There is a perception in the marketplace (whatever that may be) that Dubai is again proving its many sceptics wrong and is in a much better financial position than it was a year ago.
Only last week Dubai Holdings, owned by the Dubai government, announced that it would be repaying US$ 500 million (from its own internal cash flow), the full amount due on a bond, in February. And this after one of the dreaded rating agencies, Moody’s, had warned late last year that refinancing may be the only option available when this debt fell due.
It does seem that the authorities have got their house in order to a large extent but no doubt there will be problems along the way as Dubai tries to meet its debt obligations of around US$ 100 billion of which around 10% is due to mature this year.
Another promising indicator is the fact that most hotels are full. The Dubai Shopping Festival along with the onset of the exhibition season are two main drivers. The annual month-long shopping fest is expected to add Dhs 15 billion to the retailing coffers and bring in nearly four million visitors.
There is also no doubt that events in other holiday destinations – especially Tunisia, Egypt and Syria – have had a positive effect for the tourist industry here. Tourism revenue accounts for a third of Dubai’s economy and is set to contribute even more in the future.
Probably the single most cause for optimism is the positive contribution made by Emirates Airline to Dubai’s economy and its knock-on effect on the local economy.
Dubai Airport is probably the world’s fastest growing hub handling 51 million passengers in 2011. It is interesting to note that the aviation industry accounts for nearly 30% of Dubai’s GDP equal to over Dhs 80 billion and responsible for 250,000 jobs. Not one for resting on their laurels, future capital expenditure will be in the region of Dhs 30 billion. And all this at the existing airport – what about the newly planned facility, Dubai World Central, which has even bigger aspirations?
It will come as no surprise that Dubai Duty Free has become the world’s single largest airport retailer with annual sales almost topping Dhs 20 billion.
Even much maligned Dubai real estate sees signs of thawing. Evidently wealthy Iranians, Chinese and Indians are becoming more active at the top end of the market which has been further boosted by increasing numbers of exiles from the troubled regions of the area as a result of the Arab Spring.
Trade is growing particularly with India and China and there are other positive signs that recovery is taking a foothold. Not surprisingly, the Dubai economic model of ten years ago – reliant on real estate and financial services – has been replaced by more emphasis on trade and tourism.
The two clouds on the horizon, for Dubai are the Euro crisis and what will happen over the water in Iran. Time will tell what impact they will have as the emirate continues to prove the doubters wrong again.