Out of Time

dubai-world-trade-centerWith Easter fast approaching, the local hospitality industry is bracing itself for another busy period. Apart from the influx of tourists, another sector is becoming an increasingly important driver in filling Dubai’s growing number of hotels and that is the conference market. Recent figures indicate a 12.5% surge to 1.85 million in the number of visitors attending the various exhibitions held at the Dubai World Trade Centre last year, including 703,000 from overseas. The 150 trade shows and exhibitions held are estimated to have filled Dubai’s coffers by US$ 1.8 billion.

It is not only people flooding into these shores but also capital. The Department of Economic Development has reported that its foreign investment office facilitated investment of nearly US$ 1 billion last year with a total economic impact of US$ 5 billion – a 14.3% jump on 2011. No doubt, disgruntled Cypriot depositors will  be looking to transfer funds into Dubai when draconian transfer limits are lifted.

The first two months of 2013 have seen Dubai International increase its passenger numbers by 15% up to 10.6 million. As a result, the airport has become the world’s second busiest – behind London Heathrow. It is expected that this will change with Dubai’s expansion plans of an increase in capacity by 50% to 90 million within the next five years.

The main driver behind these impressive returns has to be Emirates. Their passenger numbers will grow even further because of the decision by  the Australian Competiton and Consumer Commission to give final approval for the airline and Qantas to combine operations for the next five years. Dubai will take over the mantle of Singapore which has been the regional hub for the Australian carrier for the past two decades.

Having received 151 aircraft from Boeing since 2002, Emirates has 73 777-300ER on order worth in excess of US$ 23 billion. The three-year old budget carrier, flydubai, already has 27 737-800s in service with a further 23 still to be delivered. An obvious boost for Boeing and the US economy.

Damac Properties continue to hog the headlines with a raft of new developments already announced in Q1. Their latest offering is a luxury tower of hotel serviced apartments located on the seafront at Dubai Maritime City. The company also announced that phase 1 of its US$ 1 billion Paramount Hotel sold out within hours of release as over 1,000 potential international investors attended the launch. This is yet another positive sign of a major recovery in the Dubai property market.

One of Dubai’s major developers has just signed a US$ 136 million contract to build the Nile Towers in Cairo. Arabtec’s 23-storey hotel and residential complex – its third major project in Egypt – will include a 256-room Hilton and 114 luxury apartments. Having got its fingers burnt during the Dubai real estate crash four years ago, the company seems to be concentrating away from its home base.

Meanwhile Q2 will see Meydan announce some major projects on its rambling 3.7 million sq mt site. In order to fund future infrastructure, Meydan has just signed a financing deal with Commercial Bank International and Qatar National Bank.

In Meydan’s southern extension, G & Co has started work on the US$ 327 million development of its Millennium Estate. It is expected that completion of the 198 luxury villas – that will cost between US$ 1.56 million and US$ 2.0 million – will be completed by 2015. Funding of the 3.8 million sq ft project has been sourced locally.

Following its recent announcement of a new hospital in Meydan, local company Mir Hashem Khoory (MHK) is going into education with news that it is tying up with UK’s Kent College, Canterbury. Unlike some other educational facilities, this will not be a franchise arrangement as the UK entity will manage and operate the 2,000 student operation ready to open in 2015. It is expected to cost in the region of US$ 41 million.

The Varkey-run GEMS is planning to build a further 21 schools, over the next three years, bringing their total inventory of educational establishments to over eighty. The Dubai company, the world’s largest privately owned provider of school education, may have to raise up to US$ 1 billion to finance this expansion.

There have been two major industrial investments reported by Dubai-based companies – Al Braik Investments and Caparol. The former has obtained approval to establish a US$ 200 million silicon smelter in Abu Dhabi’s Khalifa Industrial Zone. When up and running in 2016, its two furnaces will have an annual capacity of 33,000 tonnes.

The other – a JV between Emaar Industries and Investments and Caparol – will develop a US$ 10.9 million facility in Dubai Industrial City. The German partner is that country’s largest paint manufacturer and is looking at tapping into the MENA market estimated to be worth US$ 680 million. The factory will be able to produce 30,000 tonnes per annum.

The government-owned Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority had a record 2012 with a 26% jump in profits to US$ 45.1 million on Revenue of US$ 186 million. There was also a 32% hike in the number of companies to over 700 of which 480 are involved in the IT industry.

Having made records sales of over 1,650 vehicles in 2012, it is no wonder to see Al Nabooda planning a US$ 39 million new Porsche showroom on SZR. Early indicators are that motor vehicle sales this year will be stronger than 2012.

A recent study has shown that the use of electronic payment products continues to expand in the region. Over the past four years, this medium has reportedly added US$ 4.2 billion to the UAE economy, compared to US$ 4.7 billion in Saudi Arabia and US$ 1.2 billion in Kuwait. Once again the UAE is seen to be punching above its weight.

The long drawn out Deyaar fraud case came to its conclusion this week with the former CEO, Zack Shahin, sentenced to fifteen years and three of his cohorts receiving lesser sentences. Between 2004 – 2007, they were accused of accepting bribes to the value of US$ 5.5 million. In addition fines of more than US$ 7.8 million were handed out.

The Dubai Financial Market Index has fallen 3.4% – its largest weekly drop in the past ten months. April will probably see more of the same. The market has been flat and falling over the past four weeks but is still up 13.7% so far in 2013.

Although Cyprus is still the dominant business story, there is bad news further afield. Argentina is on the brink of defaulting  on a looming US$ 1.3 billion claim. In 2002, the country had problems with repaying a US$ 100 billion loan; most of the creditors agreed to a  revised settlement except for hold-out creditors who refused and wanted full payment. Courts have agreed to their request   and the time of reckoning has now arrived for the South American government..

Three indictaors in the UK show that the country is in a bigger economic malaise than most obdservers had forecast. The latest quarterly GDP has a fall of 0.3% with a triple dip recession becoming more likely. Then its 2012 current account has jumped from US$ 30 billion to US$ 88 billion; the gap between spending and earnings is now 3.7% of the GDP – its highest level since 1989. Finally, sterling is under enormouus pressure and has fallen 6.7% to the US$ and 3.9% to the euro this quarter.

Eurozone’s third smallest economy, at US$ 23 billion, (behind Malta and Slovenia), has had an epic week. Finally Cyprus had to face reality after their last chance, Russia, refused any help. In exchange for a US$ 12.8 billion bail out, their second largest bank was closed down and depositors – with more than US$ 128k – were  heavily penalised. Further measures included a daily limit of US$ 368 for withdrawals and severe restrictions on international transactions limited to US$ 6.4k per month.

The end result is that there are now two euros in Cyprus – a cash euro and a bank euro, most of which cannot be accessed. The country has little chance of economic survival if tihs staus quo continues. President Nicos Anastasiades still clings to the hope that Cyprus can stay in th euro. Unfortunately for this Mediterranean island (and maybe for the likes of the PISS countries – Portugal, Italy, Spain and Slovenia – future possible bail out candidates this year) they are all Out Of Time.

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