All Shook Up

jose-mourinhoEmaar’s latest foray into the property market comes days after the release of 188 townhouses in their Mira development which brought chaos and pandemonium to Dubai’s streets, with thousands of unhappy prospective buyers on the rampage to purchase a villa. This one will be more sublime with the orderly launch of two Burj Vista buildings (one 20-storey, the other 65) comprising 680 apartments. This will be their fourth launch in Downtown Dubai in the past four months and undoubtedly this will be yet another sell-out for Dubai’s prime developer.

It seems that Salem Al Moosa’s Falcon City of Wonders is progressing well with 365 villas, of the planned total of 1,156, already completed with a further 214 under construction and the balance thereafter. The project, which spans 41 million sq ft, and includes replicas of the Seven Wonders of the World, will also have a shopping mall, hotels and a theme park.

Nakheel is slowly showing signs of recovery since it completed its restructuring in late 2011. The company will be buoyed by its Q1 results which showed an encouraging 61.9% jump in Revenue to US$ 595 million whilst its bottom line was up 35.6% at US$ 134 million. Since its restructuring, the developer has paid US$ 300 million in sukuk profit payments and loan interest but has still got some way to go to placate all its stakeholders.

The troubled Union Properties extended for a further five years, a US$ 109 million loan received from Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank – this comes after last November’s US$ 1 billion debt deal with Emirates NBD and a further loan extension of US$ 736 million.

The Dubai-based builder, Arabtec has signed a 60:40 agreement with Samsung Engineering to form a company that will be involved in large energy, infrastructure and power projects in the MENA region. The recent entrée of Abu Dhabi’s Aabar, as a significant shareholder, should ensure that the new JV soon becomes a significant player in this market.

Good news for Dubai’s Drake & Scull International which secured three contracts – in Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and Makkah, Saudi Arabia – with a value of US$ 181 million. Earlier in the year, the company announced that it had signed two contracts in Qatar worth US$ 132.5 million.

The market is anxiously awaiting the annual results from Emirates which should indicate that the airline is one of the most profitable in the aviation industry. Meanwhile there are reports that the company is considering a shirt deal with Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid that is estimated to cost about US$ 34 million a year. (Whether the Special One will be there  – or at Manchester City – next season remains a mystery). This will be in addition to existing specific marketing rights such as branding in their Santiago Bernabeu stadium. Currently, the likes of Arsenal, Paris St Germain and Hamburg carry the Emirates logo on their kit.

This week it was also announced that it had been appointed the official partner for the French tennis Open at Roland Garros for the next five years. Apart from being the official airline for the ATP World Tour, Emirates also sponsors other major tennis events such as the US Open Italian Open and Barcelona Open. Wimbledon next?

Another interesting concept from the Emirates Group was floating the idea of franchising its Emirates Holidays segment in major overseas markets. Such is the strength of its brand that it seems that the airline could be on to a winner. In order to boost its Revenue further, the division is also making optimum use of digital platforms so as to keep up to date on available hotel rooms globally.

Even the top man at BA, Willie Walsh, has admitted defeat and declared that Heathrow will soon lose its top spot as the world’s busiest airport to Dubai. It would be an interesting exercise if both countries changed governments for a week and then the general public will be able to see what damage politicians, having to placate their constituents, can wreak on a country’s economy.

Not only is Dubai a transport hub, it has become a focal point for the hospitality sector. The latest chain to enter the local market is Four Seasons which will open its Jumeirah Beach Road property in Q4 this year, on an 11 acre waterfront site. The boutique hotel will include 49 suites, 3 restaurants and a beach club.

On the telecommunications front, troubled French operator Vivendi is set to sell its 53% share in Maroc Telecom for around US$ 6 billion. Both Etisalat and Qatar’s Ooredoo have shown interest in the Moroccan venture and Etisalat is reportedly set to sign a US$ 8 billion loan facility to help fund its bid. The successful bidder may have to buy out minority shareholders.

A sure sign that good times have returned to Dubai comes from BMW as the German luxury car-maker reported that Q1 sales were up by 38%. The BMW X5 was their most improved seller with a 75% jump to 234 cars whilst even the Mini saw quarterly sales up by 25% to 149 vehicles.

Dubai Islamic Bank was one of the first financial institutions to report Q1 earnings which showed an impressive Q1 Net Profit growth of 16.7% year on year to US$ 82.2 million and huge 22.2% jumps in Deposits to US$24.1 billion (32.4%) and Total Assets to US$ 32.9 billion (22.2%). Recently, the bank was confident enough to repay a US$ 1 billion deposit to the Ministry of Finance received in the aftermath of GFC in 2008.

Although down 8 points on the week at 1948,the Dubai Financial Market Index is still showing a healthy 25.10% gain so far in 2013 and a 25.07% yearly improvement. Obviously a better return than gold or silver.

As Brent Crude drops below US$ 100 per barrel, 2012 returns show that the country’s 2012 hydrocarbon revenue was at its highest level ever (US$ 124.7 billion). With 2013 production levels expected at 2.68 million bpd, the Institute for International Finance forecast similar revenue this year. There was also a 6.5% jump in GDP to US$ 375 billion, predicted to grow to new a new record level of US$ 393 billion this year.

The Dubai Gold and Commodities Exchange hit new peaks this week with 103,126 contracts in a day (for the first time over 100,000) plus record daily trading value at US$ 3.8 billion. Interestingly 93.7% of contracts and 92.1% in value related to Indian Rupee futures.

The unprecedented recent falls in the gold price has to indicate that there is something afoot and the fact that it fell a massive US$ 150 per ounce on Monday after dropping US$ 87 the previous Friday only adds credibility to the story. The end result is that by Monday it had shed 30% of its value from its September 2012 price of US$ 1,923.

It is hard to believe the expounded reasons why the yellow metal has lost its lustre, viz., an easing of QE3 in the US, slowing growth in China and a sell-off of the bullion in Cyprus. The facts are that QE3 still exists, Chinese growth forecasts fell by a meagre (and mainly technical) 0.2% to 7.7% and Cyprus was planning to sell a paltry 201k ounces – when annual production is nearly 2,700 tonnes! There has to be some shady dealings by the usual suspects.

The recent fall in gold prices has apparently wiped off US$ 169 billion of the capitalisation of companies that trade on the FT Gold Mines Index. Shares are trading at their lowest level relative to the actual metal in over 20 years. Any further drop in its price will result in financial ruin for many a miner, particularly when the global average production cost is put at around US$ 1,200.

Although the political spotlight shines on its neighbour, South Korea has just unveiled a US$ 15.3 billion stimulus package to create jobs and boost a sagging economy. Already this year, the Ministry of Finance has cut its 2013 growth forecast from 3.0% to 2.3% caused mainly by a reduction in exports to markets such as the eurozone and US and its currency, the won, appreciating 10%, compared to the US$. Similar problems are being experienced by near neighbours China and Japan (where the yen has dropped almost 20% to the US$ since November 2012).

One thing that the IMF is not good at is forecasting. Yet again they have had to lower earlier predictions for most of the developed world’s economies. Globally, it cut growth predictions from 3.5% to 3.3%, for the eurozone to minus 0.3% and UK to 0.7%. Of the major players in the eurozone, Germany is expected to witness 0.7% growth whereas its Gallic neighbour will see a minor contraction of 0.1%.  The IMF expect growth levels in China and the USA to improve by 7.7% and 1.9% respectively.

On Tuesday, Dubai felt tremors from the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that was recorded on the Iran / Pakistan border. This was our second quake in eight days and led to thousands of people evacuating shaking buildings. Just like the global economy, Dubai was All Shook Up.

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