Don’t Look Back In Anger

cyprus-atmThere is no doubt that the local tourism industry is booming and latest figures from the World Travel and Tourism Council just serve to confirm this. The massive impact this sector has on the economy can be gauged from the fact that it contributed US$ 52.8 billion, or 14%, of the GDP, with this set to grow even further in 2013. No wonder then that the industry accounted for almost 23% of total investment last year (amounting to US$ 22.6 billion) and over 11% of the work force – over 383k.

Interestingly, UAE ranked 15th  of 140 countries in a World Economic Forum survey on positive attitudes towards foreign visitors. At the top end of the scale were New Zealand, Iceland and Morocco whilst the least friendly were Bolivia, Venezuela, Russia and Kuwait.

The second ‘T’ in the Dubai trinity is trade and recent blogs have enumerated how well this sector is performing. One of the fastest growing segments is that of diamond trading and latest figures indicate that Dubai has become the third most important global hub after Mumbai and Antwerp. From an almost zero start position in 2003, the business is now worth in excess of US$ 40 billion and growing.

(It has to be Dubai when you hear stories of a Swiss company selling a Bentley Continental GTC diamond encrusted bonnet for US$ 545k. In the same vein, the most expensive garment in the world – an abaya – valued at US$ 17.7 million is on show at Raffles Dubai).

DP World had a 20.9% increase in 2012 profits to US$ 555 million as its Revenue rose 4.7% to US$ 3.12 billion. The world’s third largest ports operator invested US$ 685 million last year on its sixty terminals spread across six continents. This year, it plans to spend US$ 3 billion and is currently involved in eleven new developments and expansions.

Dubai-based Kaloti Group is helping the government of Suriname to build South America’s first ever gold smelting plant. When fully operational in 2016, it could be refining over 60 tons of gold annually.

Another step in making Dubai a major medical hub was the announcement that MHK (Mir Hashem Khoory) will build a hospital at Meydan. The 170-bed project, covering 280k sq ft, will be completed in 2015 and will be manned by 600 staff, half of whom will be from Korea. Currently this sector contributes around 6% to the UAE’s non-oil GDP totalling US$ 3.2 billion; estimates are that this figure will quadruple over the next three years.

Emaar had mixed results in respect of their property trades in 2012. Whilst apartment sales more than doubled to US$ 681 million, both its villa and commercial sales were down – villa sales dropped marginally to US$ 255 million whilst its commercial property nosedived from US$ 736 million to US$ 186 million.

Already owning the world’s second largest yacht, Dubai, HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum has taken delivery of a rather smaller 40 metre aluminium superyacht built by the Italian company, Saniorenzo. Curiously, seven of the ten biggest ever yachts are regionally owned. “Dubai” comes in 2nd at 160 metres (2 metres shorter than Roman Abramovich’s “Eclipse”), with The Sultan of Oman’s “Al Said” (155 metres), Saudi-owned “Abdulaziz” (147 metres),  Abu Dhabi’s “Yas” (141 metres), Saudi Crown Prince’s “Al Salamah”  (139 metres) and the Qatari Emir’s “Al Mirqab” (133 metres).

News this week that the belated Al Sufouh trams will be in Dubai by the end of 2013 – three years behind schedule because of liquidity problems emanating from the after effects of the GFC. The first phase of the 14 km track will see the 300-capacity vehicles move up to 3,500 passengers an hour from the Marina down Al Sufouh road and linking with three metro stations on SZR. Phase 1, covering 10.6 km, is expected to cost US$ 1.09 billion.

With an estimated US$ 50 billion worth of debt maturing between 2014-2016, don’t be surprised to see one of Dubai’s bigger government entities going public in the next year or so. Given the right economic climate, assets, such as Emirates or DEWA, would surely sell at a premium.

Last year, the UAE pumped 5% more oil raising their daily production to 2.68 million barrels. Consequently the country’s oil export earnings rose to US$ 124.7 billion boosting its current account from US$ 41 billion to US$ 60.5 billion – an impressive 47.6% surge.

During 2012, there was a 4.4% rise in money supply aggregate M2 as well as increases in bank loans and advances (2.6%) to US$ 299.5 billion and bank deposits (9.2%) to US$ 318.2 billion. The Central Bank also confirmed that, at the end of 2012, money supply M0 (currency in circulation and with banks) was at US$ 15.75 billion.

Meanwhile Dubai Financial Market Index had a flat trading week marginally down from its Sunday opening of 1916 to close on Thursday at 1910. The downward trend is expected to continue into April. YTD the Index is still up 16.85%.

HSBC is in trouble again – this time in Argentina where the authorities have accused the bank of money laundering and helping its clients evade taxes. The tax agency has commenced legal proceedings but the amounts involved are small fry compared to what went on in US which led to a US$ 1.9 billion settlement last year.

Another bank that seems to be more concerned with the welfare of its senior staff than its customers is Barclays. It has been reported that nine of them will receive a total of US$ 60 million in a share pay-out deal. So much for a promised overhaul of the bank’s extravagant pay deals!

One of the high profile firms in the US$ 2.25 trillion hedge fund industry, SAC Capital Advisors, has been caught in the biggest ever insider trading fraud. Its founder, Steven A Cohen, who has built up a US$ 15 billion hedge fund, settled with the US regulators and agreed to pay US$ 616 million as penalty for basically cheating the system. In the ideal world, the likes of Mr Cohen should be locked up for their misdemeanours.

On the tenth anniversary of the Iraq invasion, a recent report claims that the US has spent at least US$ 138 billion in military and reconstruction costs. 52% of this total (US$ 72 billion) was secured by ten contractors with the main beneficiary being KBR, a former subsidiary of Halliburton, which raked in revenues of US$ 39.5 billion. Coincidentally, Dick Cheney, the former VP to George Bush, used to run Halliburton. What is also worrying is a 2011 report on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan estimated that US$ 60 billion had been either wasted or lost to fraud since 2001.

In its aim to acquire strategic overseas assets, Chinese foreign direct investment continues to climb with Australia becoming a big target. In the first two months of this year, investment there was up 242% over the corresponding period in 2012 whilst there were major pushes in Hong Kong and US where increases of 156% and 146% were witnessed. Latest figures show that US$ 18.39 billion was spent overseas whilst inward investment stood at US$ 17.48 billion.

A combination of falling exports (2.9%) and rising imports (11.9%) is not good news for the Japanese economy as it reported a February trade deficit of US$ 8.1 billion. It seems that a falling yen (20% down on the US$ since November) is not the panacea many thought it would be.

Forecasting is not one of George Osborne’s strengths. In October, the UK Chancellor estimated the country’s 2013 growth at 1.2% – now he admits that it will be halved to 0.6% and even that may be on the optimistic side. Furthermore his December borrowing forecast has now been revised downwards, adding a further US$ 84 billion over the next five years on a debt figure heading towards US$ 1.8 trillion.

The week started with an attempted Great Euro Bank Robbery via a brazen – but ultimately failed – effort by European politicians, bankers and unelected eurocrats to clean away their financial shenanigans at the expense of Cypriot bank customers. With estimates that Russian interests hold 40% (or US$ 31 billion) of total deposits in Cyprus banks, there was a feeling that maybe the Germans were not too happy to be seen rescuing Russian money launderers. It would appear that the troika would not release US$ 12.9 billion in emergency loans unless US$ 7.5 billion was forthcoming with a bank levy on deposit accounts. Why then did they allow funds to bail out troubled Spanish banks to be paid directly to the government. How did Greece get US$ 310 billion in funds when their small neighbour is asking for such a relatively small amount?

It appears that Angela Merkel  will not allow any rescue funds to be used to bail out troubled banks. With an election coming up in September, the German Chancellor is probably more concerned about her domestic political future rather than the future of the eurozone. So much for eurozone solidarity as Cyprus is cast away to fend for itself.

If there is no satisfactory ending to this euro-made debacle, then there will be not only be huge ramifications in the Mediterranean island but the contagion effect will be felt  around the world.

Noel Gallagher was in town this week and performed a few of his Oasis songs. Try telling Cypriots, US taxpayers, HSBC and Barclays bank customers Not To Look Back In Anger – they all have a right to be completely hacked off!

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