Monday, December 12, 2011

>The Case for Tier-II Real Estate

Is real estate in India in a bubble? In parts of it, certainly. Some recent transactions in posh
areas in Delhi have pegged the value of residential land at approximately Rs. 11 lacs per sq.
yard. Even in not so posh areas, transactions have apparently gone through at valuations of Rs.
4 lacs per sq. yard. This is in Delhi. I have little anecdotal evidence from Bombay. In
comparison, rates in several Tier-II cities in India sound distinctly subdued. However, it is my
opinion that over a 10 year period, a significant shift in demand growth is bound to happen as
demographic, social, technological and economic factors converge to make the Tier-II cities
attractive locations to live.

The Social Imperative
India's fertility rate has been dropping consistently for the last 5 decades and has dropped from
5.7 in 1966 to 2.7 in 2009. What this means is that families are getting smaller and fewer
children are available to support their parents in old age. At a time when it was common to
have 3 or often even more children within a family, it was possible, even imperative, for some
children to move to bigger commercial centers to make their living. On the other hand, India
critically lacks infrastructure for supporting the elderly. With fewer children per family in a
generation now beginning to retire, this means that children are under pressure to live close to
their parents. While so far this has meant looking for job opportunities in the general region of
parents' cities (residents of Agra or Jaipur look to work in Gurgaon or Noida), other forces will
push it to the next step, viz. living in the cities of the parents.

Technology Makes It Possible
The way I look at it, a very significant part of the migrant high value-add workers in the large
economic centers of India today are in the IT/ITeS sector. A fair bit of local spending is also
driven by these workers. Nasscom expected India's outsourcing industry's exports for the year
ending in March 2012 to be between $68B and $70B. That's a little under 30% of the 2010
estimates of about $225.6B of total exports. Of the total exports, a large part of is petroleum
products, which have low value-added relative to software exports. In sum, a large part of the
retail spending the software cities is driven by workers in the IT/ITeS industry.

However, by its very nature, a lot of these jobs can easily be migrated to smaller cities provided
there is supporting infrastructure in those cities. If one realises that the “chosen cities”
(Hyderabad, Bangalore, Chennai, Pune, Gurgaon) were chosen at a time when IT infrastructure
in India was much more flaky and almost non-existent in other cities, one realises that the barriers to setting up such businesses in Tier-II cities are now much lower than in the early
2000s. The infrastructure, therefore, now exists in smaller cities too. Indeed, the likes of Wipro,
Infosys and TCS have already begun to set up shop in these smaller cities – such as Jaipur,
Chandigarh, etc. The scarcity of engineering talent (Nasscom has famously declared that no
more than 25% of India's IT graduates are readily employable) coupled with the social
pressures mentioned above means that it makes sense for the IT majors to diversify their
geographic presence.

The side-effect of such a diversification would be to jump start the local economies in these
cities. As spending capacity within the Tier-II cities rises, other businesses will become viable –
right from coffee shops and pizza joints to high-end clothing retail and fitness centers.

The Economics Make Sense
Tier-I cities and metros have seen a rapid rise in cost of living as retailers have caught on the
fact that youngsters working in the IT/ITeS are less price sensitive than their parents. Anecdotal evidence suggests that goods and services that are particularly attractive to youngsters are priced significantly higher in there cities. For instance, movie tickets easily range between Rs. 150 and Rs. 250 in a city like Gurgaon, compared to Jaipur with ticket prices up to Rs. 200 for comparable class. In such a scenario, companies can easily get away with offering lower salaries in Tier-II cities while still keeping employees there above parity compared to their Tier- I peers. Cost of housing also would be mitigated as youngsters could live with their parents, in homes often owned by them.

What Could Go Wrong
The biggest risk, to my mind, is policy and infrastructure failure. State governments and city
administrations need to pro-actively attract high-tech enterprises to their cities. Streamlining of
processes for granting of relevant licenses and registrations, electricity connections, land and
improvement of general governance would go a long way in making any given state an
attractive destination. Gujarat has already demonstrated what better governance can do for
industry and the local economy. However, narrow-mindedness amongst the political elite can
hamper this process destroying the prospects of growth in these cities and states, and lead to an
exodus of talented and productive workers.

The Investment Idea
In light of all the above, unbuilt land in Tier-II cities appears to be an attractive investment. These cities, of course, would have to be chosen carefully based on mindset of the political\ leadership, general education level, availability of basic infrastructure like medical facilities, schools, etc. The process outlined above, though, could take several years to unfold. Built properties, then, run the risk of losing value as newer construction comes up by the time the real demand kicks in. On the other hand, unbuilt land does not face this issue. Even amongst the unbuilt land, smaller pieces of up to 250 sq yards should afford greater liquidity as the core demand should come from the demographic that can afford only such sizes.

- By Parijat Garg

>INDIA BANKS: Looking for some cheer in the New Year 2012

We (HSBC Research team) met YES Bank, HDFC Bank and ICICI Bank for a quick update, particularly on a asset quality, in particular power loans, b) growth prospects given near peak rates, and c) the impact of savings account deregulation.

Asset quality: Overall, the private banks do not face the same set of problems as public sector banks (PSUs), evidenced by their lower NPLs, restructured book, credit costs and higher coverage ratios. We think the gulf in asset quality between the private and PSU banks is likely to remain wide for a few more quarters before we see the bottom of the current credit downcycle. The state and central governments need to address problems in the power sector related to SEBs and coal availability. If the erstwhile go/no-go problems are largely resolved, coal shortages may not be as significant as perceived currently.

Growth prospects: Most private banks are likely to outpace system growth by anywhere between 3% and 10% over our forecast period to 2014e. YES is more focused on liabilities and we believe its growth is likely to be dominated by wholesale for now. On our estimates, HDBK is likely to maintain strong growth in the consumer segment although we expect a slowdown in vehicle loans to a more moderate pace averaging 25% over the medium term. We think ICBK is likely to grow in line with the system as retail loan repayments could hamper any acceleration in mortgage growth in the near term; thus its focus remains more on leveraging its now-large branch franchise for retail liabilities, assets and fees.

Savings account deregulation: YES has seen improving customer traction with new account additions roughly doubling, although the balance build-up will occur over time, as it leverages off both retail and its corporate relationships. It is also targeting bulk savings accounts with trusts and societies, albeit these are a small part of the pie.

Waiting for the pause: Although widely expected at the 16 December meeting, we are hearing increasing talk of an earlier-than-expected cut in rates by the RBI, particularly if inflation eases and growth slows more quickly than expected (watch out for loan and industrial growth data reported in December). Private banks remain our favourites on a 12-month basis.

To read the full report: INDIA BANKS

>APOLLO TYRES: Profitability to look up

Standalone business margins to improve in Q4FY12E: We expect 23% CAGR in the standalone top-line for FY11-FY13E period, driven by capacity expansion at the Greenfield Chennai facility. Standalone margins are likely to improve from Q4FY12E onwards on account of softening of rubber prices. However, with 15- 20% of the rubber requirement being imported, depreciation in rupee has nullified the impact of softening rubber prices for Q3FY12E.
Replacement demand likely to recover: Demand scenario is likely to be better in the replacement side of the market, going forward. According to the management, the abolishment of anti-dumping duty on Chinese tyres has not been approved by the Ministry and thereby, they don’t see any negative impact on their business.

Chennai capacity expansion on track: Greenfield project at Chennai has a total capacity of 500TPD, with a capex outflow of Rs23bn. For FY13E, the average tonnage from the Chennai plant is pegged at 300TPD. Majority of the capex is already incurred in the current fiscal, with the remaining Rs3-4bn likely to be spent in FY13E.
Natural Rubber prices likely to remain stable: Natural Rubber prices have declined by ~5% in the last one month to Rs200/kg currently, from an average price of Rs215/kg in Q2FY12. The growth rate of rubber production in CY11 in all ANRPC (Association of Natural Rubber Producing Countries) members is expected to be 4.9%, whereas India’s rubber production is anticipated to perk up by 5.6%. We expect the rubber prices to remain range-bound with the onset of the tapping season in November. We have assumed rubber prices at Rs205/kg, going forward.

To read the full report: APOLLO TYRES