Under Pressure

Facing the presssure head on is Dubai’s leading property developer, Emaar. Their recently announced ‘The Address Boulevard’ sold out within hours despite the fact that prices for the 542 serviced apartments being on the north side of high at US$ 680 per sq ft. Studios started at US$ 300k whilst 4-bedroom units were in excess of US$ 1.6 million. To try and avoid too much speculation, seen so much in the halycon days, buyers will have to pay 30% of the balance before they can sell on.

In their continuing quest to diversify, the company has also announced a management agreement for The Address Hotel, Masai Mara in Kenya – their second foray into Africa after opening in Cairo in 2009. If the new hotel has the same success as its Dubai equivalents, then the outlook is promising for this particular Emaar unit.

Although the hospitality sector continues with high occupancy rates, which will be enhanced  with the conference season fast approaching, it received a further boost that the Summit of the Global Agenda, in collaboration with the World Economic Forum, will take place between 12 – 14 November. Billed as the world’s largest brainstorming event, the city will host more than 1,000 experts and leaders to help develop innovative solutions for many of the world’s challenges.

The importance of such events has not escaped the eyes of HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who has ordered the establishment of a board, chaired by Emaar’s Mohammed Ali Al Abbar. The new entity will be responsible for organising and collating future Dubai events and festivals and will report directly to the Dubai Ruler.

Unsurprisingly, to cope with increased demand, DEWA plans to spend US$ 1.1 billion to upgrade and expand its infrastructure. It expects to raise the money through selling sukuks, the proceeds of which will be used to complete on-going projects and repay exisiting liabilties.

Although there are increasing number of cruises coming into the renovated Port Rashid Terminal, it is still a shock to see that Royal Caribbean will be scaling back their schedule at the end of the 2013 season. However with Costa, Aida, Tui and FTI maintaining the local presence, next year will see a 7% increase in volume to 420k passengers.

There are mixed results coming out of Dubai’s other port, Jebel Ali and its free zone companies. JAFZA, a unit of Dubai World, has H1 Revenue up to US$ 194 million but Profits down 20% to US$ 58 million, mainly because of a 40% hike in Financial Costs to US$ 66 million. The organistaion’s positive impact to the emirate’s success can be seen from its 25% contribution to Dubai’s trade, with 6,700 companies employing 170k. (In addition, DP World has sold off shares in their Belgian and Yemeni port facilties).

Dubai International Airport did not disappoint with a 20% August increase in passengers to 4.8 million whilst YTD figures are up 13.4% to 37.8 million. Despite the global economic slowdown, Dubai ploughs ahead with August cargo figures up 4.4% to 191k tons with  a 3% YTD rise to 1,482 million tons.

Two organisations that seem to have money to spend are  Tony Blair Associates and Emirates NBD. Readers may be surprised to read that Tony Blair, the erstwhile ex-PM, is negotiating a new and lucrative contract with the much maligned Kazakhstan government which could eventually be worth US 16 million. Earlier in the year, one of his many companies, Windrush Ventures, had a 2011 tax bill of US$ 510k on Revenue of US$ 19.5 million! Some reports indicate that he has earned over US$ 125 million since 2007, helped by annual retainers fronm the likes of JP Morgan (US$ 4 million) and Zurich (US$ 800k). It is pleasing to note that the good man is there “not to make money but to make a difference”!

Dubai’s largest bank reportedly spent US$ 1 million to bring over Pussycat Doll, Nicole Scherzinger, so that their staff and families could be entertained for forty five minutes. If that were the case, the money could have been better spent on an extra 15 staff to improve service to their customers – the people who actually pick up the tab.

However other Dubai banks are not faring as well. Early signs are that some of the banks may be scaling back operations in Dubai with the resultant loss of jobs. For instance, Credit Suisse is reloacting some of its investment bank work to Qatar whilst Deutsche Bank and Nomura Holdings are downsizing as deals continue to slow down. There are bound to be other bigger banks reducing their payroll in the near future.

Latest figures indicate that total bank lending from the country’s 51 financial institutions was slightly up as at the end of May. Although total lending rose to US$ 216.4 billion, credit extended to the private sector was down 1% to US$ 154.8 billion, lending to the other two segments – government and the public sector – was marginally up to US$ 30.3 billion and US$ 31.3 billion respectively.

The Dubai Financial Market came off its recent winning streak ending the week 2% down, or 35 points, at 1570 from a Sunday start of 1605. Despite this little setback, the market is up 16.0% YTD and year on year 8.4% in front.

Continuing problems in the eurozone and worsening US economic data will lead to the IMF downgrading its global growth forecasts – yet again! Its head, Christine Lagarde, is concerned and has voiced her dismay about the lack of progress on both sides of the Atlantic.

Social unrest has seen riots in the streets of Athens and Madrid as both governments appear clueless and directionless. Greece needs to show the troika that it will be able to come up with even more draconian cuts to be in a position to claim the next US$ 40 billion tranche of their US$ 175 billion bailout payment. Failure to do so will see the home of democracy returning to the drachma.

Spain has similar problems, with tax receipts down and benefit payments up, and it is only a matter of time before their stubborn PM, Mariano Rajoy, has to request the inevitable bailout.

Both countries are Under Pressure.

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