Tell Me When

Lost-Valley-DubaiLatest figures coming out of Dubai Land Department show that Q1 residential transactions reached US$ 1.28 billion – a 51.6% hike on corresponding 2012 returns. The total number of realty transactions was even more impressive with 14,260 transactions amounting to almost US$ 12 billion – a rise of 63.0% on the same period last year. 2012 transactions were up 7.7% on the year reaching 41,800 and totalled US$ 42 billion. If that does not indicate the strength of the bounce back in this sector, nothing will!

Following their November 2012 announcement, a joint venture agreement between Meydan and the Sobha Group was formally signed this week. The development, covering 4 million sq ft, will include 1,000 hotels, the world’s largest shopping mall and an open recreational area, 30% larger than London’s Hyde Park. Phase 1 will feature 1,500 high end villas and 7 km of lagoons. An estimated US$ 5.7 billion is expected in property receipts.

In February, Damac published details of a US$ 1 billion development with Paramount Pictures. Now they have come up with their largest ever project, Akoya, which will cover 29 million sq ft and comprise luxury residences, an 18-hole PGA Championship golf course and the usual accoutrements associated with Dubai projects.

After being on the back burner for some time, IMG Group (Ilyas & Mustafa Galadari) has resurrected plans for a dinosaur theme park with the Lost Valley boasting robotic dinosaurs and the largest temperature controlled indoor entertainment space in the world. This will be their third park in the same location, with the other two being based on Marvel Comic and Cartoon Network characters.

Developer, Seven Tides, has announced the initial launch of its Anantara project on Jumeirah Palm, comprising 442 luxury apartments (ranging in size from 1,158 to 1,524 sq mt) and 14 penthouses. The development will be in conjunction with the 293-room Anantara hotel due to open this September.

Although the residential, hospitality and retail property sectors are experiencing a renaissance, one sector that is lagging behind is office space. In certain areas, such as Business Bay and Silicon Oasis, 50% of inventory is vacant and, with new projects coming on stream, the problem is set to worsen. Indeed some developments in Business Bay have already converted former office towers to housing units.

Following on from last week’s update on the new zoo project, Dubai is now planning a hotel for dogs and cats. The facility is part of a birds’ market project, costing US$ 14.7 million, and will be completed by year end. Located in the Al Warsan area, the “hotel” will cover 835 sq mt.

To keep the other type of hotels busy during summer, there is an-going three-month “Summer in Dubai” campaign with the aim of making the emirate the ultimate family destination of choice. Apart from Dubai Summer Surprises and Modhesh World, there will be a range of events such as Dubai Rock Festival and Dubai Sports World.

Next week will see the 20th edition of the Arabian Travel Market with the four day event attracting more than 20,000 trade visitors and 2,500 exhibitors. The region’s biggest travel and tourism event will help showcase Dubai’s booming hospitality sector to professionals from over 100 countries.

No surprise to see that March passenger traffic at the world’s second busiest airport jump 20.6% from a year earlier to 5.8 million and a YTD increase of 15.6% to 14.26 million. March cargo figures increased by 14.7% to 185k tonnes whilst YTD shows a 13% jump to 585k tonnes, at a time when global cargo figures continue in decline.

There was mixed news from Emaar with Q1 profit of US$ 151 million, down 8% on the same period in 2012 but 9% up on Q4 2012. This drop in profit came despite a 16% increase in revenue to US$ 575 million, 55.3% (US$ 318 million) of which came from its retail, hospitality and leisure sectors.

In similar vein, Arabtec Holding saw its Q1 profits drop by 26% to US$ 17.0 million, despite a 20% rise in Revenue to US$ 422 million. A tightening of margins saw its Gross Profit drop by 9% to US$ 52.0 million but an expanding project backlog should see better returns later in the year.

Drake & Scull appeared to fare better with a 47% increase in Q1 profits to US$ 17.2 million on revenues of US$ 334 million. 78% of the revenue came from operations in Saudi Arabia (59%) and UAE (19%) whilst its order backlog at 31 March was up 17% to US$ 2.45 billion.

Meanwhile Deyaar Development reported a Q1 net profit of US$ 5.3 million – well up on the US$ 2.6 million the corresponding period last year.

Du, the UAE’s second telecom provider, benefitted from a double whammy of increased Q1 revenue (7.3% up to US$ 717 million) and reduced costs to see their net profit jump 40.5% to US$ 127.5 million. With such impressive results and a 19.9% annual increase in mobile subscribers, it is no shock to see its shares up by 46.9% in the first four months of the year.

The Dubai-listed district cooling firm, Tabreed, partly owned by the capital’s state fund, Mubadala, reported a 29.9% hike in Net Profits to US$ 13.0 million as chilled water revenue rose by 5% to US$ 55.2 million. Two years ago, the company secured an US$ 845 million finance package from Mubadala and last December it agreed to issue US$ 308 million worth of convertible bonds as part of its recapitalisation strategy – this has resulted in Q1 finance costs falling to US$ 105 million.

The Dubai Financial Market Index closed the week’s trading at 2129 – up 2.6% this week following Sunday’s opening of 2076. What must be one of the world’s best performing bourses this year has seen a stellar rise of 37.64% in the first four months of 2013 and 41.37% over the past fifty two weeks.

Habtoor Leighton Group secured a welcome US$ 68.1 million contract for the design and construction of two camps for the Satah Al Razboot oilfield development in Abu Dhabi.

Within the next five years, it is expected that the MENA region will spend in excess of US$ 740 billion in the energy sector with UAE accounting for 14.5% of that spend at a staggering US$ 107 billion – second only to Saudi Arabia’s US$ 165 billion.

on the European front, the Greek parliament finally caved in to the troika’s demands and passed a bill that would see the dismissal of 15,000 civil servants. To date, the country has received US$ 314 billion in rescue loans since 2010 and needed to pass this legislation to unlock a further US$ 11.5 billion by 20 May.

Spain’s economy continues to shrink with a 0.5% Q1 fall in GDP and an unemployment rate – currently at 27.16% – that is spiralling out of control. The country is eurozone’s fourth largest economy and is firmly entrenched in a double dip recession which many believe will take years to overcome despite Mariano Rajoy’s government forecasting very weak growth in 2014. Furthermore public deficit will reach 6.3% of its GDP – much larger than the 4.5% initially targeted as well as the 3.0% EU agreed ceiling.

Once again unemployment levels hit new records in March with 12.1% of the working population unable to find work in the EU. Even more disturbing was the fact that 25% of those under 25 are unemployed with the likes of Greece and Spain recording figures of a frightening 60%. How did governments allow this to happen in the first place and when will they take measures to diffuse this ticking time bomb?

This week, the ECB decided to cut its interest rates by a third to a record low of 0.5% as the eurozone continues to be buffered by economic problems. It is worrying that three of the largest eurozone economies – Germany, France and Italy – are seeing marked declines in confidence levels which indicates that the outlook is still dismal and no immediate end to the recessionary cycle is in sight. As eurozone GDP continues in contraction, it can only be a matter of time until we see customers having to pay banks to deposit their funds, i.e. negative interest. Even then would banks be more concerned protecting their own interests rather than trying to help kick-start economies by loaning money to the likes of SMEs?

When will eurozone bureaucrats and the ECB President, Mario Draghi, wake up to reality and realise that some of the bloc’s economies are heading towards banana republic territory? Tell Me When.

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