The Show Must Go On

MugabeOn Sunday, Nakheel paid off more than a third of a loan that was not due for repayment until September 2015. The US$ 640 million early settlement is an indicator that the developer has recovered from its enforced August 2011 restructure as a result of the mess left behind after the GFC. The company has also just raised US$ 9.3 million by auctioning eight plots in its Jumeirah Park project.

First launched some eight years ago, before the GFC, Schion Properties finally expects to complete the Dubai Lagoon project by 2016. The first of seven zones – which encompass some 5.7 million sq ft – is expected to be handed over by the end of this year.

Deyaar added a further 2,600 units to its inventory last year bringing its total to just under 20,400, with rental earnings of US$ 177 million. The developer expects to add a further 2,000 properties to its portfolio in 2014.

MAG Group is certainly embracing the current wave of optimism in the real estate sector, with plans for a City of Arabia residential development, worth US$ 236 million, and a US$ 191 million art centre in Barsha. This is in addition to the US$ 1.36 billion already invested, including its US$ 545 million Meydan project for both townhouses and low rise apartment buildings.

Not only is Dubai aiming to be a global Islamic financial centre but also a hub for halal food, personal care products and cosmetics with TECOM launching a dedicated Halal Cluster in Dubai Industrial City. The centre – spread over 6.8 million sq ft – will also be concerned with logistics.

The success of the Metro can be seen with passenger numbers almost doubling over the past two years to 138 million in 2013. Overall the RTA estimate that public transport – including the Metro, buses, taxis and water transport – carried 441 million passengers, 27.2% more than in 2012.

January was another record month for Dubai International with traffic up 15.1% to 6.4 million passengers, compared to a year earlier. Emirates’ alliance partner Qantas is not faring well and is expected to announce a US$ 235 million half year loss. Consequently, boss Alan Joyce has to cut costs by US$ 1.8 billion which may entail axing 5,000 jobs in the struggling airline.

It comes as no surprise to see that Emirates is once again the world’s leading airline brand, valued at US$ 5.48 billion; this amount was 34% higher than  2012 and pushed the airline from 287 to 234 in the global top 500 brands. The only other ranked UAE company was Etisalat at 432.

Emirates SkyCargo has commenced moving all its operations to the new Dubai World Central. As an interim measure, it has signed a five-year contract with Allied Transport to provide 45 trucks to ferry goods between the two facilities, as freight will still be coming into Dubai International, via passenger aircraft.

Rumours abound that Arabtec will probably acquire the Kuwaiti Kharafi Group, in a deal expected to be around the US$ 1 billion mark. This would be another piece in the jigsaw as the Dubai-based contractor aims to become the leading construction company in the region. Coincidentally Arabtec’s shares were suspended on Wednesday by the Securities and Commodities Authority, with no formal reason given.

The Dubai General Market Index opened the week at 4183 points and rose 1.0%, when closing on Thursday at 4220 and is already up 850 points, or 25.2%, on its January opening of 3370. Bellwether stocks, Emaar and Arabtec, were trading at US$ 2.48 and US$ 1.31 respectively.

The Dubai Gold and Commodities Exchange has launched yet a new futures contract – this time for polypropylene. Sized at five metric tons, and priced in US$, this is a first for the region.

Meanwhile the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC) has refuted allegations that it acted improperly over the Kaloti Group’s apparent lack of transparency in its dealings with conflict gold trades. The company, the largest regional gold refiner, has been accused of paying more than US$ 5 billion in cash, without the requisite documentation, to several hundred customers.

With the lifting of EU sanctions on diamonds from Zimbabwe’s Marange field, there is every chance that some of the precious stones will soon be traded in Dubai. The authorities are seemingly satisfied that there is no forced labour or corrupt behaviour by the Zimbabwean mining chiefs.

Earlier in the month, Dubai rolled over a maturing US$ 10 billion loan from the Central Bank at more favourable rates. Whilst this will assuage concerns over payments of current liabilities, there is still a question mark over the timing, scale and financing of future mega projects. If this were carried out, without some sort of formal strategy, there is the inevitability of a bubble that would be bigger and more damaging than what occurred in 2009.

December bank lending rose 7.1% – its quickest rate since 2010 – reflecting increased consumer confidence in the buoyant Dubai market. Bank deposits, loans and advances and assets have all headed north rising by 0.4% to US$ 348.5 billion, 0.3% to US$ 320.8 billion and 1.7% to US$ 552.0 billion respectively.

The 81% UK government-backed RBS has announced a staggering 2013 loss of US$ 13.7 billion but, in true banking arrogance, will go ahead with bonuses amounting to US$ 960 million – and this after six straight years of losses!

Despite protestations by Brussels bureaucrats that all is well in the eurozone, nothing could be further from the truth.  Italy is still mired in a deep recession and not helped by the fact that Europe’s third biggest economy witnessed a record 2.1% fall in retail sales last year. With consumer confidence low, a large public debt, high unemployment and an increased tax burden, it would seem that 2014 will not be any better. Spain’s economy contracted a further 1.2% in 2013 and any sign of a recovery is at best patchy.

Q4 growth in US has been revised downwards by 25% to 2.4%, as consumer spending, which accounts for almost 70% of all economic activity, came in a lot less than forecast. As expected, new Federal Reserve chief, Janet Yellen, confirmed the continuance of existing stimulus measures which currently sees the Fed purchasing bonds at the rate of US$ 65 billion a month, with the aim of stimulating the economy.

A weak currency, a marked fall in foreign investment and high inflation have seen India’s growth rate drop to 4.7% in Q4. This is the fifth quarter in a row that Asia’s third biggest economy has had growth of under 5% – and it was only two years ago that 8%+ was the norm.

Corporate debt in China has hit record levels with some estimates as high as US$ 12 trillion – or 120% of the country’s GDP. If the current growth rate continues, then there is the inevitability of a  credit crisis which would spell global economic trouble. Stocks in Beijing fell during the week as did the yuan which saw its biggest drop in three years. There are some who see a link between the decline in the currency and the slowdown in the Chinese economy.

Globally, shares were at a six-year high but investors’ euphoria cannot continue indefinitely. In the US, the S&P 500 reached an intra day record whilst the Nasdaq hit levels not seen this century. In Japan, the Nikkei topped the 15,000 mark whilst Australia’s stock market continues its upward spiral. Unfortunately, a correction is long overdue: this will be sooner, rather than later, but nobody knows for how long The Show Must Go On!

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