4 years ago

Real estate sector starts rebounding

Banks, FIs bumping up lending

A representational image — Collected
A representational image — Collected

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The volume of lending by banks and financial institutions, or FIs, to the real estate sector has started rising in recent years in a sign of the industry's recovery, people familiar with the development said.

Bankers have attributed such a rise to the growing demand for formal finance from both builders and buyers.

As the demand for residential space grows rapidly in the land-starved economy, the market players are now increasingly taking up more residential projects with increased facilities after learning lessons from the "aggressive business policy," which led to the sluggishness, realtors said.

According to the data of Bangladesh Bank, the volume of advances of banks to the real estate sector in financial year of 2013-2014 was only Tk 408 billion and the volume rose to Tk 438 billion, Tk 518 billion, Tk 603 billion and Tk 721 billion in FY’15, FY’16, FY’17 and FY’18 respectively.

The upward trend of investment continued further in the immediate past fiscal year (FY’19) when the amount of lending was calculated to around Tk 800 billion, the data showed.

After analysing the advances in FY’19, it was found that highest volume of the lending (33.40 per cent) went to the purpose of housing (commercial) for developer/contractor while 33.29 per cent flown to housing (residential) in urban area for individual person.

Around 14 per cent for flat purchase purpose, 12.14 per cent for commercial building and remaining parts for housing in rural areas and renovation purposes, according to the data.

Former chairman of the Association of Bankers, Bangladesh, or ABB, Syed Mahbubur Rahman said the banks have focused more on secured business and home loan is more than 100 per cent secured.

"Many banks with strong presence in retail have focused on this area. It also helps boost cross-selling like cards and vehicle loans," said Mr Rahman, managing director and chief executive officer of privately-owned Mutual Trust Bank Limited.

A banker, who wished to remain anonymous, said the existing tax benefit to the real estate sector for legalising black money has also contributed to the investment pick-up in the sector.

"A good number of people are taking loans only to get the tax benefit," he added.

Managing director and CEO of Prime Bank Limited Rahel Ahmed said his bank has been selective in terms of residential real estate as its experience was not so good when the market crash-landed.

He said the bank's exposure was good before the meltdown.

"Things are improving but we're moving cautiously. We're investing considering projects, locations and balance sheet of the clients," he added.

The increased investments also had a positive impact on the trading of business, giving the much-needed respite for the industry insiders.

The Real Estate and Housing Association of Bangladesh, or REHAB, the apex body of housing companies, kept data of transaction of 209 companies until 2014.

But Sheltech, a leading real estate company, has the latest data of the industry's performance as far as its yearly apartment delivery is concerned.

According to the data, a total of 17,300 apartment units were delivered in 2011. After that, the sector witnessed reverse fortune, with sales dropping to 16,200, 13,770, 12,215 and 10,000 in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 respectively.

But the industry has started turning around since 2016. The volume of sales jumped to 11,050, 13,600 and 19,800 in 2016, 2017 and 2018 respectively.

"Yes, the market has started reviving after the sluggishness," managing director of Sheltech Tanvir Ahmed told the FE.

Talking about the company's recent business, he said the sales of medium-scale apartments worth between Tk 8.0 million and Tk 10.15 million in central Dhaka has started picking up in recent times.

"We're now recovering the deficit caused by poor sales until 2015. I think the momentum has returned," he said.

Mr Ahmed said the market players have started taking up more projects under such a favourable business atmosphere.

"We've already signed three projects since January 2020. It's a right time to invest," said the boss of Sheltech that has already delivered some 3,500 units.

He was optimistic about further growth of the business in the coming days building on the declining trend in interest rates on formal finance.

General manager of Shanta Holdings Limited Shihab Ahmed said there are many factors that have been contributing to the upward trend in business.

He said people having liquid assets normally invest in savings instruments, banks and the capital market.

But the share market is going through rough ride while the interest rates on savings certificates and bank deposits have started declining significantly, he added.

"There could be some factors behind the momentum of the sector," he said.

"Yes, the market is reviving but we want to grow steadily not aggressively," he added.

Seeking anonymity, an official of another real estate company said the market collapsed after 2011 because of the aggressive business policy adopted by many companies due to the boom in the capital market.

"I hope the realtors will not do the same mistake this time," he added.

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