very attractive returns.
The above sentiment is further endorsed by a cyclical decline in interest rates in 2016. This has drastically reduced the cost of doing business for all investor classes. Even ‘structured debt’ has evolved from being a “high-cost source of funding” to being a very viable source of funding with successive interest rate cuts.
Key Trends Expected in 2017
Residential: Focus to be on Affordable / Mid - Market Housing
The year 2017, from a policy perspective for affordable housing saw significant thrust from the government. While the demand side for affordable housing in India remains strong, in 2017 we expect strengthening of the supply side as more private players are expected to enter the segment since the India Union Budget 2017-18 has made further relaxations for developers in terms of construction timelines and tax rebates. The government also introduced measures to ease the taxation for residential real estate as a whole – by reducing the holding period for long term capital gains and by shifting the indexation year from 1981 to 2001, thereby allowing for easier monetization of historically-held assets.
With respect to market activity, credible developers with strong delivery track records would continue to experience stable sales activity and will therefore attract investments. With the synergetic effect of RERA, demonetization and the Benami Act; corporate governance is likely to improve which will attract more equity investors. Consolidation amongst developers is likely as a result of subdued market conditions, with smaller players expected to look at avenues for funding/resort to asset monetization. Credible developers are likely to benefit the most as most land owners (and smaller developers) are entering into Joint Development agreements with well capitalized/credible developers and corporate players.
Increase in interest of patient capital from large sovereign and foreign institutional players; quality of assets will remain the overriding theme
Office: Renewed Focus on Development Projects
While investors continue to invest in completed assets, a key trend has been the focus on development equity.
Leading private equity players have been raising funds for greenfield projects, a trend that we expect will pick up pace in 2017. Also, developers are particularly keen on the commercial segment and have been displaying increased interest in commercial projects. This is not without reason as in 2017, the office sector is likely to maintain its growth momentum with an anticipated absorption of 40 million sq. ft. The combined effect of RERA and REIT’s is likely to result in better compliance as well as standardization of space, resulting in the emergence of more investment-grade office space. With the availability of well leased assets across core locations, private equity funding in these assets is likely to continue.
Given the stable economic and political environment, active leasing by retailers, and rising consumer demand; the investor community continues to remain bullish about India’s retail real estate landscape. As the launch of REITs gets closer, we expect to witness a greater interest of private equity players in core retail assets. With a supply pipeline of almost 7 million sq. ft. (dominated by southern cities) of quality retail in 2017, we expect more investments/buyouts in these cities going forward.
Logistics – GST Could Change the Game, Lack of Quality Space an Opportunity for new Players
The scarcity of quality warehousing space has been a key challenge that the segment has been facing; especially amidst a scenario where global as well as domestic e- commerce players have been looking to take up big box, quality spaces. While private equity players are keen to participate with local developers, but are facing challenges of scale and quality.
As the warehousing sector moves towards a more systematic mode of operation with the imminent implementation of the GST, the sector is likely to witness inflow of institutional funding and formal sources of capital.
Proactive government policies such as RERA, REIT guidelines, easing FDI, demonetization and GST will provide a more secure environment for investors and at the same time will also provide better exit opportunities
Land – Hectic Transaction Activity
Land transactions have been at an all-time high despite the relative slowdown in some segments of real estate. This is due to a host of factors – new funds and institutional investors keen to invest in greenfield developments, corporate houses increasing their allocations to real estate, attractive land valuations and land owners increasingly opting for joint developments and development management structures. Corporates, keen to monetize their land assets and smaller developers wanting to retire debt are also bringing attractive land deals to the market.
In addition to transactions for residential, the land market has now expanded to acquisitions for office, retail and industrial developments. A few international developers including some Chinese players who have thrown their hats into the ring have made the land market even more interesting. 2017 is expected to see a surge in land transaction activity.
Increase in interest of patient capital from large sovereign and foreign institutional players; quality of assets will remain the overriding theme
Proactive government policies such as RERA, REIT guidelines, easing FDI, demonetization and GST will provide a more secure environment for investors and at the same time will also provide better exit opportunities.
|Investment outlook for 2017|