What’s Going On?

Emirates-a380-terminal-dubaiPrior to the start of Arabian Travel Mart, HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum officially approved Dubai’s 2020 Vision for Tourism, which would see visitor numbers double to 20 million within the next seven years. The local tourist board, DTCM, will focus on three key drivers – promoting Dubai as the destination for families, events and business gatherings.

The most recent figures indicate that the Dubai hospitality sector showed a 17.9% annual growth in revenue to US$ 5.1 billion with a present inventory of 599 hotels and hotel apartments comprising 80,000 rooms.  Tourism is estimated to contribute over US$ 76 billion to the region’s economy and is responsible for around 14% of the UAE’s GDP.

Some pundits are becoming worried about the prospect of another property bubble in Dubai but latest figures show that it trails in at fourth in the ranking of global luxury home price increases over the past year. Its 18.3% annual increase was well behind the top three of Jakarta (38.1%), Bangkok (26.1%) and Miami (21.1%) with Tokyo seeing a 17.9% plunge as most European cities continue to fall.

Salim Al Moosa’s Falconcity of Wonders received a boost this week with the announcement of the design and supervision of two of the three pyramid buildings which will house a large hotel along with both luxury residential and office units. These pyramids will be part of a development that will eventually include full-size replicas of the likes of the Taj Mahal and Eiffel Tower.

Nakheel confirmed that its recent launches, Jumeirah Park and Jumeirah Village Circle, had sold out the total of 417 units, with sales of US$ 518 million recorded. Its Q1 revenue was at US$ 595 million – a 61.9% surge whilst quarterly profits were up 31.6% to US$ 134 million.

Despite recent good news, Dubai World still faces problems with a US$ 4.5 billion loan repayment due in 2015 and a further US$ 10 billion three years later; this being part of the 2011 US$ 16 billion debt restructuring plan that saved the company from going under. In the unlikely event that it has to sell off some of the family silver, it does have several high profile assets such as the Mandarin Oriental in New York, CityCenter Casino and Hotel in Vegas, Atlantis Hotel on the Palm, DP World and Cirque du Soleil.

It seems that Dubai Group has restructured a US$ 10 billion debt with its creditors and at the same time become an independent entity from HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s investment arm, Dubai Holding. Although Dubai Group is expected to sell some of its assets, but not the likes of its shares in Dubai Bourse, 14.7% in Bank Muscat and 18% in EFG Hermes, the restructuring will see creditors’ repayment schedules extended.

Meanwhile the QE2 initially bought in 2007 by Istithmar, a subsidiary of Dubai World, still remains in local waters for at least three more months prior to sailing to Singapore for fit out and then ending its days as a floating hotel in Hong Kong. That is the latest plan but there are moves afoot, by some UK investors, to have the cruise liner return to London and be moored on the Thames as a tourist attraction.

As expected, Emirates surpassed market expectations with a stellar 52% profit growth to US$ 622 million on a 17% jump in revenue to US$ 19.9 billion. Over the year ending 31 March 2013, the airline carried 39.4 million passengers on its 200 aircraft with an impressive 80% load factor. Despite the global slowdown in trade, Emirates still had a strong year with an 8% jump in cargo revenue to US$ 2.8 billion and tonnage up 16% to 2.1 million tonnes.

Although future prospects are bright, Dubai Aerospace Enterprise saw Q1 profits plunge from US$ 121 million to US$ 7.3 million over the same period last year. This disappointing news came despite a 7.8% increase in Revenue to US$ 1.94 billion. The company, which employs over 4,000, has a fleet comprising of fifty aircraft including 10 Boeing 777s and 16 737s as well as 15 Airbus A320s and 11 A330s.

With the last of quarterly results being released, Mashreq saw a spectacular 57.1% increase in Q1 profits to US$ 115.9 million. The bank has consolidated its growth trend as this result follows a 60% jump in profits last year.

Yet again, UAE consumers have been rated as the most confident in the area despite its Q1 level dropping five points to 108. This is still well above the global average of 93 and streets ahead of Europe’s abysmal showing of 71. UAE saw its rating similar to China and Hong Kong but behind the leader, Indonesia (122 points), followed by India, Philippines, Thailand and Brazil. Any ranking above 100 on this Nielsen Survey indicates increasing degrees of consumer optimism.

It may be of interest to note that the UAE is now the global leader in relation to FTTH (fibre to the home) network with a penetration rate of 72%. South Korea is its nearest rival at 57% with Japan, Russia, USA and France close behind. Etisalat has spent US$ 5.2 billion in the network to get the country to its current position.

A sign of increased economic activity was a March monthly 1.0% increase in money supply MO (basically currency) to US$ 16.2 billion whilst money supply aggregate M1 (currency plus banks’ current and call accounts) rose 3.2% to US$ 89.2 billion. Total bank deposits rose at a higher rate than loans – 2.0% to US$ 337.3 billion compared with 0.7% to US$ 306.8 billion.

The Dubai Financial Market Index continues its upward spiral – gaining 2.1% this week to close on 2178 points. It may be a little late to jump on this particular bandwagon as the market has already risen 40.8% in 2013 and 53.5% over the past year.

The unelected mandarins that have helped the eurozone become the focal point of the economic malaise have finally come to their senses. After three years of espousing the doctrine of austerity for its members – and in the process tearing apart the fabric of society in many countries – they have finally determined they got it wrong. Now Olli Rehn, the EU Economic Affairs Commissioner, has decided, in his infinite wisdom, that three of the five largest economies – France, Spain and the Netherlands – will be given more time to attain previously agreed deficit targets including getting annual budget deficits down to  3%. Growth – rather than austerity – seems to be the new message coming out of Europe.

Latest estimates show that five of the seventeen member eurozone bloc have sovereign debt levels of over 100% of GDP with Greece leading the way at 175% followed by Italy (132%), Portugal (124%), Cyprus (124%) and Ireland (120%). What is more worrying is that the level for the whole bloc may reach 96% by next year. Compare this to the UAE where their debt level is an estimated 16.46%!

A major area of concern has to be the amount of “easy” money that has been added by the monetary easing policy of many governments. This unparalleled flow of cash into the global economy is a sure-fire recipe for an eventual overheating of economies and the formation of inevitable asset bubbles – whether it be in stocks, commodities or property. The state of the global equity markets is a case in point – how can shares rise so much when the world economy seems to be going in the other direction?  What’s Going On?

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