dubai-frameAlthough relatively quiet by recent Dubai standards, annual property price rises, at 27.7%, are still the highest in the world. However, according to the latest Knight Frank’s Global House Price Index, Q1 increases at 3.4% were 63% down on the same period of 2013 but still nearly six times the global average of 0.6%.

To help with the increased demand for holiday accommodation, the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce will consider applications from operators, with a portfolio of more than 20 properties. Even individual homeowners will be able to rent out their residences but will have to utilise the services of a licensed operator.

Following Q1 results, Dubai has become the second most expensive global city for hotels, after Geneva. The latest Bloomberg Index indicates that the average Dubai hotel room costs US$ 273, US$ 31 less than the Swiss city. Surprisingly, Dubai’s 5-star hotels, at US$ 304, are much cheaper than the likes of Geneva (US$ 614), Los Angeles (US$ 481) and Tokyo (US$ 440).

The Al Futtaim Group signed an agreement with Kayannat Real Estate to buildthe US$ 1.6 billion Al Diriyah Festival City in Riyadh. Due for completion within two years, the complex will cover 250k sq mt and will include a 500-room hotel and serviced apartments.

Arabtec is planning to float 50% of its Egyptian unit which would garner in the region of US$ 5 billion. No float date had been set but will be likely to take place on the Cairo exchange within the next two years, or later, if that country’s economic and political environment remains turbulent.

According to latest Dubai Customs data, trade in auto parts has risen 8.1% to US$ 10.9 billion, with imports up 4% to US$ 6.3 billion and exports / re exports increasing by 13% to US$ 4.6 billion. Japan was the biggest source market at US$ 1.6 billion – or 24.8% of total imports.

With over sixty educational institutions already in the country, the Varkey Group is moving into the tertiary educational sector by buying into AHC GCC Investment. This holding company includes the one-year old International Horizons College, based in Business Bay, which caters for high school leavers by offering them a two year course following which they will transfer to one of three nominated Indian universities.

Over the next 18 months, Landmark Group is planning to hire a further 2.5k staff, as it opens an extra 50 outlets, for its UAE stores. The Dubai-based retailer’s expansion plans will see its portfolio of outlets increase to over 600.

The Al Basel Group has launched the Tuwaiq Travel Agency with the opening of nine GCC branches. The company has already hired fifty travel specialists, along with support staff to take advantage of the current boom in the travel sector.

Nakheel is another company on the recruitment drive. The Dubai-based developer and Engel & Völkers are to form a real estate company to market local property under the E & V banner. The new JV will be hiring up to 250 agents, with plans to open the Dubai office in October.

With at least US$ 8.8 billion required for 2020 Expo infrastructure projects, it is interesting to note that the country has improved its ranking by three places to 11th in the world for foreign direct investment. In 2013, its FDI rose by 24.7% to US$ 9.6 billion as several local companies – including Dubai Investments and Mashreq – increased their foreign ownership levels. The AT Kearney report indicated that US, China, Canada, UK and Brazil were the top five countries.

A new virus, Gameover Zeus, is causing havoc around the world, having infiltrated over a million computers, resulting in losses of tens of millions of dollars. Once infected, the malware can take over financial transactions and redirect payments away from the legitimate payee. Unfortunately, it is estimated that the UAE is rated the third most affected country with 8% of all attacks – only behind USA (13%) and Italy (12%).

The country’s largest Islamic Bank, Dubai Islamic, is reported to have bought a 24.9% shareholding in Indonesia’s only listed sharia compliant lender, Bank Panin Syariah, for US$ 21.3 million. It is expected that the majority shareholder, Bank Panin Indonesia (64.0%), and DIB will jointly manage the operation.

The UAE becomes the first country in the world that will see all its banks introduce the Mobile Wallet. Under the direction of HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum – and part of his initiative to introduce Smart Government – the aim is to implement a digital payment system for use by everybody in the country to pay for any government service online. The UAE Banks Federation is coordinating the project which will be rolled out in several phases over the next twelve months.

Having gained 4.58% the previous week, the DFM, opening on Sunday at 5087 points, posted a modest 0.2% increase to close Thursday on 5101. Although the market is 51.4% up on its 01 January opening of 3370, it is 5.1% down on its 2014 high of 5374 recorded on 06 May. Bellwether stocks, Emaar Properties and Arabtec, closed on US$ 2.77 and US$ 1.75 respectively.

Most expats complain about the rise in Dubai’s cost of living but one thing they cannot whinge about is the price of petrol. Bloomberg have estimated that the country has the sixth lowest pump price in the world. At US$ 1.77 per gallon, it is only bettered by Venezuela (US$ 0.04), Saudi (US$ 0.45), Kuwait (US$ 0.81), Egypt (US$ 1.01) and Iran (US$ 1.52). At the other end of the scale comes Norway (US$ 9.79), Netherlands (US$ 8.46) and Italy (US$ 9.34).

Hopes of a quick recovery in the US economy were dashed as manufacturing slowed last month with demand for new orders slowing. Furthermore even though annual construction spending rose by 0.2% to US$ 954 billion, it highest level in five years, it was still less than the expected 0.6%. Because of the extremely cold winter, the economy contracted 1.0% in Q1 but the 4.0% Q2 growth expectation now seems highly unlikely. Another problem was the trade deficit which jumped 6.9% in April to US$ 45.2 billion – with exports at US$ 195.4 billion and imports climbing to US$ US$ 240.6 billion.

Indonesia, a member of the G20, reported their second biggest trade deficit (US$ 2.0 billion) in five years dampening expectations that the country’s economy was gaining traction.  April exports fell by 3.2% whilst imports were down by 1.3% – a lot worse than analysts’ expectations of a 3.5% increase and a 7.7% drop respectively. All the signs – lower inflation, a narrowing current account and an improving rupiah – indicated that the country was heading in the right direction. The economy will not be helped by reduced commodity prices, weak manufacturing data and slowing foreign direct investment as consumer confidence flags.

It looks that Spain is slowly coming out of their long-term recession with recent data indicating that the economy is recovering with Q1 GDP growing by 0.4%. To try and quicken the recovery, the government has announced a US$ 8.6 billion stimulus package, including a reduction in corporation tax from 30% to 25%. Nevertheless with unemployment rates of almost 26% (and youth unemployment at twice that level), it will be a long time before a sustained recovery takes place.

The UK recovery continues on the back of increased consumer spending and an upsurge in the housing sector as the lure of low interest rates takes hold. As the recent expansion in the manufacturing sector continues, the government will have to take measures to encourage increased business investment and wean the country off its current consumer-led recovery. It is almost certain that the Bank of England will be the first central bank to start lifting interest rates later in the year, in direct contrast to the eurozone.

Meanwhile manufacturing growth in all nations of the eurozone slowed with the exception of the Netherlands whilst France was the only country to record contraction in this sector, as their domestic demand weakens and exports fall. This latest news was the tipping point for the European Central Bank who were forced to take action, after months of dithering.

Although better late than never, the ECB has finally reduced its deposit rate to MINUS 0.1% as well as its benchmark interest rates from 0.25% to 0.15%. The two main problem areas are the risk of deflation and the on-going weakness in the bloc’s lethargic growth. Whether these measures are enough to boost consumer spending, improve private investment and get banks lending more money remains to be seen. If they fail, the consequences could be catastrophic.

There are reports that the architect of Dubai Frame, Fernando Donis, is not happy with Dubai Municipality changes to his design of the 150m tall and 100m wide structure. The Mexican’s design was selected from 926 others in the 2009 ThyssenKrupp Elevator Architecture Awards but he apparently claims that the subsequent DM changes are in conflict with the competition rules and his intentions. He has written an open letter to the Dubai Ruler raising his concerns. Yes, If I had to do the same again I would my friend, Fernando.

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