Money-whitening scope pushes flat sales up

31 07 2009

Apartment sales have soared around 15 percent in the first month of the new financial year, as the government announced that buyer’s source of income would not be questioned under black money whitening scope.

Housing sector people say the scenario was reverse during January-March of 2009. The realtors blamed the ongoing global recession fallout for about 30 percent drop in sales at that time.

“The sector has overcome that bad time in July and now it enjoys around 15 percent growth in terms of sales,” said Tanveerul Haque Probal, president of Real Estate and Housing Association of Bangladesh (REHAB). “The scope of money whitening is one of the reasons.”

Had the National Board of Revenue (NBR) already issued the SRO (statutory regulatory order), such responses would have been much more.

The 2009-10 budget has allowed whitening black money through investing in more than 64 sectors, including housing.

Any person can legalise his or her black money by purchasing a single flat after paying a certain amount of tax fixed for per square feet. However this tax varies in line with the apartment location.

In a recent meeting with the finance minister, the industry insiders pointed to the sales growth.

“Definitely, it happens because of the money whitening scope,” said Mohammad Abdul Awal, managing director of the Structural Engineers Ltd (SEL), a leading developer.

SEL has ongoing projects at Gulshan, Mohammadpur, Uttara, Mirpur, Indira Road, Malibagh and Shyamoli in Dhaka. Its project outside the capital is in Comilla. Earlier, apartment sales in city’s posh areas dropped significantly in the first three months of the year.

Awal, a former president of REHAB, said customers queries are now coming from all parts of the city. “The queries are aplenty,” the SEL boss said.

An anti-graft drive during the caretaker government rule, which bound the intending buyers of flats to show their sources of incomes, pushed the sales down to over 40 percent.

Sayed Ismail Ali, managing director of Multiplan Development Ltd, who runs 13 housing projects in Dhaka, said customers’ interests in buying apartments have doubled this month.

As many as 500 developers construct around 7000 flats every year on an average. The usual monthly sales hover around 600, but the March sales came down to 180. In the changed scenario, demand for apartments in July jumped to more than 800, according to the sectoral trade body.

Although sales go up, apartment price is yet to come down, rather in some cases it soared. The present prices range from Tk 8,000 to Tk 15,000 per square foot in posh areas, while the rates are between Tk 4,000 and Tk 5,000 in other areas.

The housing sector has contributed nearly 7.35 per cent to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) in the financial year 2009. Some 2.0 million skilled and non-skilled persons are directly and indirectly involved in the sector. (31/7/09)

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Best Air to resume flights in Sept 2009

30 07 2009

Best Air, the country’s third private airlines, is likely to resume its flight operation in September after months of suspension.

“We’re planning to stage a comeback in September,” Best Air Chairman M Haider Uzzaman told the news agency over telephone yesterday.

Best Air suspended its flights on February 20 due to financial crisis.

Haider said he is trying to manage funds from different sources to resume the flight operation of his airlines.

Replying to a question, the Best Air chief, whose name was found on the list of loan defaulters, said Best Air will operate its flights on its old routes at the initial stage.

Meanwhile, the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) has suspended operations of four local airlines after the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) raised significant safety concerns over the issuance of air operator certificates by the local regulator. The four carriers are Best Air, Mid Asia, THT and Voyager.

Best Aviation started its journey in 1999 as helicopter operator and then began its operation as a freighter airline in 2000. It obtained license in 2006 from the Civil Aviation Authority to operate passenger service both on international and domestic routes. The company launched its passenger fleet with Boeing 737-200, which was the first in Bangladesh.

The airlines had started its operation on the country’s busiest Dhaka-Chittagong route on January 14, 2007 with Boeing 737-200.

Before its discontinuation, the airlines had operated flights to Chittagong, Bangkok, Colombo, Male, Dubai, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.(19/7/09)





No irrigation project in Tipai downstream

29 07 2009

India yesterday assured Bangladesh of not building any irrigation project downstream of the Tipaimukh hydro power structure in Manipur.

Indian ministries of power, external affairs and water resources conveyed the message to the parliamentary delegation from Bangladesh in an hour-long interaction at the South Block of the Secretariat Building in New Delhi.

This addresses a key concern of Bangladesh, which has been worried over a possible irrigation project downstream of Tipaimukh Dam on the Borak as it could impact the flow of water in the cross-border river.

The Indian officials, including officials from National Hydro Power Corporation, also assured the visiting delegation, headed by Awami League lawmaker Abdur Razzak, of India being ready to extend all cooperation to protect the interests of the two countries regarding the Tipaimukh power project.

During the meeting with the Indian officials a video presentation was made on the Tipaimukh project. A number of the 10-member Bangladesh parliamentary delegation raised several questions about the project and the Indian officials answered them, sources said.

The lawmakers sought documents and studies conducted by India containing information about various aspects of the Tipaimukh project. The Indian officials said if Bangladesh wanted any document on any specific issue they should send a formal request before this could be processed.

A few Bangladeshi MPs raised the issue of joint inspection of the power project to which the officials said they were not authorised to make a call on this and only appropriate authorities could make such a decision.

Former water resources minister Razzak said the parliamentary team went to India to study the project and take back as much information as possible collected through discussions with Indian officials and ministers.

Indian officials said they were aware of the reservations of Bangladesh and made it clear that New Delhi did not want any bitterness in bilateral relations over the issue.

Yesterday’s interaction with the officials was the centrepiece of Bangladeshi parliamentary delegation’s visit to India because it covered the technical details of the Tipaimukh project, sources said.

Later the delegation called on Indian External Affairs Minister S M Krishna and discussed the issue and the ties between India and Bangladesh.

The delegation would meet Indian Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde today before flying to Guwahati on their way to Tipaimukh project site.

The delegation is scheduled to return to New Delhi from Tipaimukh site in the afternoon of July 31 before proceeding to Ajmer to offer fateha at the Dargah of Sufi Khwaja Moinuiddin Chisti.

The delegation is expected to return to New Delhi on August 1 before wrapping up the visit and leave for Dhaka on August 2.

The project, which is expected to generate 1,000 megawatt of electricity, is important for India because it will help usher in development in Manipur, which faces severe power shortage. source





Beximco Group buys into GMG Airline

27 07 2009

Dhaka June 17 2009— Beximco Group has bought a 50 percent stake in GMG Airlines and is injecting enough cash into Bangladesh’s biggest private passenger carrier to buy two big planes, the company announced Wednesday.

Beximco paid Tk 30 crore to buy the stake in the ailing airline and will also lend another Tk 40 crore to help GMG through its financial crisis.

“We feel that GMG has a huge potential with its licenses to operate on many lucrative routes that the foreign airlines are now exploiting,” said Salman F Rahman, the Beximco Group vice chairman, announcing the deal.

“So much of our foreign currency is flying out of Bangladesh because our failure to fly these routes,” Salman Rahman told bdnews24.com.

GMG needed Tk 70 crore to weather the crisis caused by the high oil prices and the global meltdown.

“GMG’s current owners will dilute down to 50 percent and issue new shares worth Tk 30 crore in favour of Beximco Ltd, which will make up the rest 50 percent,” Rahman said of the new deal.

Beximco Holdings will lend the rest Tk 40 crore to GMG to ease the airline’s financial pressure.

Rahman said GMG would buy two wide-bodied Boeing 767s to boost its current six-plane fleet.

Two of its existing six planes were now grounded, but would be brought back to operation with the Beximco cash.

GMG Airlines started its operations on 6th April, 1998.

The Airlines now operates from Dhaka to Chittagong, Cox’s Bazar, Jessore and Sylhet on its domestic routes and to Kolkata, Dubai, Kuala Lampur, Kathmandu, Bangkok and Karachi on the international routes. source





United Airways launches flight to Dubai

27 07 2009

United Airways, the leading private airline of Bangladesh, has announced that it will start flying between Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) from July 10, 2009.

The airline said in a statement that the new flight was being launched in order to meet the “fast-growing demand for air travel” on the Dhaka-Dubai route.

United Airways started operations on July 10, 2007, by flying on domestic routes in Bangladesh as well as to Kolkata in India.

The airline said it would operate 7 flights a week on the Dhaka-Dubai route using a MD-83 aircraft with 160 seats, including 8 business-class seats.

Tasbirul Ahmed Choudhury, chairman and managing director of United Airways, said in the statement that the airline had plans to launch flights to other destinations in the Persian Gulf region as well as to cities in Europe, including London, using Boeing 767-300ER aircraft.

One more MD-83 aircraft, with the same seat configuration, would join the United Airways fleet in order to fly on the Dhaka–Kuala Lumpur, Dhaka-Kathmandu, and Dhaka-Bangkok routes.

United Airways, according to its chairman and managing director, has already received permission from Bangladesh’s Civil Aviation Authority to operate 7 flights to Dubai, 3 flights to Bangkok (Thailand), 3 flights to Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), and 4 flights to Kathmandu (Nepal).

Britain and the Persian Gulf countries, Choudhury added, were United Airways’ most important markets – with one in two people who fly abroad going to the 6 Persian Gulf countries and Britain.

The Persian Gulf countries and Britain combined employ over 70% of Bangladesh’s expatriate workers, who number over 5 million.

According to Choudhury, Emirates Airlines, the national airline of Dubai and the world’s 6th biggest carrier, currently carries a lion’s share of air traffic between Dhaka, Dubai and Britain.

United Airways, which is 95% owned by expatriate Bangladeshis, said it was also planning to operate two regional routes – to Canton in China and Yangon in Myanmar – by the end of 2009.

According to official data, air traffic in Bangladesh increased by 7.3% in 2008, making Bangladesh one of the fastest-growing air-travel markets in the region. source





Biman Bangladesh to launch flight to Libya and China

25 07 2009

DHAKA, April 21 2009 — Bangladesh’s national Biman Bangladesh Airlines will fly to Libya and China soon, its first international routes after a gap of 14 years, leading daily The Financial Express reported on Tuesday.

The national airliner will start flights to Libya and China — two of the country’s fastest-growing trade partners — next month as it sees potentially robust air traffic on the routes, the report said quoting officials.

“We’re going to operate bi-weekly flights to Tripoli and Guangzhou in May,” a senior Biman official was quoted as saying.

Demand for air travel between Dhaka and the Libyan capital of Tripoli has started soaring since the Libyan government last year announced to hire more than 500,000 Bangladesh workers to labor its booming construction sector, the newspaper said.

Travel traders were quoted by the newspaper as saying that at least 10,000 Libya-bound Bangladesh workers are now stranded as they get no air tickets due to lack of seats.

The oil-rich African nation will recruit about 1.0 million foreign workers, mostly from Bangladesh, to help develop its construction sector and oil industry hungry for foreign-born workforce, the report said.

Meanwhile, another Biman official said, “Trade between Bangladesh and China remains robust. The airlines flying on the route rely on the business traffic.”

Biman, once the market leader, has gradually lost out to 20-oddforeign airlines, which have snared over 80 percent of the Bangladesh aviation market.

The state airline cutback half a dozen international routes and withdrew from the domestic market under pressure from a record loss of 120 million U.S. dollars in fiscal 2006-07 (July 2006-June 2007) after another 100 million U.S. dollars in losses a year earlier, the newspaper said.

Biman travels to 18 countries around the world and has the right to fly to 16 more, The Financial Express said. source





TeleTalk gets $211m loan from China

25 07 2009
TeleTalk, the state-run mobile operator, has got $211 million loans from the Chinese government for its modernisation and expansion of network.‘We have got $211 million loans from the Chinese government and now we will spend the money for modernising TeleTalk and expanding its network to provide 3G (third-generation) technology,’ TeleTalk managing director Mujibur Rahman told the media on Wednesday.
He said a project has been taken in which the state-run mobile operator aims to have 15 lakh 3G customers and expand broadband network to the upazila level. ‘TeleTalk will adopt 3G technology to enhance multimedia usability in all popular modes and broad bandwidth with high speed,’ said the TeleTalk MD.

‘We are committed to provide better service to our customers and for this we will expend our network in the rural areas,’ he said.

In the six-operator mobile market, TeleTalk is stuck at the bottom with 11 lakh subscribers. Mujibur Rahman said the operator would increase its subscriber base to 30 lakh within a year.

The Teletalk Bangladesh Limited was incorporated on December 26, 2004 as the only government-sponsored mobile telephone company, which has already established its network in 64 districts, 402 upazilas and most of the highways.

Admitting poor network coverage, he said, ‘We had expanded our network in the 15, among 17, hilly upazilas and would widen the network to every upazila of the country.’ source