Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye!

sepp-blatter-emiratesAt long last, there appeared to be some action taking place in Great Britain – an island on The World project. Drydocks World reportedly signed an agreement earlier in the week with the Q Group to provide technical support for further development on the proposed 5-star resort island. A day later, Nakheel, the master developer of World Islands, indicated that there were some outstanding issues that needed to be resolved before any further progress could be made. How long it will take GB to join Lebanon and Central Europe as the huge project’s only developed islands remains to be seen.

In order to add even more dining and leisure activities for the 30k inhabitants and countless more visitors to Jumeirah Palm, Nakheel is letting out a  further 17 plots in their Azure Residence and Club Vista Mare developments.

The same developer has already completely leased out its 5.3k retail and 93 food spaces for their Deira Islands Night Souk, covering a massive 15.3 sq km area, including 1.9 km of shoreline. When completed, the area will be a vibrant tourist destination, along with scores of new hotels, residential buildings and waterfront activities, as well as an amphitheatre for 30k. The whole Deira Island project will see 280k residents and 50k new hotel rooms.

Engineering Contracting Company has been appointed as the main contractor by Dubai Properties for their US$ 218 million Dubai Wharf project. The four towers, housing 582 residential and 150 retail units, will be completed by 2017 and will form an integral part of DP’s Cultural Village master development.

Spanish operator, Parques Reunidos has been awarded the contract to operate motiongate Dubai and Bollywood Parks for Dubai Parks and Resorts. These are two of the four unique zones that will comprise the mega theme park being built in Jebel Ali.

October witnessed a record high in business activity with the HSBC UAE Purchasing Managers’ Index reaching 61.2 – its highest ever level since the series began over five years ago. This indicates that the local economy is steaming ahead, despite low oil prices (Brent crude currently trading at US$ 83.0) and international geo-political factors.

The awarding of a US$ 47 million district cooling plant in Abu Dhabi has pushed the total new business for Drake & Scull Engineering to over US$ 218 million this year. The project, including design and building, will be completed within a year.

Dnata, which operates in all six UK airports, into which Emirates flies, plus East Midland, have expanded their Manchester operation, by adding ground handling services there. Initially, it will service Emirates and then next month Cathay Pacific. This expansion has seen its workforce more than double to around 220 employees.

With much of the cargo traffic now moving to Dubai World Central, the new facility recorded Q3 returns of 243k tonnes (YTD – 520k tonnes). The airport saw 156k passengers in the quarter with a YTD total of 734k.

Since introducing Wi-Fi three years ago on some of its flights, Emirates has seen its usage literally take off with over 500k users. The airline’s aim is to make the service free of charge on all its flights; currently, only its entire A-380 fleet of 54 aircraft and 27 of its 100 Boeing 777s have the service available.

Next Tuesday, 11/11, will see the official opening of the RTA’s new tram service which is expected to run twenty hours from 0500 to 0100. Initially there will be eight vehicles used on the 10.6km tramway which is expected to transport 27k passengers on a daily basis. Built by a consortium of Alstom, Besix and Parsons, phase 1 will have cost US$ 866 million.

The latest Knights Frank report points to a further decline in the luxury home market, as prices slipped a marginal 0.3% in Q3. As has been the case all year, the Central Bank tightening of the mortgage cap for properties over US$ 1.36 million, along with the doubling of the transfer fee to 4%, have been the main reasons attributed for the slowdown. Over the past twelve months, prices were up by only 2.6% compared to 6.3% in the preceding 12-month period.

The government has repaid the US$ 1.93 billion it raised in a 5-year sukuk in October 2009 – at the beginning of the financial crisis. Earlier in the year, Abu Dhabi agreed to refinance a US$ 20 billion loan, for a further five years, at a 1% rate.

Following last week’s announcement of the TECOM expansion, the company is now planning to raise a 7-year US$ 1.09 billion loan. The funds will be used by this unit of Dubai Holding, for its growth plans, and with some funding for its parent company.

The newly incorporated Emaar Malls Group announced a 55.2% increase in Q3 net profit to nearly US$ 88 million, as revenue jumped 19.7% to US$ 177 million. The company raised US$ 1.58 billion when it went public in September.

Last week’s equine trade biennial fair, organised by Al Fajer Information and Services, attracted a record number of trade visitors (5k) and 215 exhibitors – 85% of whom have already booked for Al Fares 2016. The 2013 imports of equine products and accessories reached US$ 327 million.

Abraaj Investment Management has made a US$ 119 million offer for Bisco Misr, an Egyptian bakery. The affiliate of Abraaj Capital is awaiting further advice from the Egyptian Financial Supervisory Authority on the proposed sale. Abraaj, which manages assets of over US$ 7.5 billion, also bought into Wine Connection, a leading SE Asia food and drink chain, with its fourth foray into that regional market.

EIIB Rasmala is planning to expand its investment range by enhancing its local property portfolio. The Dubai-based asset manager – 76.3% owned by The European Islamic Investment Bank, with the balance to Rasmala Holdings – is hoping to raise US$ 1.6 billion. US$ 1 million will be invested in its leasing and alternatives business with the residue in the UK property segment.

Dubai Health Authority has imposed a 4.2% cap on any healthcare service increase as from 2015, in line with the forecast inflation rate. Hospitals and clinics, along with services provided to local insurance policies, will be covered by this welcome new regulation.

DEWA has started an US$ 18 million project to upgrade the efficiency of its water transmission networks. This will cover thirteen locations where surge protection systems will be installed.

Following their August US$ 300 million fine from the New York banking regulator, it seems that there will be further investigations into potential sanction violations by the troubled Standard Chartered Bank. There will not be too many of their former Dubai SME clients, who were given just 30 days’ notice to close their accounts, losing sleep over the bank’s latest troubles. Investors are not happy either – as the share price of US$ 15.24 is 37.0% down on 52-week highs and less than half of what it was in November 2010.

It looks like another international bank is pulling the plug on its ME operations with reports that RBS is considering the sale of its corporate loan book. As the recipient of the biggest bailout funds following the GFC, the bank – 81% owned by the UK government – is focusing more of its attention in its home market.

The latest company to go public on the Dubai Financial Market is Daman Investments which is planning a 55% share float in Q1 2015. The exact amount of the IPO – along with the ratio of retail and institutional buyers – will be known later in the month. This is a sure sign that the Dubai economy is on the upswing especially after the two recent IPOs – Emaar Malls Group and Amanat – which raised US$ 1.6 billion were oversubscribed.

The Saudi bourse has been rocked by news that telecom operator, Mobily has had to restate its audited earnings from the past 18 months because of accounting irregularities. As a result, Etisalat – a 27.5% shareholder in the company – has had to follow suit and has trimmed its 2013 profits and H1 2014 by US$ 381 million.

Having fallen 0.6% the previous seven days, the DFM had a dismal week falling 3.1% from its Sunday opening of 4545 points to close Thursday on 4406. Bellwether stocks, Emaar Properties and Arabtec, were trading at US$ 2.68 and US$ 1.04 respectively.

The UK Serious Fraud Office, not known for its success rate in prosecuting offenders, has accused Robert Hallett of two counts of corruption. The ex-senior manager of Alstom Network UK is to face two charges of paying “inducements” totaling US$ 4.2 million to Delhi Metro Rail Corporation officials. More charges against the company and other officials will follow.

More bad news for the South African economy with the government almost halving its 2014 growth forecast from 2.7% to 1.4%. With a 4.1% budget deficit, the country, that spends over half of its income on the public sector and welfare payments, needs to raise an additional US$ 1.36 billion.

The current economic outlook in Australia is causing concern as its September trade deficit more than doubled to almost US$ 2.0 billion as exports rose by 1% but imports jumped by 6%. A plunge in commodity prices – as global demand falls – has seen a 40% fall in iron ore over the past year and thermal coal prices at five-year lows; these are the country’s two main exports.

Indonesia has seen a marked slowdown in its GDP growth which, at a still credible 5.01%, is at its lowest level since the GFC. Both Q3 exports, 0.7%, and imports, 3.63%, were down on the same period last year. Their on-going long-term economic problems – a widening  current account deficit and weakening global demand – continue to beset the newly elected president, Joko Widodo.

With real estate accounting for 16% of the China’s GDP and housing sales in the first nine months of 2014 falling 10.8%, there is some credence in the belief that a property bubble is about to burst. If that were to happen, the contagion will be felt locally – initially in the steel and cement sectors – and across the world. One interesting fact on the impact of a property bubble collapse is that, in the past three years, China has used 6.6 billion tonnes of cement – in the whole of the twentieth century, USA consumed only 4.5 billion tonnes! With its total debt spiraling out of control, the whole world is hoping that the Beijing government will manage a soft landing when the inevitable housing correction occurs.

Even though Spain’s recession is officially over, as more jobs are being created, consumer demand has picked up quicker than expected and the 2015 growth forecast rose to 2.0%. Unfortunately, the headline figures hide the fact that the country is facing dire social problems. Not only is unemployment at over 25%, public debt stands at 100% of GDP and companies owe more than 120% of GDP but 1.5 million Spaniards rely on food banks, 700k households – that generate no income – are unable to claim government benefits and 2.4 million have been unemployed for more than two years.

Having been FIFA’s airline partner for the past three world cups, Emirates has finally pulled the plug and will not renew sponsorship with the world football body which has been beset by numerous scandals and reported financial misdemeanours. It is estimated that partner sponsors pay over US$ 1.6 billion into the pot for a 4-year World Cup cycle. The Dubai-based airline was one of six partner sponsors – along with adidas, Coca Cola, Hyundai/Kia, Sony and Visa– and the first to realise that there may be some toxicity with links to Sepp Blatter’s FIFA and its alleged ever- increasing corruption scandals. Emirates has now shown FIFA a deserved red card and the sooner other sponsors follow suit, the quicker the world game can rid itself of its tarnished reputation and regain credibility. Then the FIFA cabal can moan that Hey That’s No Way To Say Goodbye!

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