Dancin’ In The Streets

fazza-burjThe week ended with the inevitable announcement that Dubai would become the first city in the MENA region to host a World Expo. The news will add further impetus to an economy that is already beginning to outshine most others in the world. An estimated US$ 7.0 billion will be spent on related infrastructure projects and 270k jobs will be created as a result of the BIE’s decision. The main site – covering 438 hectares – will be located next to the new Dubai World Central airport. (Incidentally the planned world’s tallest commercial tower, to be built in JLT, will be known as Burj 2020).

There is no doubt that the thaw in international relations with Iran will greatly benefit Dubai’s trade as Sunday’s Geneva deal with key world powers will see a gradual lifting of sanctions. Short-term, this may prove a bigger fillip to the local economy than this week’s Expo news.

OSN, the Dubai-based pay-TV network, was planning an IPO and had been valued at US$ 4.3 billion, by Arqaam Capital. Only five months ago, its worth was put at US$ 2.5 billion so it seems that the August acquisition of Pehla Media & Entertainment (for an undisclosed sum) has definitely added some value! At the end of the week, the company surprisingly stated that it was no longer seeking to list.

It appears that work on the US$ 3 billion Al Habtoor City on SZR is steaming ahead with phase 1 due for completion by 2015. The company has appointed Atkins to carry out multidisciplinary design services on the three proposed towers – two at 75-storeys and the other will be a 52-storey building – that will comprise 1,460 apartments, 11 penthouses, along with leisure, retail and entertainment facilities.

With the emirate’s residential sector booming, Dubai Properties Group wants to see business and entertainment hubs expanding in tandem. Accordingly, it has plans for Dubailand that includes dedicated business centres and a specific business park for the logistics industry. To satisfy the requirements of the ever-growing tourist sector, it will continue to ensure that their needs are met by the latest entertainment and leisure facilities.

There has been progress on the IMG Worlds of Adventures, the second phase of the popular Akar’s eco-tourist attraction ‘Miracle Garden’ and The Sustainable City, a net zero energy project being built by Diamond Developers. Dubailand’s first hotel will open next year and two other projects will be the Safa British Academy and a FIFA approved football centre.

Following the Monday launch of two hundred of its luxury villas at Akoya Park, Damac Properties announced that it would add a further 14 million sq ft (or 50%) to the project area which will include 4.3 million sq ft of parkland, as well as various sporting facilities and an open-air ampitheatre.

Wednesday should have seen 18.8% of Damac shares – in the form of GDRs (global depositary receipts) – on offer for the first time but this was extended for a further four days to take into account any impact from the Expo 2020 decision. Initially, the company had offered shares equivalent to about US$ 500 million, with a price range hovering around the US$ 13 mark. However, at the last minute, the IPO size was dropped to US$ 400 million and the price set at a lower level of US$ 12.25.

Dubai Municipality has confirmed that the eagerly awaited ‘Dubai Frame’ (‘Barwaz Dubai’ in Arabic) will be completed within two years, following the planned start of construction next month. The 150m tall window frame will be located in Zabeel Park and will include a museum and will showcase both ‘old’ and ‘new’ Dubai. Costing US$ 33 million, it is expected to draw in two million visitors every year.

JAFZA announced this week that it had completed work on the first phase (43k sq mt) of its US$ 518 million convention centre whilst Habtoor Leighton has been awarded a US$ 75 million contract for the next phase. The 34–storey JafzaOne tower will receive its first tenants next week, with the whole project (covering 73k sq mt) due for completion by the end of 2014 – seven years after work first started. Its close proximity to the Expo site will make this an attractive location.

This week, the emirate hosted the Global Islamic Economy Summit, attended by over 3,200 delegates. There is no doubt that Dubai’s aim to become the capital of Islamic economy makes financial sense especially when a recent study puts the potential market value at a staggering US$ 6.7 trillion!

The Big 5 was opened on Monday by the Deputy Ruler of Dubai, HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum. The four-day event attracted over 60,000 visitors and proved another boom week for the emirate’s hospitality sector.

The expected agreement that would have seen Majid Al Futtaim pay US$ 272 million to acquire Egypt’s largest supermarket chain collapsed. No reason was given for the deal to fall through that would have seen the Dubai conglomerate take over 48 Metro supermarkets and Kheir Zaman, the grocery chain.

Damas, the Dubai jeweller, plans a further 11% expansion in its retail outlets with the addition of 34 new shops by the end of H1 2014 – 28 in the UAE and 6 in Saudi Arabia.

Having recently purchased the Index Retail Tower in DIFC, Emirates Reits, a UAE real estate trust company, has bought Gems World Academy in Dubai. Gems will still operate the 1,800 pupil educational facility which opened in 2008. Weeks ago, the Dubai-based education provider sold one of its unnamed schools to PineBridge Investments ME in a similar sale and leaseback arrangement. Last week, it was also reported that GEMS Education’s first foray in the London sukuk market raised US$ 200 million – a third less than was initially targeted.

NPS Energy is apparently up for sale again following a failed 2012 attempt by Norway’s Aker Solutions. It appears that a consortium, including Fajr Capital, could bid up to US$ 700 million for the Dubai-based oil service company.

Two local unnamed construction companies faced the wrath of the immigration court and were fined US$ 534 million and US$ 136 million respectively for hiring 565 workers who were not on their direct sponsorship. The labourers had been sponsored by companies, registered in another emirate, and the Dubai entities had failed to get the appropriate permits from the Ministry of Labour.

Arabtec announced that it had paid US$ 74 million for a further 38% in Target Engineering Construction that will bring its stake in the oil and gas construction company to 98%.

Another record month at Dubai International with both passenger and cargo traffic up by 15.1% (to 5.7 million) and 3.0% to 209k tonnes respectively. With over 55 million passengers to the end of October, the airport will inevitably top a record 65 million this year.

HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum has approved a law making health insurance compulsory for all expatriates. The Dubai Health Authority will be responsible for its implementation which will take place in several phases over the next three years.

Dubai’s Ruler also approved Dubai’s 2014 budget which sees spending 11% up to US$ 10.3 billion offset by a 13% hike in revenue to US$ 10.1 billion. Dubai expects to have a 41.1% reduction in the deficit to US$ 240 million.

It is estimated that, over the next  three years, government and quasi-government entities will have to repay up to US$ 50 billion – most of the debt emanating from the GFC. With that in mind, it is reported that DIC, the private equity division of Dubai Holding, is in talks to sell Mauser, the German packaging company, which it bought in 2007 for a reported US$ 1.2 billion and will probably sell for slightly more. Furthermore Technocorp Holding – a Swatch Group subsidiary – has bought an additional 18% (bringing its shareholding to 58%) of DIC’s share in Rivoli Investments which was bought in 2007.

The Dubai Financial Market General Index opened on Sunday on 2891 points and ended an eventful week 2.2% up at 2955. Over the month, it has gained 1.1% and in 2013 a massive 90.91%! Bellwether stock, Emaar Properties is 71.90% higher YTD, closing at US$ 1.73.

Scarcely a week goes by without some financial institution showing how badly they treat their customers. This time, the much-troubled RBS has been accused of unprincipled behaviour as it allegedly caused the demise of some small firms by charging them high fees and rates. Its property division would then purchase their assets at ‘fire-sale’ prices.

It seems that the Australian dollar is weakening in anticipation of the US Fed’s imminent announcement that it will begin to cut back on its stimulus measures that has resulted in the markets being flooded with ‘easy’ money.

The global economy continues to stutter along and it is unlikely that anything like the required growth needed will be seen in the foreseeable future. It is ironic that in a world where probably 99% of all economists in the history of mankind are still living, they cannot guide governments to follow a road that equalises the right balance of growth and austerity. Five years on from the last crisis, the global economy is without any perceived plan or direction.

Dubai is the place to be this weekend – with the euphoria from the Expo announcement, the Emirates Airlines rugby 7s and the 42nd national day, the place will be buzzing more than usual. There will be Dancin’ In The Street!

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