March 3, 2024

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Future Prospects in Cyprus?

Everybody is after money and foremost of all are the world Governments who are faced with shortfalls in their budgets. Getting more demanding in tax collection and adding new tax requirements is somewhat understandable during times of good economic activity but during the time when there is large unemployment, increasing property and other taxes, reducing social benefits etc it is all the worse. At least as far as Cyprus is concerned, what we are now going through is out of our own stupidity which becomes worse due to the confiscation of the deposit with the banks. It is generally accepted that the banking sector is partly to blame for our situation, yet the same sector is after its pound of flesh in a more aggressive way. Of course the banks must get whatever they are due, since if not, they might stand not to survive requiring further “haircut” on depositors. There are ways and ways to go about it and some banks show an understanding trying to help, whereas other financial institutions have not come to understand what is all about. As all these are not enough we study several proposals including that of debts to Government (e.g. property tax) for the debtors to be charged for criminal offence and lead them to prison – It is beyond us how they can suggest such a sort of solution when the people who brought on us the catastrophe are still around and these include our MPs whose with their rejection of Troika first proposal of contribution of around 7% on total deposits lead to the closing of one and the almost catastrophy of the second bank (the haircut in addition).

How can all these happen all at the same time and we detect even a certain competition amongst the “new” economists who are proposing tougher measures. Certain of these proposals should form part of a Greek tragedy scenario. There was an economist (of a sort) suggesting a brilliant (in his own idea) proposal in order to avoid debt burden refugee property owners not to sell their property to the Turkish Committee in the T. Held areas. His solution is for the Government to come up with €50 mil. p.a. budget to compensate the Turkish held property owners. We promptly closed the TV and went out for a drive. The sort of stupidity is enough and we say this at a time that there is no money around for food and basic needs.

We read also that British property owners, if they live abroad (as permanent residents) should pay capital gains tax when their property/house is sold back home. This is a serious situation which will affect British home buyers abroad should the British authority consider their home abroad their main residence. The strange thing here is that for the Cyprus capital gains tax purposes, there is a tax exemption if the owner declares his Cyprus home as being his main residence. So the local (Cypriot) tax authorities interpret even their holiday home as being “their main residence in Cyprus”. On the other hand the British authority if they come to know about it, it means that they will tax their British home for the capital gains.

Having said that where do the fortunate people who have cash stand? Where does one deposit his savings in cash? Based on the non clear statements by Eurozone that the Cyprus example may be repeated to all European banks, there is an exodus of funds from most of the E.U. countries, whereas we are informed that the “new” investment in Cyprus is to construct through private Cos safe boxes that are now operating – Banks safe boxes are full whereas foreign banks either do not offer interest on deposits and we now hear that some banks offer a “safe keep” fee. All these might at the end help real estate investment (regarding safety of cash) since the ½% interest on bank deposits (abroad) plus the E.U. risk, might divert some interest towards this form of investment. We have reported that Cyprus is becoming more of interest by international Investment Funds with experience in such type of real estate situation in distressed economies. Real estate returns on grade A buildings and subject to grade A tenants with long term leases are requiring 6½% p.a. (plus for escalation every 3 years). For locals the return of 6%-7% with sale and lease back possibility is an option but then a more recent Portuguese-U.S. Co is asking for 10%-12% return. Hedge Funds are in the region of 15% p.a. return – These returns are more than double of what we are used to but then with interest charges on delayed payment amount to 13% p.a. and one wonders if the 6%-7% p.a. return is not a “reasonable” one. How the situation will develop is difficult to say since much of it will depend on the economic progress, the retention or not of the local deposits, the collection or not of bad debts and in addition the world economic situation. If one examines the so far booming Turkish economy, the lending interest rates have increased on the average from 7% to 12% over one night which means new opportunities for investment in Turkey by the international funds as well as the competition of the deposit rates (the depreciation of the Turkish lira in addition making real estate even cheaper – including holiday competition).

So what is the future? Who is to say? Is one solution for the Qatarians to come to Cyprus for a second attempt for investment? Will the gas find happen earlier than the year 2020 providing us with some sort of investment confidence? Will the casino happen in time, will the Egyptians investors for the Larnaca Marina progress? What is happening to the Ayia Napa golf course and its marina development (we heard not of one but 3 groups being interested).

Because this is a country with much talk, small politics and prevailing stupidity, we do not expect that our immediate positive future with respect to real estate will happen. The signs are there, the interest be it limited in real estate investment is there, as is the vibrant private sector and the will of this new Government to make things better. Keeping our fingers crossed and to an extent based on the political situation with the Turkish Cypriots, we could do it over the next 1½-2 years. We need confidence and straight thinking to take over our future forward. With the improvement of the economy/confidence which will extend in real estate, will have a better chance to restart say in the year 2016. Do not expect however that prices will start rising at that time. The excess supply must be absorbed, the legal questions relevant, including that of the title issues, plus the reestablishment of Cyprus credit worthiness are problems amongst others to attend. At this point of time we must keep our fingers crossed.