HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, opened the 33rd Gitex Technology Week on Sunday. The event provides a major boost for the local economy as it attracts more than 130k industry specialists from over 150 countries. This will prove to be another boom week for the hospitality sector, following straight after the lucrative Eid Al Adha holiday.
Prior to the event, HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum announced a major project to transform Dubai into a Smart City. With the expanded use of smart technology, the project will enable the public, including residents and visitors, to link directly with the various departments in the public service 24/7. Other information portals – including weather, traffic, entertainment guides etc – will become available.
Dubai Customs also released figures showing the tremendous growth in the emirate’s electronics foreign trade with an H1 growth of 30.8% to US$ 37.1 billion. Imports were up 31.6% to US$ 20.5 billion of which China (accounting for 46.7%), Vietnam (16.0%) and Malaysia (5.3%) were the largest trading partners. Exports and reexports jumped 27.1% to US$ 16.6 billion with the main business going to Saudi (21.3%), Iraq (11.4%) and Hong Kong (6.6%). Not surprisingly, mobile phones were the single-most traded item, accounting for 49.2% of total imports and 57.5% of exports and reexports.
One of the first companies to announce their Q3 results was Emaar Properties with a 36% revenue surge in the first nine months of 2013 to US$ 2.4 billion whilst net profit was 13% up at US$ 490 million. Its prime asset, Dubai Mall, had a footfall of 55 million – 24% up on the same period last year and was a major contributor to the fact that the company’s malls and hospitality sectors accounted for 44% of total revenue.
Emirates NBD has acquired from Union Properties its Uptown MotorCity development, including six hundred apartments, as well as the 243-room Motor City Hotel, due for completion by June 2014 – five years later than originally planned. 40% of the residential units have already been sold. At the beginning of the year, the bank was UP’s largest shareholder but their latest accounts show that it had booked a US$ 52 million gain from divesting 32.6% of its shares and has announced that its remaining 15% is now up for sale. ENBD reported a 21% increase in Q3 net profit to US$ 211 million although a 50.5% rise in bad loan provisions, from US$ 275 million to US$ 414 million, meant its profit was below analysts’ forecasts.
Merlin Entertainment, the world’s second largest second largest visitor attraction operator (with 54 million visitors) after Disney, is planning to build a Legoland theme park in Dubai. Five years ago, it was due to partner Tatweer to build the park in Dubailand in what was to be a US$ 248 million project but the GFC put an end to those plans. (At the time, Dubai Holding subsidiary, Dubai International Capital, had a 17% share in Merlin but sold out in 2011).
Emirates International Telecommunications LLC, part of Dubai Holding, owned by the Ruler, is expected to sell two of its assets – a 35% share in Tunisie Telecom, which was bought for US$ 2.25 billion in 2006, and a 26% share in the Dubai-based Axiom Telecoms. It is estimated that proceeds from both sales will bring in US$ 1 billion and are part of the repayment strategy that sees state-owned entities having to find in the region of US$ 50 billion, over the next three years.
A 13 megawatt photovoltaic plant, opened this week, represented phase one of Dubai’s $3.3bn Mohammed Bin Rashid Solar Park in a push to diversify energy supplies in the UAE. Built by US company, First Solar, the facility will eventually produce 24 million kw pa which should meet the power needs of five hundred households. The solar park will eventually generate 5% of Dubai’s electricity.
The country continues to power on with an expected US$ 12.8 billion 2013 expansion in its nominal GDP to US$ 389.8 billion and this should easily top the US$ 400 billion mark next year. The main driver for growth will be the non-hydrocarbon sector at 4.5%, whilst the oil sector will fall to 1.6% growth this year, giving a real GDP expansion of 3.5%.
In no time at all, Dubai bourses hold nominal value of sukuks at US$ 11.1 billion, the third largest total globally, The DFM has had six new listings already this year, totalling US$ 4.4 billion. Undoubtedly, this market is set to develop further as Dubai expands its range of Islamic finance listings, including sukuks.
Meanwhile the Dubai Financial Market General Index witnessed a quieter week (in local terms) – up 3.1% to 2910 points, having started Sunday at 2823. The market has jumped 5.4% already this month and shows an impressive 87.6% gain in 2013.
This week, Dubai welcomed more than 250 representatives, from 167 member nations of the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE). These delegates, who oversee World Expo, are here to check on the emirate’s readiness to host Expo 2020, with Dubai being the bookies’ favourite in a four horse race. However, the jury is still out whether the awarding of Expo 2020 will be a godsend to the Dubai economy. Whichever way the decision goes on 27 November, there will undoubtedly be a raft of mega projects announced. It will be disappointing news for Dubai if the BIE plump for any of the other candidate cities – Izmir, Sao Paulo and Yekaterinburg. However, if the unthinkable were to happen, the emirate will find suitable ways to spend the estimated US$ 8.4 billion cost of financing the six-month exposition.
The UK government seems to have wasted over US$ 2 billion of taxpayers’ money by selling its stake in Royal Mail at least 37% below market value. IPO shares were issued at US$ 5.33 (valuing the company at US$ 5.3 billion); at the beginning of the week, they were trading at US$ 7.26 (US$ 7.3 billion).
Despite the odd snippet of good news rippling out of Europe, many of the countries still face the prospect of continued austerity. For example, troubled Spain will have to slash public spending by 4.7% and cut pensions so as to reduce its public deficit to GDP to 5.8% in order to satisfy the new tougher European budgets. Greece – now in its 6th straight year of recession – has to introduce further draconian measures, as its public revenue is still far short of its proposed spending.
It is no surprise to see BHP Billiton, the world’s largest mining company, cancel all but one of its Indian operations – another example of a conglomerate not happy with the Indian government’s intransigence, petty bureaucracy and business-unfriendly policies. In the past four months, three other high profile MNCs have pulled the plug on their Indian projects. Wal-Mart recently closed their partnership with Bhartia Enterprises, having been ordered to source at least 30% of its goods sold locally and other over restrictive government regulations on foreign investment. Similar regulatory problems have seen South Korea’s Posco scrap a US$ 5.3 billion steel mill project and Luxemburg-based ArcelorMittal cancel plans to build a second major steel plant. The Indian people will be the ultimate losers as BPP Billiton becomes yet Another One To Bite The Dust!