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Real estate NPLs up sharply   2011-08-27 - SGT

Many banks are running the risk with a strong rise of non-performing loans (NPL) in the real estate sector, especially at a time when depressed property prices are showing little sign of improving in near future.

Outstanding real estate loans at the banks had reached VND245 trillion as of end-June, 10% of the total in the banking system, Le Xuan Nghia, vice chairman of the Vietnam National Financial Supervisory Committee, told a seminar “Impact of the property market on the financial market in Vietnam – Solutions and recommendations” in Hanoi last week.

This rate is higher than in regional countries like Thailand with 6% and Malaysia with 7%, he said.

Of note is the bad debt in the property sector, which has increased by VND1.7 trillion, or 37%, from late last year. Property debt stands a greater chance of becoming bad under the difficult market conditions.

Nghia is quoted by Lao Dong newspaper as saying that the ratio of loans for property investors and developers is high at small banks. Many banks have outstanding real estate loans making up 30-40% of the total, or in some special cases, 50%.

The Vietnam National Financial Supervisory Committee said the real estate market has been in decline as a result of monetary tightening policy and other macroeconomic policy changes.

The Government’s Resolution 11 designed to tighten monetary policy for inflation fighting and stabilize the macro economy classifies the real estate sector a non-productive one, so it cannot gain priority access to credit, throwing the property market into a tailspin.

Nghia of the committee warned of the high risk of real estate loans turning bad if the situation is protracted.

Deputy Minister of Construction Nguyen Tran Nam told Thanh Nien newspaper that the property market slowdown had a great impact on related industries. In particular, he noted, a couple of brick and ceramic tile producers have become insolvent.

Cement companies are also in trouble due to falling production, he said, adding workers at many construction companies are underemployed.

Nam said the Government position has begun to change a little bit by considering relaxing monetary tightening, with banks starting loosening short term credit, particularly for low-cost housing projects. However, he warned, property investors should not count on any miracle that helps the market turn around any time soon.

There have emerged problems with current sources of funding and capital-raising mechanism in the real estate sector, along with the weaknesses of a market still in its infancy, loose business conditions, financially incapable enterprises and poorly-informed buyers, he said.

He advised enterprises to cooperate with each other and choose market segments with high liquidity, and property investors should be more professional in their project implementation, including service and product quality, to attract consumers back.

The Prime Minister has approved a project to set up a savings fund for housing development. The fund as a non-profit organization will raise savings from workers who wish to own a home.

VNExpress cited the deputy minister of construction as saying the fund will be contributed by workers on a voluntary basis, so 1% of their monthly income will go to the fund with an annual interest rate of 3-5%. The fund will prioritize lending money to house buyers and construction companies involved in social housing projects.

Moreover, the Government is mulling a pilot scheme to establish a real estate investment fund as a collective investment scheme that will help people realize their dream of owning a house.

The construction ministry said there are some 1.4 billion square meters of housing nationwide, and 70% of property investment capital is sourced from lender banks. It is estimated that by 2020, 2.5 billion square meters of housing will be needed in the country with a population of 96 million.

According to a statistics, up to seven million people in urban areas are in need of renting or buying a home, with a total area of some 150 million square meters worth VND300-400 trillion in investment capital.


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