You Ain’t Seen Nothin Yet!

dubai-airshowThere is no doubt that the Arab Spring has given a welcome boost to the Dubai tourism industry, on the whole. However, one sector that is suffering is the cruise market which will probably see a 27% fall in numbers this year to around 300k because of regional problems.

Turkish company, Gunal, has been awarded a US$ 136 million contract to build phase 1 of the road and bridge network for the 3 km long Dubai Water Canal project. The project – spread over three phases – will cover more than 80k sq mt with marinas, retail outlets and an estimated 450 restaurants. It is expected to be finished by 2017 and to attract 22 million visitors a year.

It comes as no surprise to see that Dubai has finally made the Q3 ‘hot list’ of global properties according to IP Global’ s Property Barometer.  This must be treated with a little caution as yet this is another survey that estimates prices are still 30% lower than at their 2008 zenith and that YTD prices have risen by 11.9%. It is apparent that there is a wide divergence of views from the various recent property surveys.

Emaar has dismissed reports that it has plans to build another tower taller than Saudi’s Kingdom Tower, which, when completed in 2017. will surpass the Burj Khalifa as the biggest structure in the world.  Data from Emporis shows that Dubai is home to over 900 high rise buildings, of which nearly 50% are over 40 storeys.

As the Institute of International Finance has upped its growth forecast for the country to 4.7%, it also issued a caveat that the UAE has to be aware of a potential renewed cycle of risk taking as a result of a robust real estate recovery and a massive jump in the local equity market prices. Some analysts are experiencing déjà vu and see a repeat of 2008 on the horizon.

Dubai authorities are apparently aware of the possibility of another asset bubble and are taking active steps to deter a reoccurrence. It seems that the rapid upward price movements seen recently are beginning to dampen market expectations. Nevertheless realty transactions so far this year are up 34.5% to US$ US$ 53.1 billion, with the construction and real estate market now contributing to over 24% of Dubai’s GDP. It is not difficult to see that any major downward correction would bring problems to the economy.

Dubai Holding Commercial Operations Group, personally owned by the Ruler, saw its Moody’s credit rating improve one notch from B2 to B1. There is market confidence that the company will be able to meet its future debt repayments, including a US$ 1 billion bond in January 2014.

Last month, Dubai Holding announced it was planning to sell its 35% share in Tunisie Telecom, which it had bought for US$ 2.25 billion in 2006. This week, Abraaj Group is also exiting from the Tunisian market as it sells its 2009 acquisition, pharmaceutical company Opalia Pharmato, to Recordati.

Two months after signing a JV with Samsung Engineering, Arabtec has signed a similar agreement with another S Korean company, GS Engineering & Construction. The new entity will concentrate on large infrastructure and construction projects in the MENA region. This week Arabtec won a US$ 490 million contract to build a 77-storey, 369m tall tower block in Downtown Dubai.

Dubai-based Habtoor Leighton Group has been awarded a US$ 163 million Abu Dhabi airport contract for construction and infrastructure works. This is scheduled for completion by 2015.

Impressive figures emanating from Drake & Scull’s September results show both revenue at US$ 970 million and net profit of US$ 40 million with healthy gains of 68% and 76% respectively. Awarded projects so far in the first nine months were up at US$ 1.83 billion and its backlog has jumped 65% to US$ 3.38 billion.

Damac intends to raise US$ 800 million by offering Global Depository Receipts on the London Stock Exchange with 1 GDR equivalent to 3 Damac shares. Formed in 2002, the company has delivered nearly 8.9k properties (to the value of US$ 3.1 billion), with a further 21.2k units under construction. Last year, profits were almost US$ 340 million on turnover of US$ 1.1 billion; sales for the first six months of 2013 are already over the US$ 1 billion mark.

Dnata has now expanded its UK base to cover the five major airports, with new facilities at Gatwick, Glasgow and Birmingham, to add to existing operations at Heathrow and Manchester. Total investment in the country is in excess of US$ 160 million.

It seems that the April 2013 Emirates tie-up with Qantas is beginning to pay dividends with Australasian September passenger traffic and ticket sales up 41.7%  and 38.6% respectively, compared to the previous year.

Latest IATA figures for September indicate a global increase in passenger numbers with total revenue passenger kilometres up 5.5%, and capacity by 5.3%. Although international passenger demand expanded by 5.7%, increased capacity resulted in load factors remaining fairly static at 80.3%. As usual, the Middle East saw a bigger 10.4% jump in traffic growth but because of a 13% increase in capacity, its load factor dropped from 79.1% to 77.2%.

With over 60k trade visitors expected, the Dubai Airshow 2013 takes place this month at its new location, Dubai World Central; it will be the biggest to date with a 32% increase in outside capacity from its old venue, Airport Expo, Dubai International. Of the one thousand exhibitors 266 companies will be from the UAE and 197 from the US, with the likes of Canada and China increasing their presence to 32 and 25. Local carriers, Emirates and flydubai, are expected to place mega orders – definitely with Boeing and probably with Airbus.

Ahead of the event, flydubai has just signed a $228 million ten-year finance lease for six new Boeing 737-800 aircraft with quarterly loan repayments over the tenure of the lease.

In 2012, Dubai Duty Free recorded record annual sales and this year, the company expects to see a further 11% growth with figures of over US$ 1.8 billion expected. YTD sales at the end of October have already topped US$ 1.5 billion. Their best selling products are perfumes (accounting for 15.3% of the total value sold), gold (9.2%), confectionary (7.7%), watches (6.5%) and cosmetics (6.4%).

Dubai retail firm, Apparel Group, formed in 1996, has signed up with Line Investment & Property to open a further forty outlets to add to its current portfolio of 750 stores in 14 countries. The company represents more than fifty brands in the region including Tommy Hilfiger, Tim Horton’s and Nine West.

With China producing more than 40% of the global calcined petroleum coke, it makes sense to see that Dubai Aluminium owns 20% of a Chinese calciner which has just been commissioned. The JV – with Hong Kong’s Sinoway Holdings – will have an annual production of 560k tonnes.

A new aluminium downstream plant has opened in Jebel Ali. Royal Engineering Fabrication Company – owned by the Al Ghurair Group – is to source locally from the regional aluminium producers, including Dubal, and supply the automotive, aerospace and architectural sectors. Refco is expected to produce 1.9 million parts for the premium vehicle makers next year.

Another boost for the local economy came with news from Ford that Dubai will become the HQ for its fifth global business unit, covering the MENA region. The US car manufacturer has seen a 60% increase in sales of its Ford and Lincoln models over the past four years.

Dubai Investments PJSC witnessed a massive 97.8% rise in Q3 profit to US$ 43.9 million and an even more impressive YTD 107.1% return at US$ 144.7 million. The conglomerate, which owns around forty subsidiaries and JVs in a catalogue of sectors, has assets in excess of US$ 3.4 billion and a net value of US$ 2.4 billion.

The Dubai Financial Market announced its own results with a Q3 profit of US$ 22.6 million (compared to a loss of US$ 463k over the same period last year) and a YTD surplus of US$ 48.9 million. The main drivers for this improvement have been capital appreciation and higher volumes.

The Index itself was marginally down on Thursday at 2898 points, having started the shortened week on Monday at 2922.

The Islamic Development Bank, which provides financing for fifty-six member countries, has announced a future US$ 10 billion sukuk listing on Nasdaq Dubai. This will be a big step forward in the expansion of the local bourse as well as in Dubai’s aim to become the capital of Islamic Economy. Following HH Sheikh Mohammed’s initiative, the emirate’s capital markets have attracted US$ 12.5 billion with a further US$ 3.8 billion expected before the end of the year.

It now seems that UAE financial institutions have five years to introduce new Central Bank regulations that will restrict the amount banks can be exposed to government-related entities’ debt. The long-awaited regulations are expected to be formalised next month.

Two years after losing its triple A status, the French credit rating has been cut again from AA+ to AA by Standard and Poor’s. The main reasons for this are the government’s intransigence in introducing labour reforms that would make the country more competitive and its high government debt to GDP which is nearing 85%. If further drastic action is not taken by the Hollande government, the country will remain in the economic doldrums.

A further sign of the economic weakness prevalent in the eurozone was the European Central Bank’s confirmation that it will cut interest rates to almost zero. This has been done in the forlorn hope that it will prevent the bloc returning to recession.

With the Expo 2020 decision less than three weeks away, there is no doubt that whatever way the announcement goes, there will be mega projects launched in the emirate. The message from Dubai to the world is You Aint Seen Nothin Yet!

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