Foreign Investor Burnout Hits Miami Real Estate

Foreign home buyers have hit the pause button in south Florida.

Between August 2017 and July 2018, the most recent period for sales data by Florida Realtors, foreign buyers purchased $22.9 billion worth of Florida real estate, a 5% decline from the previous 12-month level.

Foreign buyer purchases accounted for 19% of Florida’s existing home sales versus 21% in the same period a year ago. Florida real estate from a foreign perspective is concentrated on South Florida, with Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach the main attractions.  The foreign buyer share to dollar volume of real estate sold there is nearly twice the national foreign buyer average of 10%.

Foreign buyers, mainly from Canada and Brazil, purchased 52,000 properties, a 15% drop from the previous 12-month cycle.

All told, foreign investors made up 13% of Florida’s existing home sales, down from 15% a year earlier. On a national level, foreign investors buy around 5% of existing housing stock on the market, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Florida sales data were released late October.

See: Disney Expansion Turns Orlando Into Hotspot For Brazil Real Estate Investors — Forbes

Sculptures ‘Dancing Boy’ (center), ‘Garden Butterfly’ (left) and ‘For You’ (right) by Brazilian artist Romero Britto sit in the shops at Midtown in Miami, Florida. Brazilians remain a big driver of foreign real estate purchases in South Florida and now in Orlando. (Photo: RHONA WISE/AFP/Getty Images)


Latin American and Caribbean buyers accounted for the largest fraction of Florida’s foreign buyers at 36%, followed by Canadians at 22%, Europeans at 19% and Asians at 11%. The Asian investors are dominated by China money.

European buyers have been trending downward since 2016 , and while it looks like it coincides with the election of President Donald Trump, the National Association of Realtors blames uncertainty about income and employment from those employed in Brexit U.K.

Foreign buyers from Mexico have been cut in half, accounting for less than 1% now, and Venezuelan buyers are almost non-existent as most people who can afford to leave and want to leave have done so already. Venezuela is mired in political and economic crisis.

Speaking of crisis, Argentina used to be on par with Brazil in terms of Latin American buyers in Miami. But an economic crisis there (yes, another one) has put its share below that of China’s.

Chinese buyers, who account for around 6% of Florida’s total foreign investors today, up from just 3% in 2017, tend to be new immigrants. Most foreign investors are buying property for real estate appreciation and income. But for the Chinese investor, only 39% are treating their purchase as a fixed-income security. Many are migrating and settling there.

Despite being known as a luxury residences market for second homes, most of the foreign buyers, in south Florida anyway, are not buying anything near million-dollar properties, according to FloridaRealtors.

A “For Sale” sign is displayed outside of a home in Miami, Florida. The National Association of Realtors says foreigners have hit the brakes on local real estate. Photographer: Scott McIntyre/Bloomberg

The median purchase price among foreign buyers was $286,500 in the recent period, versus $259,400 last year. Foreign investors tend to spend on average 20% more than the locals do, with Brazilians and Chinese investors being the biggest spenders. They dish out at least $300,000 for a property.

Some 71% of foreign investments into South Florida real estate was into properties valued at less than half a million dollars.

Due to weak emerging markets and a strong dollar, Florida real estate brokers say they worked with less foreign buyers in the 12 months ending in July. Still, some 41% of respondents surveyed by the National Association of Realtors say they worked with an international client, down from 44% last year. That’s nearly double the national average of 23% of brokers working on foreign purchased real estate deals.

Only 23% of Florida Realtors said they saw an increase in international business, down from 26% saying so last year.  And less than one-third of respondents said they saw more traffic from foreign buyers in the period ending in July, down from 33% last year.

As a result of weak emerging markets, and a strong dollar, just 34% of those surveyed by the Realtors association believe this next 12-month cycle will be better than the previous one. That’s not a huge difference from a year ago when 37% of respondents said the same thing.

South Florida real estate has also been hit with the lack of new land deals and rising prices for new development projects. Many developers have been inching further north into central Florida instead, with foreign real estate investors just starting to discover it thanks to continuous Disney World expansion.

“Thanks to Disney’s and Universal’s expansions coupled with affordable real estate pricing, we are still seeing an accelerated interest in purchasing real estate (here) with buyers from as far away as China, Brazil, Colombia, and Iceland,” says Noah Breakstone, managing partner of BTI Partners and key developer behind The Grove Resort and Water Park in Orlando. “Lots of buyers see it as a better value than Miami,” he says.

According to the National Association of Realtors, just under 11% of the state’s foreign buyers were investing in Orlando in 2018, down from 9.4% this year. Foreigners still prefer the Miami area, which stretches all the way to West Palm Beach. Some 54% of international buyers were heading there so far this year, up from 52.6% in 2017.


Funding Circle Sets Its Sights On U.S. Small Business Lending Market

Funding Circle, the UK-based small business lender that went public on the London Stock Exchange in September, is setting its sights on the small business U.S. market, hoping to become the leading lender to what it sees as an underserved market.

While fintechs and traditional banks are stepping up lending to small business owners, Funding Circle is betting its longer-term loans and competitive rates with banks will bring more business its way.  Small business lending in the U.S. is “fractured across multiple competitors,” said Bernardo Martinez, U.S. managing director at Funding Circle. “Typically banks haven’t focused on the segment. It’s an unmet need from small businesses standpoints.”

Small Business Confidence Surging

Funding Circle’s push into the small business lending market in the U.S. comes at a time when traditional banks, fintechs, and credit unions are circling. The economy is booming, unemployment is low and small businesses are making money. At the same time, big banks, regional ones and credit unions are looking to diversify their businesses into new markets.  Earlier this week Biz2Credit released its small business lending index for October, which showed the approval rates for small business loans among big banks set a record in October, increasing to 26.8% from 26.7% compared to September.

It also comes as optimism is high among small businesses with the National Federation of Independent Business’ Small Business Optimism Index hitting a reading of 107.9 in September, marking the third highest reading since the NFIB began conducting it 45 years ago. “This is the longest streak of small business optimism in history, evidence that tax cuts and regulatory rollbacks are paying off for the economy as a whole,” said NFIB President and CEO Juanita D. Duggan in a press release when announcing the results. “Our members say that business is booming and prospects continue to look bright.”

When it comes to taking on the rivals, Funding Circle views the market in three segments. There are the traditional banks that are offering small business owners term loan products that range from six months to five years, providing competitive interest rates but a process that can take months and require reams of paperwork. Then there are the fintechs, which can get money in small business owners hands quickly but don’t offer terms that are longer than two or three years. Finally, there are PayPal, Amazon, and Square which are lending to their existing customers who need access to working capital.

Funding Circle Aims To Stand Out With Longer Loan Terms

Funding Circle hopes to differentiate by offering small businesses loans that have terms that are as long as five years but also have interest rates that are competitive with traditional banks.  “A lot of the learnings in the UK market have enabled us to develop technology and processes to get a better assessment of customers,” said Martinez. “We also have investors that enable us to have access to capital at an affordable rate. As a marketplace lender, we have been able to connect those good investors looking for good returns with a more affordable price for borrowers.”  The interest rate on a five-year loan at Funding Circle ranges from 8.5% to 27.79% while the rate on a two-year loan ranges from 7.6% to 25.54%.

Funding Circle is optimistic about its prospects in the U.S. market but that doesn’t mean it isn’t paying close attention to what is going on in the economy both here and abroad. The stock market is in a near decade bull run, the economy has been surging for years now and interest rates still remain low. But there are signs that we are entering the late stage of the economic cycle and if things worsen due to trade wars or other unforeseen reasons, there are some concerns small business owners will have a hard time paying back their loans. That’s not to say any of that is happening yet, but some lenders to consumers have been reigning in the amount they are willing to lend. Take credit card issuers Capital One Financial and Discover Financial Services, two of the nation’s biggest credit card companies. According to a recent Wall Street Journal report the two are tightening lending standards, becoming more cautious in how they deal with credit limits. There isn’t any evidence that customers are having a hard time paying back their balances but the companies realize the party can’t last forever.  “In so many ways, one can’t help but be struck by … just how good the economy [at] this point is,” Capital One Chief Executive Richard Fairbank said on the company’s earnings call, which was covered by The Wall Street Journal. “And in some ways, it almost feels too good to be true.”

Martinez said the executives at Funding Circle pay close attention to the macroeconomic environment and have robust lending and risk management tools in place to assure investors the lending being provided to small business owners can support a recession. “We are always mindful at some point we need to adjust if we don’t think the market can sustain the lending activity,” said the executive.  Having said that, Martinez is confident the market will remain strong with opportunities to grow. “We see a lot of demand in the U.S. They are looking for opportunities to invest in their businesses and we are here to help.”


3 dangerous fires are burning across California, and 6 people died in their cars as they tried to escape

Woolsey Fire

Three dangerous wildfires are raging in California.

The Camp Fire, in northern California, started Thursday morning and quickly charred the entire town of Paradise, which is home to 27,000. The flames grew so fast — a pace of 80 football fields per minute— that four people were burned to death in their cars, the Butte County sheriff Korey Honea told the Associated Press. One deceased person was found near a vehicle.

According to the sheriff, the department has received 35 missing persons reports. So far, at least nine people have died as a result of the Camp Fire. In addition to those found in or near a vehicle, one person was found inside a home.

As of 6:00 p.m. PT, fire officials said the blaze had burned 90,000 acres in just over 24 hours, and was 5% contained.

More than 6,700 structures were destroyed. It is now considered the most destructive wildfire in California history in terms of the number of structures destroyed.

To the south, on the outskirts of Los Angeles, two smaller fires also started Thursday and are now creating havoc for drivers and forcing homeowners to flee. The Woolsey and Hill Fires are burning through parts of Ventura and LA counties. The flames have threatened the homes of celebrities such as Kim Kardashian and shut down stretches of the 101 freeway.

Inside the city limits of LA, another smaller fire broke out Friday morning in Griffith Park near the zoo. Firefighters there are scrambling to reach the area by helicopter, since it’s not accessible by truck.

Southern California fire officials say the flames have burned at least 150 homes. They say that number is likely to increase.

Already this year, 7,578 fires have burned across California, fueled by hot, dry conditions and aggressive winds.

Camp Fire claims at least 9 lives

The Camp Fire started about 6:30 a.m. on Thursday. So far, more than 6,700 structures have burned and thousands more are threatened.

According to the Butte County sheriff’s office, five of the people whose deaths have been confirmed were found near Edgewood Lane in Paradise, California, in or near “vehicles that were overcome by the Camp Fire.” The sheriff’s office was not yet able to identify those victims because of their burn injuries. Other residents ran from the fire, the Sacramento Bee reported.

camp fire burns down paradise, CA nov 8 18
A sign is posted on the Paradise Skilled Nursing center as it is consumed by flames from the Camp Fire on Thursday in Paradise.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

California Acting Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in Butte County because of the Camp Fire Thursday, and sent a letter to President Donald Trump and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) asking for federal assistance.


Markets edgy ahead of US elections – business live

Traders work on the floor of the NYSE in New York last night

Losing the House of Representatives in 2010 was a major blow for Barack Obama, for example, making it rather harder for him to push his agenda.

Bill Clinton had a similarly bad night in 1994, as the Democrats lost control of the House for the first time in 40 years. That dominance had meant the Republican presidents such as Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon had lacked a majority on Capitol Hill.

But surprisingly, this situation hasn’t been bad for asset prices. Quite the reverse. Shares often rise during times of political deadlock — after all, there’s a reassuring certainty if politicians can’t get anything done.

Hussein Sayed, Chief Market Strategist at FXTM, has crunched the numbers, and explains:

The combination of a Republican President and a split Congress have produced an average return of 15.7% on the S&P 500 in the 12 months following every mid-term election since 1950. These strong returns suggest that investors prefer a gridlock, a situation when different political parties control the two legislative houses. While such anomalies are difficult to explain, investors may find that a gridlock produces more predictable political outcomes to model and value equities against. In the case of a gridlock, Democrats cannot roll back recent tax cuts, neither they can tighten the Dodd-Frank banking rules. It may just mean that Trump will face more difficulties in passing new laws.

However, in the current tense environment it seems Wall Street will prefer Republicans to retain both legislative houses. That’s simply because a new tax cut will be expected to take place, further deregulation, and probably additional fiscal stimulus. While such measures are not necessarily good for the longer run as deficit and debt may get out of control, many investors will take advantage of these policies in the shorter run. Given that the polling industry got it wrong in 2016 and Trump became President, history may repeat itself this time again.

It would be more surprising if Democrats managed to win both houses. This will be a nightmare for Wall Street, as the Trump impeachment threat will become more real, but still, this would require help from some Republicans. Even if he doesn’t get impeached, the President will no longer have the power to pass bills and probably lead to pulling back some of his deregulatory actions, which definitely is not liked by corporate America.


Tata Chemicals: Weak Q2; capital infusion in high margin business could trigger a re-rating

Tata Chemicals (TCH) reported a subdued set of Q2 FY19 earnings, with compressed margin, despite a decent 10 percent year-on-year uptick in revenue. Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) saw a 5.6 percent dip, with a 340 basis point (100 bps = 1 percentage point) margin contraction owing to high input cost, weakness in the international operations, one-offs in the US and Africa and high energy costs. Net profit growth of 17 percent YoY was facilitated by a sharp surge in other income and lower tax expenses.

With the consumer business coming on track, the management announced plans to invest in building capacity to manufacture lithium ion batteries, which could be the next turning point for the company in the longer run.


Domestic operations: Domestic business saw a healthy 23 percent YoY revenue growth on the back of healthy volumes and strong growth in the consumer business. Higher operational efficiencies helped mitigate part of the impact of higher energy costs. However, earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) margin remained compressed.

Performance in the consumer business saw robust growth owing to a small base and growing demand for branded products. While the pulses business seems to be on track, the company want to focus more on capturing market share in the spices segment. The company also expects high growth in the non-animal protein business, which is seeing rapid growth globally.

Europe: Higher fixed input costs impacted profitability of the European business. Lower trading of soda ash in the region also impacted performance during Q2, with soda ash volume declining 22 percent YoY. Strong realisation helped save the show.

North America: Q2 registered strong demand from the region. However, with tighter pollution control norms, the company installed new environment equipment, which impacted production and led to 50,000 million tonne volume loss.

Africa: After floods in Magadi, the company had to incur higher expenses for repair of damaged plant and machinery, which impacted profitability. However, the region is witnessing strong demand and should see decent performance in Q3.

Rallis India reports decent performance
Rallis reported a marginally improved performance on the back of traction from international operations and price hikes, despite the overhang of high input costs. Build-up of low cost inventory towards FY18-end helped maintain gross margin. However, higher other expenses on account of higher fuel and transportation costs and some mark-to-market forex losses led to erosion in EBITDA margin. Metahelix (seeds business), whose portfolio is majorly focused on the Kharif season, reported a 3 percent growth in topline. However, margins remained compressed.
Upcoming capital expenditure plans
The company is planning a capex of around $370 million at its Mithapur plant over the next 3 years for capacity enhancement in cement (by 300,000 MT), soda ash (200,000 MT) and salt (400,000 MT). The company is also looking to start a 35,000 MT capacity to manufacture pharma grade bicarbonate.
TCH is also working on upgrading its silica plant to make it complaint with environment norms, the work for which is expected to begin in November. The plant at Nellore, catering to the company’s nutritional solution business, is currently in investment phase and is expected to start in Q4 FY19.

Foray into battery manufacturing
Given the upcoming demand for electric vehicles in India, the management announced plans to enter the lithium ion battery manufacturing space. TCH has already signed two memorandum of understanding’s (MoU) to source technology and is working on setting up a plant with an initial target of 4GW capacity. Total upcoming demand is estimated around 40GW, of which TCH aims to capture 25 percent in the long run.
OutlookThe management indicated that after supply constraints from China, growing Turkish capacity is getting fully absorbed and tightness in the market still continues. This would enable them to pass on higher input costs in various geographies. With most contracts up for renewal towards Q4 FY19, the benefit of this should flow in from that quarter and would provide margin relief.

With one-offs already recorded, the company is now positioned to capture benefits of strong demand in North America and Africa. The consumer product business is the high growth segment for the company and TCH plans to expand it rapidly with new launches every quarter.


The stock has corrected 11 percent in the last two months and is 14 percent below its 52-week high. It is trading at FY19e price-to-earnings of 13 times and an enterprise value-to-EBITDA of 9.3 times. Stabilisation after one-off incidents across geographies would be something to watch out for. A successful deployment of capital in high margin businesses can improve earnings and trigger a re-rating for the stock.


Mehul Choksi aide who looked after his Hong Kong business arrested in Kolkata

Deepak Kulkarni

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has arrested diamantaire Mehul Choksi’s associate Deepak Kulkarni, in connection with the Rs 13,000 crore Punjab National Bank fraud case.

Kulkarni was arrested on Monday night at the airport after he arrived from Hong Kong. He was arrested under provisions of Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

According to sources, Kulkarni was handling Choksi’s businesses in Hong Kong and was the director of one of his shell companies.

The CBI and ED had issued a Lookout Circular (LOC) against Kulkarni when the airport authorities received information about his travel to India.

He is likely to be produced before the designated court in Kolkata for transit remand and will be taken to Mumbai for custodial interrogation.

Sources in the CBI have told India Today that after ED’s custody is over, they will seek police remand to interrogate Kulkarni.

We have arrested Deepak Kulkarni at the Kolkata airport on the basis of an LOC. He was coming from Hong Kong. He was the director of one of the dummy companies of Mehul Choksi. He was named as an accused in the prosecution complaint filed in Mehul Choksi’s case. The court had issued a non-bailable warrant against him, an ED official said.

Mehul Choksi and nephew Nirav Modi are the prime accused in the multi-crore PNB fraud.

Choksi, who left India in January, is in Antigua after acquiring its citizenship through investments in the Caribbean island.

An extradition request from India is still pending before the Antiguan authorities for several months. In a video statement, Mehul Choksi claimed he was innocent and was a victim of political offence.

Nirav Modi, a celebrity diamond merchant, is reportedly in London. An extradition request for his custody is pending before the UK authorities since September.


Time now to breathe life into the country’s languishing business environment

The Doing Business ranking improvements will not amount to much if status quo prevails.
In a refreshing change of pace for the government, which has been reeling under challenging economic circumstances of late, the release of the World Banks Doing Business report last week provided some respite.

India found itself among the top 10 performers of the Doing Business rankings for the second time in a row. The country has moved up 53 places in the last two years to be placed at 77 among a total of 190 economies that were taken into consideration.

In 2014, when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government came to power, India, at rank 142, was the worst-performing BRICS economy and sixth among the eight South Asian economies on the Doing Business Index. It has now become the median economy among the BRICS nations and the highest-performing South Asian economy on the rankings. These are significant improvements in a short span of time, especially for a country of India’s size and complexity.

The Doing Business Index aims to assess countries around the globe on their business climate based on 10 broad categories that are integral to starting, sustaining and winding down a business. The World Bank relies on four sources of information to determine these assessments: The rules and regulations of the country, experts well-versed with the local business environment, national governments, and World Bank staff.

For most major economies, the World Bank relies on two major cities for its data; Mumbai and Delhi for India. Such a narrow focus of survey has often been subject to a fair share of criticism. Nevertheless, the Index is considered to be a vital barometer for the ease of conducting private business in the country by providing a sense of the extent of red tapism and administrative hurdles present in the economy.

It proves to be a handy tool for investors who require a comparable template to make cross-border investment decisions. This explains the persistent efforts of the government to improve India’s performance on the rankings, which have been successful to a large extent.

India has improved on six of the 10 parameters over the last year with the highest improvement coming in “Dealing with Construction Permits” where the country has jumped 129 places to be placed at 52. This has been the result of persistent governmental efforts to clean up its notoriously corrupt land sector by improving transparency and streamlining procedures in obtaining a permit.

As a result, the cost of completing all procedures to build a warehouse have been reduced from 23.2 percent of the warehouse value to merely 5.4 percent and the number of days to obtain the permit has fallen from 143.9 to 94.8.

Similarly, “Trading Across Borders” has become much easier with India witnessing a surge of 66 places to reach the 80th spot. Among other things, this has been the result of a slew of digital initiatives undertaken by the government that has eliminated inspection requirements for about 80 per cent of the products. All of these improvements have been along expected lines owing to recent government efforts to this end.

But the unexpected occurred in the categories of “Paying Taxes” and “Resolving Insolvency”; two areas where the government has initiated landmark reforms. With respect to the former, India has slipped two places to 121, despite the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST). Quite contrary to the intent of GST, the number of hours in a year taken to file taxes has inched up from 214 last year to 275.4.

A possible explanation is that the World Bank has not been able to capture the entire benefit of India’s tax-related reforms as the data taken for the indicator was only incorporated until December 2017 when GST was merely six months old and the glitches in filing had not been ironed out.

As for “Resolving Insolvency”, India’s ranking declined by five places to settle at 108. This occurred despite the adoption of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, which has started to show promising results on the ground. When the results of these reforms start showing up in the Doing Business data, India is bound to experience a further boost in its overall rankings.

All said, it is necessary to not over-emphasise the importance of these rankings. The critics are right to point out that the scope of the index is fairly limited. By the World Bank’s own admission, the indicators are not designed to portray the entire macroeconomic scenario of the country or its growth prospects.

It mainly provides a snapshot of the prevalence of red tape in the economy. The government needs to be lauded for making concerted efforts cut these, but a larger part of the job still remains to be done.

The cost of doing business in India may have fallen, at least for the larger firms. But if higher investment is the end goal of these rankings, it is far from being accomplished. Over the last three years, investments in the country have stagnated. This is probably because investment is also driven by a host of other factors like capacity utilisation, bank willingness to lend and project viability; all of which are under severe strain in India right now.

India’s performance in the Doing Business rankings shows that focussed policy efforts can lead to positive results for the economy. A similar intent needs to be shown to breathe life into the country’s languishing business environment. The ranking improvements will not amount to much if status quo prevails.


TCS looks to scale interactive business organically

TCS bought W12, a 50-person digital studio, in London.
Tata Consultancy ServicesNSE 2.21 % will focus on growing its interactive business organically and making India a talent hub for the business, after making its first acquisition in the space last week.

Indian IT companies are taking aim at the lucrative market of offering services to chief marketing officers. Accenture pulls in about $8 billion in revenue a year from the business, after making a slew of acquisitions.

TCS bought W12, a 50-person digital studio, in London. “We are focusing on scaling the business organically. One of the reasons we bought W12 is that they are also open to the idea of location-independent delivery and scaling,” Krishnan Ramanujam, president, business and technology services at TCS, told ET in an interview. Ramanujam said the company was looking at making the interactive services business a significant revenue channel in the next few years. TCS has been betting that it will be able to retool its model to offer location-independent agile services, a move the company says will give it a significant competitive advantage. The Mumbai-headquartered firm is certain that it will be able to offer interactive services in the same manner. Ramanujam said India was just at the beginning of being able to deliver even creative services offshore.

“We believe interactive services is in a situation similar to where IT services was in the early 90s. Customer experience and product/ service design are key differentiating themes across practically every industry, thanks to digital technologies. We believe this will drive the growth of interactive services as a line of business for TCS and we are confident of nurturing and scaling this capability,” he said. He said India had a great deal of creative talent and that the company had begun hiring from design institutes to build its offering.

But while analysts believe that part of it digital marketing business can be off-shored, they are less certain about the ability to offshore the creative aspects of the business.

“It seems reasonable that much of the support of the technology can be delivered from an off-shore model, what is less clear is if the creative aspects are best delivered from a remote location. However, given that the technology and technology support is growing in importance, it makes sense that the TCS distributed model will work well for this part of the equation,” Peter Bendor-Samuel , CEO of IT consultancy Everest Research, said.

Bendor-Samuel said all the Indian players were lagging Accenture and that the companies would continue to need to invest heavily and grow inorganically to catch up. InfosysNSE 0.07 %, Cognizant and WiproNSE 0.25 % have already made acquisitions in this space. But TCS does not believe that the market share gains would necessarily have to come from displacing a rival. “The market for these services is growing, so all the providers can grow. There is plenty of growth headroom in the business,” Ramanujam said. He added that TCS would start disclosing revenue from the individual lines of its digital business soon.