The End of the Line

Just how diverse the UAE economy has become can be gleaned from the fact that the country is now the leading global hub in the tea re-export market with a massive 60% share, valued last year at US$ 48 million. Furthermore, it is ranked second in the world for imports which have climbed 50% in the past four years to reach US$ 485 million – accounting for 9.4% of total worldwide sales. Year on year, exports were up 68% to US$ 5.7 million. (In relation to coffee re-exports, UAE came in fifth with a total of US$ 6.2 million).

This is small change when compared to the country’s largest traded item, gold – with five-month imports at US$ 12.9 billion and exports of US$ 8.6 billion. In 2011, Dubai accounted for 29% of global trade in the yellow metal with transactions of US$ 41 billion.  However, this year, the City of Gold has taken two massive blows in the past quarter with India raising its import duty on the metal from 1% to 4% as well as strictly imposing duty on incoming passengers restricting females to a limit of US$ 460 and men US$ 190. It is estimated that 70% of 22 carat gold jewellery sold in Dubai is destined for India.

Turkey is one expanding gold market with official data showing their August exports of the precious metal to Dubai reaching US$ 2.2 billion, with 54% of the total passing through the main Ataturk airport and 35% from the smaller Sabiha Gocken facility.

As Q3 is always a quiet season, it comes as no surprise to see property transactions drop to US$ 5.4 billion with YTD figures at US$ 22.6 billion. Quarterly land transactions showed a similar trend with returns of US$ 5.4 billion and YTD reaching US$ 22.6 billion.

The airline sector never seems to have a downtime. Dubai International Airport’s September passenger numbers surged 12.8% to almost 4.8 million resulting in a 13.4% YTD increase to 42.6 million. Despite the global slowdown, cargo numbers were again up – this time by 9.1% to 177k tonnes.

There was also growth in sea trade with DP World, the global port operator, announcing a 4.6% YTD growth to 42.4 million TEUs (twenty foot equivalent units) with 14.2 million TEUs in Q3. Its local operation saw a 4.6% quarterly rise in traffic to 3.4 million TEUs. Container handling accounts for almost 80% of DP World’s revenue from its sixty worldwide terminals, with a further ten being developed. This week, it has won a US$ 200 million contract to build and operate another berth adjacent to its existing terminal in Mumbai.

On the aviation front, flydubai’s Chief Executive, Ghaith al Ghaith, is forecasting that the fledgling low cost carrier will turn in a profit by the end of the year – no mean feat as it has only been operating since June 2009. Flying to over 50 destinations – all within five hours of its home base – the company operates 27 aircraft with another 23 already ordered and looks set for another era of unprecedented growth.

Despite a slight 2.8% dip in occupancy in September, the hospitality industry continues to fare well. With Average Room Rates up 3.9% to US$ 218 and Total Revenue per Available Room rising 2.7% to US$ 312, the Gross Operating Profit per Average Room soared 11.3% to US$ 94. Overall this year, Revenue from the hotel and hospitality sector will be US$ 4.9 billion – a 9% increase on 2011.

The hotels will receive another boost this week with The Big 5 International Building and Construction Show opening on Monday. This promises to be the largest show of its kind in the ME and will attract over 50,000 attendees.

Dubai’s most prolific developer, Emaar Properties, has announced it is selling luxury apartments in upmarket Los Angeles. With a price range from US$ 1.5 million to US$ 22.4 million, the 22-storey tower block was purchased, whist still under construction, in 2007 for US$ 65 million. Since then the developer has spent a further US$ 325 million on getting the property ready for sale.

The company that was in the forefront of the local building boom in the 1990s has just completed the JW Marriott Marquis, the world’s tallest hotel (at 355 metres). This week, Brookfield Multiplex also announced that it was to design and construct Masdar’s new HQ in Abu Dhabi. Ready by the end of 2014, it will one of the most sustainable constructions in the world and will include the fitting of 1,000 sq mt of rooftop solar panels.

The much troubled Union Properties gave signs that things were improving with a Q3 Net Profit of US13.6 million – not much one would think but a massive transformation from a US$ 290 million loss in the corresponding 2011 period. Although YTD Revenue dropped from US$ 870 million to US$ 355 million, its bottom line went from a US$ 354 million loss to a profit of US$ 42 million.

Meanwhile DEWA has awarded First Solar, a US company, to construct the first phase of the US$ 3.3 billion Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park. When completed, the development will cover 48 sq km and produce 1,000 mw of clean energy. The initial phase will see a 13 mw power plant which will generate annually in excess of 22 million kw hrs of electricity.

A much smaller investment was announced by US-based Emerson with a US$ 33 million plant for expanding their Jebel Ali facility. The company will be in a position to expand its a/c, heating and refrigeration solutions unit.

Another shortened week on the Dubai Financial Market saw the Index open at 1631 and close marginally lower at 1623 on thin trading. The market has seen a YTD rise of 19.94%.

There is no doubt that the country is benefitting from strong oil prices as borne out by the latest OPEC figures which shows that the twelve nations in the 42-year old organisation will generate earnings in excess of US$ 1 trillion again in 2012. In Q1 this year, the UAE had income of US$ 35 billion.

The federal government has just released details of its 2013 budget which sees increased emphasis on social welfare which accounts for 51% of the US$ 12.2 billion to be spent with education and energy expenditure at US$ 2.7 billion and US$ 1.5 billion respectively. It is to be noted that the federal budget accounts for only 11% of the country’s total expenditure with individual emirates responsible for their own spending plans.

A much bigger budget is beginning to rattle European politicians as the British threaten to scupper any deal on the EU budget which includes a US$ 1.3 trillion spending plan. In addition, the French – having always been the largest recipient of EU farm subsidies – have not taken too kindly to the fact that other members, including Germany, want to cut back on this spending as part of an overall US$ 260 reduction plan.

September saw a new record in the eurozone with 18.5 million people now unemployed or 11.6% of the workforce, compared to 16.3 million a year ago. Analysts expect this to worsen in the coming months.

Greece sinks further into the mire with latest forecasts indicating that its debt mountain will rise from 167% of economic output (as agreed with the troika in March) to 189% by year end. Obviously there will have to be some form of official fiddling to ensure that the Greeks can close the gap and receive their next tranche of bailout funds later in the month. It still seems that the country will have to leave the euro, one way or the other, and the longer it goes on, so increases the cost to other eurozone creditors.

In the US, super storm Sandy may result in a huge US$ 45 billion bill to the economy after bringing New York and other major cities along the eastern seaboard to a standstill. What it has done to Obama’s chances of re-election remains to be seen.

For the President and Greece, November may well be The End of The Line.

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