Welcome To Our World!

florence-2Narendra Modi became the first Indian prime minister in 37 years to visit the country and during his 2-day visit, plans were raised for a US$ 75 billion fund for infrastructure projects in India. Modi is particularly keen to see the likes of roads, railways, airports and sea terminals being modernised quicker than they are now. The country, having slipped behind China, wants to regain its position as UAE’s leading trading partner, by a 60% expansion in bilateral trade over the next five years.

Naresco General Contracting has been awarded the US$ 82 million Danube contract to build both its Glitz 1 and 2 projects. Located at Studio City, the development comprises 300 apartments, ranging from studio to 3-bedroom. Both phases have been sold out, whilst earthworks on Glitz 3 have started.

A 12k sq ft Spinneys supermarket became the first of 70 shops to open for business on Nakheel’s Golden Mile Galleria on Palm Jumeirah. The complex will also have a medical centre, gym and numerous dining outlets.

Next month, Majid Al Futtaim will open its 12th regional City Centre – a 325k sq ft mall in the Me’aisem area of International Media Production Zone. The one-level mall has 23.9k sq mt of gross leasable space.

With demand at 32.0%, outstripping a 4.8% supply, it was no surprise to see July occupancy up across the board. 4 and 5-star hotels reported a 26% year on year rise to 57.6%. Although average daily rate fell 2.9% to US$ 167, revenue per available room surged 22.4% to US$ 96. Meanwhile, JW Marriott Marquis Dubai, with 1.6k rooms, reported a 21% hike in H1 revenue and had 80%+ occupancy in the period leading into Ramadan.

As the inflow of Russian tourists dries up, the hospitality sector has been helped by a 25% H1 jump in the number of Chinese visitors to 241k. Now the icing on the cake is that the emirate has beaten off international competition to host the International Dragon Award (IDA) Annual Meeting that will see 6k Chinese finance professionals descend on these shores next week.

The medical tourist sector continues to expand with Q1 figures of 119k patients, bringing in revenue of US$ 212 million – a near fivefold increase on the total 2012 revenue of US$ 178 million.

Meydan Sobha has taken to the road to sell property in its upcoming Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum City – District One. Its first stop was London where 200 invitees were shown details of the luxurious US$ 14 million mansions and villas up for sale; similar events are lined up across Europe and Asia.

Sweden Island is the latest development on Dubai’s The World project, with the launch this week of villas, at a starting price of US$ 15 million. The 21.2k sq ft residences, furnished by Bentley Homes, are scheduled for completion by Q4 2016.

Emirates has announced that it will fly to Panama, as from 01 February 2016. The 17 hour 35 minute flight will be the longest non-stop commercial flight in the world, using a Boeing 777-200LR aircraft, with a 266-passenger and 15 tonne cargo load.

Drydocks World is a huge operation and this was reflected in the fact that this month its 9k employees had managed to service 40 vessels simultaneously.

Although no further details are available, Dow Chemicals has signed a storage and shipping contract with DP World. The deal will see US$ 1.5 billion worth of products being stored at JAFZA and a tenfold increase in the US company’s storage requirements.

June witnessed the UAE lose a staggering 649k mobile phone subscribers – as TRA numbers fell to 17.2 million. The main reason for this monthly decline – the country’s largest ever – was a massive exodus of 673k prepaid GSM phone subscribers.

Abraaj has boosted its investment portfolio in South America by acquiring a majority shareholding in Urbano, a leading courier and logistics company. The Dubai-based private equity firm has managed assets of over US$ 9 billion, including stakes in local companies such as Aramex, Spinneys and Air Arabia.

There are conflicting reports on whether Apple has been granted an exemption from UAE foreign ownership laws, as it plans to open its first ME outlet in Dubai. Located in the Mall of the Emirates, and with a floor area of 50k sq ft, this will be Apple’s largest-ever store.

It is reported that Dubai H1 sales of Mercedes Benz vehicles rose by more than 15%, bringing total turnover to 4k units. A good indicator of business confidence is the fact that overall 2015 UAE vehicle sales are expected to rise 5.6% to 1.88 million.

It was another torrid quarter for Arabtec, with reported losses of US$ 196 million – down from a US$ 28 million profit over Q2 2014. Dubai’s largest listed construction company also posted an 8.1% fall in year-on-year revenue to US$ 490 million, whilst direct costs jumped by 31.0%.

Emirates REIT reported a 2.8% rise in H1 profit to US$ 35 million, as net property income increased 6.4% to US$ 45 million and total assets 5.3% to US$ 626 million. The sharia-compliant real estate investment trust is spending US$ 57 million on building a facility, located within Damac’s Akoya, which will be leased out to Jebel Ali School.

Empower has announced that it has paid off two loan instalments earlier than planned  – US$ 40 million due to be repaid in December and US$ 13 million, due next February.

Among the interested parties to purchase Dunia – an Abu Dhabi-based partnership established in 2008 between five parties including Waha Capital, Mubadala and Al Moosa Enterprises – are reportedly UAE Exchange and Majid Al Futtaim. The finance company – with a paid up capital of US$ 160 million and H1 profits of US$ 33 million – is expected to sell for at least US$ 660 million.

The IMF has forecast a 1.2% growth in the country’s GDP over the next five years, from its 2015 estimate of 3.4% to 4.6% in 2020. However, it does warn that the Dubai GRE debt at US$ 143 billion is on the high side and caution should be exercised with the financing of some mega projects. This equates to 136% of Dubai’s GDP, with US$ 7 billion repayable this year.

It is interesting to note that this year’s budget sees some US$ 1.44 billion set aside for infrastructure whilst there will be huge expenditure on the likes of Dubai World Central (US$ 32 billion), Dubai International Airport – US$ 7.8 billion – and Mall of the World (US$ 6.8 billion), along with The Metro expansion and Meydan 1. Consequently, Dubai has passed a new law to encourage public-private partnerships to fund these new infrastructure projects.

Dubai South is the new name given to the upcoming city, with a forecast population of 1 million, that was formerly known as Dubai World Central. It will cover an area of some 145 sq km and will be home to the world’s largest airport – Al Maktoum International Airport – and Expo 2020. Meanwhile Parsons has won the tender for infrastructure design and construction supervision work for the 438-hectare Expo site. (The US company is also carrying out similar services for the Dubai Water Canal Project).

One thing is certain – VAT will be introduced to UAE but its implementation date is uncertain and will not start until 2017 at the earliest. Also on the horizon is corporate tax – currently limited to parts of the banking and oil sectors – that could be rolled out across the board. Three other areas that could be considered are payroll tax, a duty on new vehicle purchases and stamp duty. The recent abolition of some subsidies is a portent of things to come as the country has to try and balance a budget that has been badly hit by falling oil prices.

As the oil price plummets, the DFMI remains deep in bear territory, starting the week at 3985, to fall 7.0% to 3710 by Thursday (20 August). Bellwether stocks, Emaar Properties and Arabtec both lost ground dropping US$ 0.20 to US$ 1.84 and US$ 0.07 to US$ 0.54. Trading volumes on Thursday (20 August) continued to disappoint, but were slightly up on seven days earlier, with 307 million shares, valued at US$ 164 million, being exchanged (cf 219 million shares, for US$ 107 million, the previous Thursday). Some investors will surely see this as a buy opportunity as many return to the emirate.

Oil and gold have had a mixed week so that by Thursday, oil had nosedived 7.6% to US$ 46.41, whilst the yellow metal took advantage of the worrying global economy to close 2.0% up at US$ 1,140. However, YTD Brent crude is now 19.0% lower than its 01 January opening of US$ 57.33 whilst the yellow metal has fallen 3.9%. But this should be considered as a fool’s gold price; although the metal is looking at its biggest monthly gain this year, it will surely come under pressure again over the coming weeks.

Recent research indicates that the UK’s top 100 FTSE companies pay their chief executives 183 times more than their typical worker. In 2014, the median pay was US$ 6.1 million, with the average being US$ 7.8 million – 20.2% higher than five years earlier.

Low profitability and sluggish growth are the main drivers that have seen Twitter shares sink to an all-time low, The company, that has s never posted a quarterly profit, came to the market in November 2013, at US$ 26 .00 per share, and quickly surged to over US$ 70; this week the share is trading at US$ 25.92.

IndiGo has given Airbus its biggest ever-individual order – US$ 26.5 billion for 250 A320neo aircraft. India’s leading airline has almost 40% of the domestic market and this order will bring its fleet size to 530.

Qantas has finally turned the corner as it reports a 2015 profit of US$ 374 million, compared to a US$ 2.4 billion loss last year. In a plan to replace its aging 747 fleet, the airline will receive 8 787-9 Dreamliners by 2017, with an option for a further 45.

Canadian conglomerate, Brookfield Infrastructure, is in the process of buying out Asciano, Australia’s largest rail and freight operator, for US$ 6.5 billion. The company, which has a Dubai presence in major contractor, Brookfield Multiplex (a former Australian company), plans to list on Sydney’s ASX.

The mega mining company, Glencore has seen its share value more than halve in the past year and has had a whopping US$ 17.8 billion wiped off since May alone. Its latest results will not help the cause as it recorded a US$ 527 million H1 loss (compared to a US$ 2.5 billion profit for the comparative 2014 return).

It seems that despite the weak yen, Japan’s economy continues to struggle mainly because of weak exports, especially to China and the US, and flat consumer spending. Q2 growth data sees GDP 0.4% off from the previous quarter. The shrinking economy gives Prime Minister Shinzo Abe a headache and he will have to introduce major structural overhauls in the labour market and certain industry sectors.

As the Chinese and global economies slow, markets are becoming increasingly nervous. Even the Fed has stated that the US could suffer as a result of a Chinese “material slowdown”. The fact is that China has a crucial role in the global economy and when its economic indicators head south, then there are major negative repercussions for commodities, equity markets and currencies. The hope must be that the world’s second biggest economy does not fall into a recession.

Despite the possible knock-on effect of a Chinese slowdown, German authorities appear in a bullish mood expecting the country to build on its Q2 0.4% GDP growth.

In the UK, July’s CPI just returned to positive territory moving to 0.1% as the RPI remained flat at 1.0%. There is every chance that these indices will fall especially since oil prices continue to dip. With this data as a guideline, it is unlikely that interest rates, currently at historical lows of 0.5%, will rise until next year at the earliest.

It seems that once again politics has put one over economics as the eurozone consented to the latest Greek bailout deal – its third in five years. (Following the agreement, the first thing on the agenda of Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, was to call a September general election).

In return for new loans totalling US$ 95 billion, over the next three years, Greece has to introduce tax rises and public spending cuts. With these funds, the country’s debt currently stands at US$ 450 billion. It will be interesting to see how European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and the bumbling bureaucrats work out Greece’s repayment schedule and how long the process will take. Not In My Life.

 

On Wednesday, our first grandchild was born in Oslo.  She has arrived at a time when the world is beset by crashing stock markets, plunging commodity prices, a dysfunctional eurozone, a currency war, a scandal-ridden banking system and a potential global recession. “Floberry” – Welcome To Our World!

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