Fire and Rain

dubai-expo-siteEmaar Properties showed a US$ 235 million Q1 profit, up 55.2% year on year, on a 7% hike in revenue to US$ 615 million. Furthermore sales at US$ 1.61 billion were a massive 94% higher than the corresponding period in 2013. The company is still expected to raise up to US$ 2.5 billion in a secondary offering of shares in its Malls Group later in the year. The company has also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Dubai World Central to develop a staggering 13.6 million sq mt residential estate adjacent to the Expo site.

The proposed Expo site at Jebel Ali, will be the largest ever and will cost in the region of US$ 3 billion. There will be a further US$ 7 billion earmarked for infrastructure, including US$ 1.4 billion to be spent on expanding the Metro’s Red Line.

A further project in Dubailand was announced by Dubai Properties. Condor Building Contracting won a tender to build a 20k sq mt retail and community centre in its Mudon location, due to open late next year.

It is reported that Dubai’s National Petroleum Services will be sold to a Gulf-based syndicate for up to US$ 700 million. The oilfield service company, which operates in the MENA region as well as Malaysia and Brunei, will have the likes of Arab Petroleum Investment Corporation and Fajr Capital among its new owners.

Dragon Oil, 51% owned by ENOC, is set to spend US$ 1.5 billion in surveying an Afghan oil concession, covering an area of almost 1.3k km.

It seems likely that the Dubai government will once again test the sukuk market with a US$ 500 million, 15-year, 5% Islamic bond. The last sovereign bond, issued in January 2013, was for US$ 1.25 billion and was 12 times over-subscribed. With the buoyant state of the local economy, more of the same is expected this time.

This week saw HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum on an official visit to Latin America with his seven-day whirlwind tour taking in Mexico, Chile, Argentine and Brazil. It is no surprise to see that these four countries were chosen as 2013 figures indicate a 25.4% annual leap in trade to US$ 4.71 billion. Mexico (US$ 2.2 billion) and Brazil (US$ 2.0 billion) were by far the largest trading partners.

The DFM had a massive week up 6.85% from its Sunday opening of 4762 points to close on Thursday at 5088. Bellwether stocks, Emaar and Arabtec, were trading at US$ 2.94 and US$ 2.38 respectively. No wonder the market is currently the best performing bourse in the world already 50.98% up this year from its 01 January opening of 3370 points. Traditionally, the market cools once the outside temperature rises and this could be welcome news.

UK bonus payments are back in the news with Barclays leading the pack. Despite a 32% fall in profits, the investment bank has actually increased its bonus pool by 10% to almost US$ 4 billion – almost three times the dividend pay-out to shareholders! Meanwhile retiring chairman of the gas conglomerate, BG Group, has walked away with a compensation package in excess of US$ 37 million. Despite dismal results and falling sales, Morrison’s chief executive, Dalton Philips, is in line for a US$ 3.8 million share bonus. These examples beg the question – who’s in charge?

One of the major success stories of modern times is Airbnb which started in 2008 and is now valued at US$ 10 billion. To date, the company, founded by Brian Chesky, Nathan Blecharczyk and Joe Gebbia, has facilitated accommodation for over 11 million customers in nearly 200 countries. Its main source of revenue is a 3% charge on all rentals made. Certainly a good role model for any of the local SMEs to follow.

There is no doubt that the Chinese economy is slowing and, with it, a marked escalation in their banks’ tapering and tightening of credit facilities to both local and international consumers. Allied with the fact that many international banks are becoming reluctant to lend money – and even closing clients’ accounts – this can only spell bad news for the global economy.

What is the world coming to when there is every possibility that the ECB may well cut central banks’ deposit rates to below the current zero level? This would mean that customers would have to pay banks for looking after their cash; if this were to happen, mattress sales would surely surge.

There is disturbing news from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology which has forecast that El Niño may start within the next three months. This weather pattern could have a disastrous effect on economies especially in those countries bordering the Pacific Ocean with a knock effect on trade and travel throughout the world.  As better financial news is beginning to filter through, this is not the best time for Fire and Rain.

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