Various corporate leaders, analysts and industry associations spoke to INDIAN CEMENT REVIEW after the Union Budget was presented to offer their views on how the recommendations will impact the cement industry.
Dr S Chouksey, President, Cement Manufacturers´ Association
I congratulate the Hon´ble Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on behalf of the Indian cement industry for presenting a Budget which is high on reforms, and will boost the rural economy and uplift the weaker sections of society. The government´s bold steps to usher in poll reforms, curb tax evasion, and the further push to the digital economy are all forward looking. The cement industry is buoyant with the government´s commitment to provide 10 million houses to the homeless or those with kachha houses. The granting of infrastructure status to affordable housing is yet another step which would be looked at positively by the cement industry, though we were expecting the housing sector in general would be granted infrastructure status.
Industry´s concerns on high taxation on the sector, of course, remain and is expected that they will definitely be taken care of while fixing the rates in the GST regime. We welcome the government´s other policy measures, including increasing the fund alloca¡tion for infrastructure and particularly that of providing mason trai¡ning to 5 lakh persons by 2022. This will increase employment opportu¡nities and also bring in more efficiency to the construction sector. The target of 100 per cent rural electrification by April 2018 will bring in development oppor¡tunities right up to the core of rural India. Similarly, the thrust on rail mo¡dernisation and station redevelopment would also boost the construction sector. This sector has the potential for creation of employment opportunities and the government´s various steps to boost the construction sector will neutralise the unemployment created in some medium and small scale industries due to demonetisation.
Vaibhav Agarwal, Vice President - Research, PhillipCapital
In our opinion, this Budget is the most stru¡cturally positive one for the cement sector in the last decade. Although there were no direct announcements by the Finance Minster for the cement sector, a number of his announcements will lead to increased and sustained consumption of cement.
10 million houses by 2019 for the houseless
-This provision will lead to incremental cement demand of ~75 million tonnes over the next two-three years.
100 per cent rural electrification by 1st May 2018
-This implies deeper penetration of development opportunities in rural India in the form of construction of houses and roads; hence a structural positive.
Continued focus on sanitation
-Sanitation coverage in rural India is currently 60 per cent. The budget commentary remained very positive on sanitation projects. In our recent ground checks, we found that sanitation projects are one of the key demand drivers for cement. The continued thrust on such projects will help boost cement demand.
Higher investment in affordable housing and affordable housing being granted ´Infrastructure´ status will translate into more cement consum¡ption for such projects. Grant of infrastructure status means more participation on the supply side by construction companies/contractors/builders and faster execution of such projects.
Fostering a conducive labour environment
Labour issues are one of the key ones in construction projects. Continuous availability of labour is frequently a problem at most sites (most labour is generally migrant). The government´s focus on developing a conducive labour environment will mean labour issues will be sorted out to a large extent, implying smooth execution of projects at construction sites with steady cement consumption. This will also mean the other regular labour concerns for contractors (wages, job benefits) are resolved, which will ameliorate labour migration concerns. In addition, there are a few other announcements in the Budget which will have a positive impact on the industry:
The thrust on rail modernisation/station redevelopment projects and 25 stations going in for redevelopment will lead to material cement consumption.
Similarly, the introduction of the Metro Rail Act and various Metro rail policies will lead to faster and structured execution of such projects, implying better visibility of cement demand.
Further, the Centre has increased investments in the roads sector and 2,000 km of coastal roads have been identified for development. This will lead to more cement demand from road projects. The various airport upgradation/maintenance projects may imply increased cement consumption. Consumption may be even higher if upgradation work involves runways.
Amendment of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881
This was one of the key demands from north Indian channel partners and distributors. Northern India is a largely a cash-and-carry economy and issuing post-dated cheques is a normal practice. Trade associations in these regions had approached the government for these amendments.
With this development, the supply chain should be more comfortable with such instruments. We found north India averse to digital wallets and the swipe machine culture, given the 1-2 per cent transaction charges involved. Change in dynamics of affordable housing (30/60 sq mt carpet from 30/60 sq mt built-up area) would lead to larger sizes of such houses, which in turn will mean higher cement consumption.
The ´Notional Rent Income´ tax on unsold inventory for builders, post one year of receiving the commencement certificate if such houses remain unsold/unoccupied, will means correction in real estate prices/rentals, implying quicker-than-anticipated (though lower) cash flows to builders. The builder will be able to execute projects faster and transparently, implying better cement demand.
Exemption of capital gains tax where land is being pooled for the creation of Andhra Pradesh´s capital city if the person was holding the land as on 2 June, 2014, implies more transparent and faster execution of the capital city and quicker-than-anticipated cement demand. India Cements will be the key gainer followed by Dalmia Bharat, Ramco and other southern cement companies.
Reduction in holding period for considering capital gains tax to two years from three years and change of base year for indexation to 2001 from 1981 reduces the capital gains tax liability. This will mean quicker decisions in the real-estate markets to buy/sell (as the holding period comes down) and will also prompt builders for faster execution of projects, implying more sustained demand for cement from the real estate sector.
The increase in disposable income by a marginal reduction in tax rates in the Rs 2,50,000-Rs 5,00,000 tax bracket to 5 per cent from 10 per cent is a sentiment booster for those within this bracket, aspiring to buy new houses.
In short, the Budget´s overall impact on the cement sector is positive. All cement companies are winners, especially India Cements, Dalmia Bharat, JK Cement, JK Lakshmi Cement and UltraTech Cement.
Sameer Nagpal, CEO - Refractories, Dalmia Bharat Group
For refractories, which are the backbone for core manufacturing sectors like steel and cement, increase in expenditure allocation, particularly in railways, highways and housing should help build demand. I was expecting more for the manufacturing sector in terms of reforms and some specific measures to safeguard domestic manufacturing from cheaper, unreliable imports and that has not happened. Overall, it is a mixed Budget.
The Budget has had a positive impact on the cement sector with infrastructure investments and affordable housing to drive demand.
Here are the key Budget proposals:
Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) allo¡cation increased by 39 per cent to Rs 290 billion;
Allocation from Ministry of Rural Development increased by 10 per cent to Rs 1.05 trillion in FY18;
Investments in cement-intensive infrastructure segments (excluding power) are up 9.8 per cent to Rs 4.2 trillion. The total outlay towards National Highways is at Rs 1.24 trillion, up 11.1 per cent over the previous fiscal´s revised estimates;
Affordable housing to be accorded infrastructure status.
The increased government spending on PMAY will provide an impetus to the housing segment, which has been fairly muted over the last few years. Further, grant of infrastructure status to affordable housing would facilitate easier access to low-cost finance and thereby support demand.
A 9.1 per cent increase in allocation to rural development and 44 per cent rise in PMAY-Gramin is likely to catalyse growth in cement demand from rural housing, which typically constitutes 35 per cent of cement demand.
Further, increased government spending on infrastructure, especially cement-intensive sectors such as National Highways (up by 11.1 per cent), metros (15 per cent ), and other schemes (e.g., Swachh Bharat up by 27 per cent ), will augment cement sales.
Sundeep Kumar, Executive Director - Corporate Affairs & Communications, Dalmia Bharat Group
It is a positive and decisive Budget coming especially against the backdrop of the Government´s boldest measure of demonetisation. The Finance Minister has spelled out a forward-looking regimen for the infrastructure sector with a total allocation of up to Rs 3.96 trillion. Giving industry status will greatly ease financing for affordable housing. With the Metro rail emerging in cities and railway lines of 3,500 km to be commissioned next, along with tier-II city airports, there is a greater scope for public- partnership to thrive, which will aid construction activity and lead to a boom in demand for cement as well.
Further, enhancing expenditure on National Highways will give the much needed fillip to the cement industry. Overall, with a focus on rural and agricultural development, housing, clean energy, elimination of poverty, providing basic necessities to the farmers, waivers for senior citizens in government schemes and a promise of aiding the Skill India and Digital India campaigns, the government has presented an all-inclusive Budget this time around. On tax reforms, there has been no relief or relaxation on corporate tax for larger corporates, which is disappointing.
Shishir Baijal, Chairman & Managing Director, Knight Frank India
This has been one of the path-breaking bud¡gets with far-reaching changes, especially for the real estate sector. It is positive that the real estate sector has come in the central spectrum of the Union Budget. This has come at a time when the beleaguered sector has been looking at measures to boost the sentiments. The real estate sector, which was the hardest hit by demonetisation move, will be one of the major beneficiaries of this Budget.
Prudence in fiscal discipline is welcome and will encourage the RBI to look at a lower interest rate regime that will provide the much-needed fillip to this stressed sector. Increased focus on infrastructure, especially construction of new roads, improvement of existing roads and coastal connectivity, will go a long way to benefit the real estate sector.
Increase in allocation of funds under PMAY (Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana) shows the focus of the government towards making ´Housing for All´ a reality by 2020. Providing infrastructure status to affordable housing, a long-standing demand of the real estate industry, will not only bring the cost of financing down, but will also open up additional avenues for developers to raise funds. We believe that the shift in eligibility criteria for affordable housing from built-up area to carpet area will increase the unit size by 20-30 per cent and will offer home buyers the benefit of owning larger units. This will also encourage leading real estate players to enter the affordable housing segment.
The move to reduce the tenure of the Long Term Capital Gains Tax from three years to two years is extremely welcome and will help the marketability of real estate as an asset class. Changes in the taxation aspect of JDAs (Joint Development Agreements) will greatly encourage more land owners to partner with developers that will benefit the real estate developers, and in turn is likely to benefit the end consumers.