Tragedy!

burj2020The Dubai doomsayers, who were predicting a 2015 30% property crash, still await their day in the sun, as latest figures from Knight Frank’s Global House Price Index indicate only a 6.1% annual slowdown. However, on a global scale the emirate was ranked 53 out of 56 with only Ukraine (15.5%), Cyprus (8.2%) and China (6.4%) having bigger price slides. Interestingly, the index had its weakest annual growth – at only 0.3% – in three years.

According to Reidin.com, there has been a slowing down in the number of property launches in the first five months of 2015. During this period, there have been 14 new projects, covering 4.8k units, compared to 37 projects and 11.3k units over the same period last year. In the past three years, it is estimated that 52k units have been opened in Dubai.

Having seen its first two releases of 463 units sell out within hours, Danube’s Glitz3 development reflected the slowdown in the local market. The company announced that last Saturday’s launch saw about 55% of the 352 apartments on offer actually sold to investors. Prices for the units in Studio City range from US$ 129k to US$ 327k. All three developments are slated for completion within 30 months, with main contractors being appointed in Q3.

Arco General Contracting has won a US$ 78 million, 18-month contract from Limitless to carry out infrastructure work – including lighting, sewerage and roads – on its Downtown Jebel Ali project. The development, encompassing 300 mixed-use blocks, stretches 11km and covers 200 hectares.

Al Fara’a Properties has confirmed that it was in a detailed design phase to build a residential development in Dubai Maritime City.

The Director General and Chairman of the Roads and Transport Authority, HE Mattar Al Tayer, estimates that properties within 1.5km of the Metro have seen prices surge by between 13% – 41% and their rentals up in the region of 10%. In a similar vein, a recent ValuStrat study put the premium at 15%.. Other recent studies have pointed the other way.

Plans are going ahead for the world’s biggest commercial tower to be built in JLT. Design of the Burj 2020 will be carried out by Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture – the same firm responsible for both the Burj Khalifa and the Kingdom Tower in Saudi Arabia. The tower will be the focal point of the 1.3 million sq mt Burj 2020 District which will include commercial, retail and hospitality areas. 

Damac’s MD, Ziad El Chaar, is hosting 22 senior staff members from China’s third largest property broker, 5i5j. The company has been appointed to market Damac’s portfolio in China, an expanding market for the local realty sector. It is estimated that in H1 2014, Chinese bought over US$ 5.1 billion of overseas property, half of which were private investors and the balance by state-linked enterprises. The developer is also opening a ladies-only sales office in Damac Maison, near to Dubai Mall. 

It seems likely that Airbus will bow to Emirates’ pressure and introduce an A380neo which could be a longer aircraft with up to fifty more passenger capacity. Although recent sales have been sluggish, and no new activity is expected at this week’s Paris Air Show, Airbus estimates that it could sell more than 1.5k units over the next 20 years.

A combination of 9% more students – to 98k – and increased fees has seen Gems Education’s annual revenue, at 31 March, jump 20.6% to US$ 675 million. The Varkey-led education provider operates over 50 schools in 19 different countries.

The week Twitter’s Chief Executive, Don Costolo, stands down to be replaced by co-founder, Jack Dorsey, the social messaging service is reportedly to open an office in Dubai in Q3. At the same time, Benjamin Ampen has been appointed their new head of MENA sales.

Recording a 29% jump in Land Rover sales and a marginal 2% rise in its Jaguar turnover, Dubai-based Al Tayer Motors now sells more of these models than any of the other 2.7k showrooms in the world. The dealer also announced astronomic annual rises of 82% and 61% in the Jaguar F-Type and Range Rover vehicles respectively. 

Dubai-based Cars Taxi Group is expanding its overseas presence, by investing up to US$ 54 million on 1k new cars, to set up in Saudi Arabia and Singapore; it currently has operations in India, Kuwait, Malaysia and Qatar. The company has more than 7k vehicles in the UAE.

Eros Group, established in 1967, was voted UAE’s best brand for the 5th year in a row. Over the past decade, the Dubai-based electronic company has seen revenue jump from US$ 163 million to over US$ 1.36 billion. Only 55 of the 1.5k leading brands, who applied, were declared Superbrands by the Brand Council.

The GCC’s second biggest cable manufacturer, Ducab will become a 60% shareholder in a new US$ 60 million aluminium plant in Abu Dhabi, to be known as Ducab Aluminium; the new entity will have a 50k metric tonne capacity for aluminium rods and overhead conductors. The remaining 40% shareholding will be with Abu Dhabi’s Senaat which already is a 50% owner of Ducab, with the other 50% owned by the Investment Corporation of Dubai.

Following a decree by HH Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Dubai Technology and Media Free Zone Authority is now to be known as Dubai Creative Clusters Authority. The authority will still be responsible for licensing, visa and zoning regulations for such free zones as Dubai Internet City, Dubai Media City, Dubai Studio City, Dubai Academic City, Dubai Knowledge Village, Dubai Biotechnology and Research Park, Dubai Outsource Zone, Dubai International Academic City, Dubai Design District (d3), International Media Production Zone and Energy and Environment Park (EnPark).

According to research by the National Bank of Abu Dhabi, the recent drop in oil and gas prices, which have halved since September 2014, could lose US$ 240 billion for the six GCC countries; this is slightly less than the IMF forecast of US$ 300 billion. The big losers would be Saudi Arabia (US$ 160 billion) and the UAE (US$ 55 billion). To soften the impact of this loss of revenue, governments should look at cutting budgets, reducing subsidies and closely monitoring project expenditure.

With the notable exception of Baille Gifford, with a 7% holding, Dragon Oil’s 46% minority shareholders have finally agreed to Emirates National Oil Co’s offer of US$ 11.72 per share – a 12% premium on last Friday’s close. It was no surprise then that when trading reopened on Monday the shares were up 9.6%. This new Dubai-government owned oil-producer is valued at US$ 5.75 billion. Also this week ENOC secured a 9-year US$ 1.5 billion bank facility to support long-term funding requirements. 

Shuaa Capital’s subsidiary, Gulf Finance, which obtained a US$ 136 million syndicated loan late last year, expects to raise a further US$ 163 million in 2015. The company’s primary business is to lend much-needed funds to SMEs, mainly in the UAE.

Emaar Properties has decided the IPO share price of US$ 0.50 for its floating of 12.99% of its Egyptian arm, Emaar Misr. 85% of the 600 million shares on offer have been offered to institutions and has been 11 times oversubscribed. Trading will start on the Cairo bourse on 02 July.

The DFMI had a flat week starting on Sunday at 4073 to close on Thursday at 4064. Bellwether stocks, Emaar and Arabtec, did likewise both rose – unchanged at US$ 2.19 and down US$ 0.01 to US$ 0.71 respectively. Thursday saw only 280 million shares, valued at US$ 488 million traded – a massive downturn compared to the 1.30 billion, worth US$ 2.56 billion, the previous week. 

Over the week ending 18 June, gold regained some of its lost lustre up US$ 20 to US$ 1,199  whilst Brent crude was marginally down US$ 0.22 at US$ 64.73.

As David Cameron discusses EU membership with anybody who wants to listen, Standard & Poor’s maintained the UK’s AAA rating but amended its outlook to negative from stable. The ratings agency is concerned that UK’s growth potential could be negatively impacted by the upcoming referendum, due within the next two years. S&P also pointed out that the government will have to closely scrutinise the growing private external debt and its increasing twin deficits. The UK’s inflation rate in May returned to positive – 0.1% – having fallen to minus 0.1% in April – the first time for a negative reading since 1960. Furthermore, average weekly earnings rose 2.7% – its largest increase in over six years.

Even after seven years of near zero rates, the Fed is still reticent to move. Janet Yellen, the Fed supremo, has indicated that both the labour market and inflation conditions do not warrant any immediate action and that any future changes will be gradual.

Japan’s recovery from last year’s recession continues on course with its May trade deficit, of US$ 1.75 billion, 76.5% down on this time last year. Although exports were up 2.4%, lower than expected, imports have fallen by 8.7%. But Shinzo Abe will be concerned that a global slowdown could cut back Japanese factory output, that the weak yen will inevitably push up import prices and the country still has to pull itself out of its years-long deflationary cycle. 

The Australian property bubble continues to be blown up by historically low interest rates, with industry experts predicting it could be another year before the unavoidable crash. Even Glenn Stevens, the Reserve Bank governor, is on record describing Sydney house prices as “crazy”. 

In the Mercer’s 2015 Cost of Living Survey, Dubai has moved up 44 places to 23rd. However, this is just another example of the glaring variances between similar reports with findings having to be taken with a pinch of salt. In this case, the Mercer report comes up with Luanda, Hong Kong, Zurich, Singapore and Geneva as the most expensive cities globally whereas the Economist Intelligence Unit ranks Singapore, Paris, Oslo, Zurich and Sydney as the top five. At the other end of the scale, Mercer ranks Bishkek, Windhoek, Karachi, Tunis and Skopje in their bottom five: EIU rates Mumbai, Karachi, New Delhi, Kathmandu and Damascus. Which one has more credence?

Another example of the cosy relationship between government and the finance sectors comes with the news that the former FCA director of supervision, Clive Adamson, is reportedly becoming a non-executive director of JP Morgan International Bank. Two years ago, the ex-City regulator was involved in fining this bank over US$ 3 million for inadequate client advice. Since leaving his old employment late in 2014, he has also become a non-executive director of Prudential’s UK.

Meanwhile Michael Gove is looking at appointing a wealthy party donor to his Justice department’s board, having just released four independent directors from the Ministry of Justice. The recently knighted Theodore Agnew, who founded the private equity firm Somerton Capital, is a close ally of the new Justice Secretary and was on the board of the Department of Education when Mr Gove was in charge there.

With the EU regulators currently investigating its Luxemburg tax arrangements, another Amazon probe will be in relation to its business practices in the distribution of e-books. The review will look at whether Amazon is “preventing other e-book distributors from innovating and competing effectively”.

Greece is not bowing to German, EU and IMF pressure as it refuses to budge on important conditions relating to certain austerity demands, pension cuts or energy tax increases being demanded by the troika, before any further funds are made available. In a no win situation, the Greek leader, Alexis Tsipras, has accused its creditors of trying to humiliate his country whilst EC president, Jean-Claude Juncker, reproached the government for misleading voters and giving out misinformation on the troika’s demands. 

Over the next three months, Greece has to find US$ 19.2 billion to pay creditors and other demands but, in the longer term, its total debt is US$ 360 billion, of which US$ 240 billion is owed to the ECB, including US$ 62 billion to Germany alone. The situation is exacerbated by the fact that its unemployment levels continue upwards – currently at 26% – whilst youth unemployment is more than double at 55%; further its public debt to GDP is at a massive 177%. If the country defaults, fails to pay its creditors and exits the eurozone, it will not only be a Greek Tragedy!

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