Against The Wind

cayan-tower-dubaiHH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum is to develop a one-stop, full-service, commercial hub to accommodate the emirate’s rapidly developing fashion and design business. TECOM, a subsidiary of Dubai Holding, will operate the Dubai Design District and invest US$ 1.1 billion in phase 1, due for completion early 2015. Work on the initial ten buildings, located in Business Bay, has already started.

Emaar has also begun a 1 million sq ft expansion on the world’s largest shopping destination – Dubai Mall.  The centre, currently hosting 1,200 retail stores and 200 F&B outlets, will see added impetus to its fashion portfolio.

The building boom continues unabated with Emaar announcing two JVs.  The first, with Dubai Holding, is to build a 6.5 million sq mt urban centre – Dubai Creek Harbour – to include a business district along with retail, leisure and entertainment amenities. The other with Meraas Holding is to build a massive residential and commercial centre in Downtown. As yet, there is no news on the project cost, financing arrangements or completion date.

Damac have released the first of at least ten stages of their massive Akoya development, with villa prices starting at US$ 654k, scheduled for completion within two years. The project, that will eventually cover 2.8 million sq ft, is to include an exclusive Donald Trump golf course and be located off the Umm Suqeim Road.

Even previously troubled Dubai real estate firm, Deyaar has announced further plans for this year – as well as restarting on other unspecified, stalled projects. The first is a US$ 136 million Business Bay residential development whilst the second will be a 1 million sq ft project located on the SZR side of the same location. In Q3, it plans a sales launch of 420 apartments in DIFC – this being a JV with Dubai Properties Group.

With so much dramatic activity in the real estate sector are we in another property bubble? At the same time, the IMF has estimated government-related entities account for 65% of Dubai’s US$ 142 billion debt. Whilst the realty segment remains strong, lending costs low and oil prices high, this debt is probably manageable but what happens if circumstances change?

Another record for Dubai – this time boasting of being home to the tallest twisted building in the world. Located in Dubai Marina, the impressive 75-storey Cayan Tower is 307 metres high and cost US$ 273 million; its first tenants moved in to the 570 residential units this week.

The Investment Corporation of Dubai has raised US$ 2.55 billion through a syndicated loan for refinancing a US$ 2 billion debt due for repayment in August – the final repayment of a US$ 6 billion facility secured in 2008. Currently, demand for Dubai debt is robust and continues to grow.

A further sign of consumer buoyancy is an unprecedented surge in the local auto industry – up 22.9% in the first four months of 2013 to 118k units. Latest estimates show that this year will be the best ever with sales peaking at 380k. Whilst on the flip side, Europe continues their five-year contraction with vehicle sales lower than they were twenty years ago. As an aside, Dubai’s auto spares part foreign trade rose to a high of US$ 10.1 billion last year.

In London, Emirates is to open the world’s first aviation-themed attraction next month. Visitors will have the thrill of using any of the four flight simulators (two A380s and two 777s) and practice take-offs and landings. The state-of-the-art educational and infomational indoor facility covers 300 sq mt and is close to the airline’s other cable car attraction by the Thames.

Overseas, Arabtec will lead a three party consortium, along with Drake & Scull and CCC, to build the first phase of a tourism project in Aqaba, Jordan. The contract is valued at US$ 629 million and will include a man-made lagoon with four international hotels.

A recent cost of living report by ECA International has placed Dubai as the world’s 174th most expensive city, with Oslo, Luanda and Stavanger filling the top three positions. This may surprise many until they read the fine print, which indicated that rentals, school fees, car purchases etc were not included. The study mainly considered exchange rates, inflation and the availability of goods. That being the case, the report would appear to have limited value.

Another top trading month for the Dubai Gold and Commodities Exchange with May volumes of 1.45 million contracts totalling US$ 48.5 billion, up 70% on last year. Currency contracts accounted for 96.6% of the total with the Indian rupee again dominating the market. Expat Indians besieged financial institutions to take advantage as the rupee plunged to its lowest-ever level against the US$ at 56 to US$1.

Finally, after six years and perhaps not before time, Morgan Stanley Capital International (MSCI) upgraded UAE bourses from frontier to emerging market status, commencing next May. The knock-on effect for the Dubai Financial Market Index is that up to US$ 800 million could flow into the local capital markets, as investors, with an estimated US$ 7 trillion, follow MSCI market assessments. The effect on the DFMI was muted as it ended the week down 22 points to 2400 but overall the market is still heading north – up 54.15% this year and 69.24% over the past fifty-two weeks.

For the second consecutive year, UK-based Vodafone once again got away with paying no corporation tax in their home country, despite earning US$ 7.6 billion in Revenue.  However, it did manage to pay in excess of US$ 4.6 billion in overseas tax! Sadly the CEO, Vittorio Colao saw his annual remuneration slashed by 30% to a meagre US$ 17 million. Sadly, Thames Water, with revenue in excess of US$ 3 billion, joined the ranks of Amazon, Starbucks and Google in not paying any corporation tax to the UK exchequer. Something will have to change.

Meanwhile, official figures released this week indicate that Dubai’s 2012 GDP growth hit 4.4% to US$ 86.8 billion, with Q4 up an impressive 5.3%. The best performing sectors were transport, construction and real estate – all up by 7.5%, 6.5% and 6.1% respectively. This may slip to around 4.0% this year – still way above the World Bank’s estimates for Europe to contract by 0.6% and the global economy to rise by 2.2%. The growth forecast for China has been cut from 8.4% to 7.7% as the global slowdown shows no signs of improving – with the knock on effect of a reduction in demand for that country’s exports. Obviously it is time for the Chinese to start boosting their domestic market and undertake a long overdue reform of their economic structure.

The world’s stock markets fell on Thursday following yet another sell-off on Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index which has now dropped almost 22%, since hitting a five year high in early May. This is the third consecutive Thursday that market has dropped by more than 5% in a day. Questions are now being asked about the efficacy of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s brand of “Abenomics”.

The last word comes from the French President, Francois Hollande, who has unilaterally declared an end to the eurozone debt crisis. This revelation comes despite the fact that the bloc is still reeling from continuing high unemployment levels (currently standing at 19.4 million) and an on-going recession with Q1 returns showing a 0.2% contraction. Even the ECB President, Mario Draghi, has revised downwards 2013 growth forecast to contract by 0.6%. The IMF has warned France to introduce more economic reforms to stop it lagging even further behind its European neighbours. No wonder many think that M Hollande is p…… Against The Wind.

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