Glory Days

There are several news items confirming that Dubai is striving to return to its former glory. First, the STR Global Report places Dubai hotels number 1 in the world when it comes to occupancy (86.2%) and Revenue per Room (RevPar) and second only to Paris in relation to Average Room Rate (US$ 270). There again many of us already knew that the French capital is way overpriced.

Furthermore 9.3 million tourists visited Dubai in 2011 – a 10% increase on the previous year. Hoteliers were happy to see their Revenues jump 20%.

Many of these tourists would have had the pleasure of flying in with Emirates and the boost in this sector is part of the reason that regional air traffic jumped almost 15% in January. The IATA report also confirmed this to be the fastest growth rate of any area in the world.

It was also reported that the airline’s bond yield has fallen to a record low already this year and now hovers around the 4.4% mark. Similarly the debt default risk for Dubai has continued to fall with the yield on the government’s 6.7% debt now around 5%.

Further evidence – if it were needed – that residential real estate was on the up came with the news that house prices rose a further 2.3% in Q4 2011. According to a report from Knight Frank, Dubai currently stands at number 12 globally in terms of house price appreciation.

With the US$ 1 billion Al Sufouh tram project back on track, further confirmation that the RTA is planning to spend US$ 12 billion on infrastructure including adding a further 500 kilometres to the public transport network.

One of its major headaches will be to ensure that the different transport modes – rail, tram, monorail, abras etc – all connect without the need to walk – especially during the summer heat.

As a sign that Nakheel is back in business, the company is planning to double the size of its two major retail centres – Ibn Batuta Mall and Dragon Mart. The former – recognised as the largest theme mall in the world – already covers 320k square metres whilst the Chinese-centric facility will see an additional 160 square metres added to its current size.

Retail space has evidently increased 60% since 2005 and one would imagine that a temporary saturation point would be reached soon. But there again this is Dubai!

As Dubai continues to improve its energy efficiency, DEWA announced this week that it plans to issue bids in Q3 for the first phase of its US$ 3.3 billion solar park that will generate 1,000 megawatts of power when on-line.

It seems that banks everywhere are trying to cut costs by reducing staff numbers. For example, in the UK, RBS have just announced a culling of 5,000 workers whilst there are unconfirmed reports that here Emirates NBD is planning to lay off 15% of their workforce. Whilst unfortunate for those losing their jobs, we can only hope that this sends a message to the remaining bank employees that it is their customers who pay them and it is their customers who, by and large, are unhappy with their woeful – and often non-existent service. This is a major problem not only peculiar to Dubai.

No wonder then that the Central Bank is looking at consolidating its consumer protection unit, responsible for handling stakeholders’ grievances about the country’s financial institutions. It has to be a win win situation if levels of services were improved and banks started to look after their customers with fairer rates and charges on its credit cards, mortgages and personal loans.

This week the Dubai Financial Market did regain most of the losses incurred a week earlier with the Index currently standing at 1682 – or about 24% up since the beginning of the year. There is obviously some under-valued stock around but any trading should be carried out with some caution in such a volatile arena.

Although not unexpected, but still unwelcome for Dubai traders, is the fact that the Iranian rial has fallen about 50% against the dirham in black market trading since November 2011. This in turn makes Dubai exports more expensive and the problem is further exacerbated by the fact that trade finance has almost dried up. Tough US, UN and EU sanctions are having their impact not only in Iran but also in Dubai where some exporters are still owed money from their Iranian customers.

This week has seen Greece receive a temporary reprieve from its economic woes but it can only be a matter of time before the inevitable conclusion. Is it only the politicians who cannot see that good money should never follow bad money?

Finally what evidence does the UN require before we see positive action in Syria? What is happening there beggars belief and there are some people – not only in that country – that will have their day of judgement.

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