The Party Is Over

Blatter_ValckeIn the latest UBS study, Dubai is ranked a global 4th in two categories – the most expensive cities in the world and most expensive rental for a 3-bedroom apartment. In the former, it is behind Zurich, Geneva and New York, whilst in the latter its annual rental of US$ 38.9k is only lower than New York (US$ 51.8k), Hong Kong (US$ 50.6k) and London (US$ 40.2k).

Jumeirah Golf Estates is planning to add a new community centre, along with retail outlets and a hotel, in the upcoming Al Andalus District. This will be the focal point of the new project which will include eight apartment buildings, two of which – one 10-storey and the other 12 – will have 180 units. Completion date for phase 1 is set at Q2 2018.

Nakheel has appointed three contractors to construct a total of 1.5k villas and serviced residences in Nad Al Sheba. The contracts awarded to Metac General, Trojan General and United Engineering were for 468 villas (US$ 213 million), 489 villas (US$ 227 million) and 789 units (US$ 215 million) respectively. The project, covering 2.5 million sq ft, will be completed by Q1 2018 and will include a community centre, with 30 retail and food outlets.

As the Dubai Water Canal project begins to take shape, it seems that the four Crystal Lagoon towers, located on the redeveloped Safa Park and comprising 1.2k residences, will have their own man-made beaches. In addition, the Gate Tower development will also include 500k sq ft of retail and food outlets.

A year after its first property in Dubai, on Beach Road, Four Seasons have announced that its next one will be a 106-key hotel in DIFC, to be opened in 2017.

In line with the recent past, Dubai’s hotels had another disappointing month, with August returns showing a 1.7% fall in average occupancy rates to 74.2% and larger declines in average room rates (12.5%) to US$ 160, along with revenue per available room (13.9%) to US$ 119. New supply, at 6.0%, once again outstripped the 4.3% rise in demand. Short-term prospects point to much of the same, as the number of Russian and eurozone tourists continues to fall. Whether the sector can cope with an estimated 46% jump in room inventory to 95k, over the next two years, remains to be seen.

IMG’s Worlds of Adventure is fast approaching completion, as the theme park installs 69 automated dinosaurs in its largest of four zones, the Lost Valley – Dinosaur Adventure. The facility, located in Dubailand, has three other connected zones – Cartoon Network, IMG Boulevard and Marvel.

The RTA is hoping for a PPP (public private partnership) for developing Union Oasis, a former public park. Tenders are now open to complete the prequalification requirements for this 15k sq mt project that includes residential apartments, commercial and leisure facilities, along with open areas.

Dubai-based Home Centre plans to open 50 outlets in the MENA region over the next five years. Their US$ 272 million investment will see the 20-year old company expand its number of stores to 90 and create at least 3k new jobs.

Local company, Khushi Group will invest US$ 64 million in various projects in three sectors – education, sports infrastructure and transport. These include two schools in Sharjah and an Ajman cricket academy.

DP World is becoming greener as it introduces photovoltaic solar panels on buildings to generate electricity. Initially, the port operator will install solar panels on its buildings in JAFZA and Port Rashid terminal. This is the first phase of a project that, when fully rolled out, will generate up to 40MWP.

The 10th World Retail Congress will be held in Dubai next year, thus cementing the emirate’s increasing importance in the global MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) sector. It will also enhance Dubai’s position as a leading retail destination. There is no doubting the importance of the retail sector to Dubai’s economy, accounting for some 29% (or US$ 22.9 billion) of GDP.

There are reports that Abraaj Capital may be selling its 49% shareholding in locally based payments provider, Network International. The private equity company bought its stake in 2011 for US$ 545 million and would probably be looking at a deal – either through an IPO or a private sale – in the region of US$ 1 billion. Emirates NBD holds the remaining 51% shareholding.

Dubizzle has reportedly invested US$ 1 million in the fashion mobile app, Shedd, developed by two of its former employees, Alex Hutley and Tariq Zabian. The Dubai developed mobile site not only trades in fashion items but also allows buyers and sellers to discuss sale items on line.

Just as First Gulf Bank announced that it had raised a US$ 1 billion loan for general financing purposes, the shareholders of Commercial Bank of Dubai rejected a proposal for the bank to raise a US$ 750 million Basel III-compliant bond. The bank’s two major shareholders are Abdullah Hamad Al Futtaim (26.3%) and the Investment Corporation of Dubai (20.0%) and it is reported that over 39% of the roughly 80% of shareholders present at the meeting were against the proposal.

Latest Central Bank figures for July confirm a slowdown in the economy as deposits fall, whilst borrowings are on the rise. Outstanding loans show a 10.0% jump, year on year, to US$ 370 billion as government deposits fell 6.2% over the same timeframe.

Dubai’s August CPI rose 0.82% to 4.41%, mainly due to the phasing out of the fuel subsidy that led to transportation prices increasing by 10.4%.

Du will return US$ 286 million to its shareholders by way of a US$ 0.035 interim and a US$ 0.027 special dividend.

Nasdaq Dubai witnessed its largest ever-sovereign sukuk listing with an Indonesian government issuance of Global Sukuk valued at US$ 6 billion. With US$ 12.6 billion of sukuk listings so far this year, the bourse is fast approaching last year’s total record figure of US$ 13.4 billion.

It was a second flat week on the DFM, opening Sunday at 3621 to eventually move 4 points higher to 3625 by Thursday (17 September). Of the bellwether stocks, Emaar Properties was up US$ 0.01 to US$ 1.75, whilst Arabtec lost US$ 0.03 to US$ 0.49. Although trading volumes on Thursday were again disappointingly low, they were up with 236 million shares, valued at US$ 139 million, being exchanged (cf 134 million shares for US$ 72 million, the previous Thursday).

Both oil and gold had a positive week so that by Thursday, Brent crude had closed 0.5 % higher at US$ 49.10, with gold closing up US$ 17 at US$ 1,127.

If the potential merger between the world’s two largest brewers, Anheuser-Busch InBev taking over SAB Miller, goes ahead, the result would be a drinks company, worth US$ 230 billion and responsible for 33% of the global beer supply.

As soon as the 2009 deal was signed, the tie up between Suzuki and Volkswagen seemed doomed for failure. At the time, the German carmaker became Suzuki’s largest shareholder, with both parties agreeing to cooperation and expansion plans into emerging markets such as India. But the deal never really worked, culminating this week with Suzuki’s buyback of 120 million shares, valued at US$ 31.8 per share.

Following his arrest early last month, Tokyo police have now charged Mark Karpeles with embezzlement. The Frenchman founded Mt.Gox – which only last year was rated the leading global bitcoin exchange but to be quickly followed by bankruptcy, with losses of almost US$ 400 million (the equivalent of 850k bitcoins at February 2014 prices).

Germany’s biggest bank is the latest with staff layoffs, announcing massive 25% job cuts which would trim its personnel numbers to 75k. Most of Deutsche Bank’s redundancies will be by spinning off its PostBank division, slashing back office positions and IT activities and closing 90% of its Russian operations. Incoming Chief Executive, John Cryan is being true to his word that he would cut costs!

Another company undertaking a massive redundancy program is Hewlett Packard which hopes to save US$ 2.7 billion by slashing 25k off staff numbers. This is in addition to the 55k it already plans to lay off, as part of a 2012 restructure. At the same time, the tech giant is also splitting the company into two divisions with HP Enterprises becoming a separate entity from its printer and PC business.

As the country has seen its currency sink 20% against the US$ and its stock market fall 9% this year, the troubled Malaysian government is spending US$ 4.6 billion, in a bid to boost its flagging economy. Apart from a political scandal – involving Prime Minister, Najib Razak, the state investment firm 1MDB and the mysterious US$ 700 million – the country is suffering from the collapse of commodity prices, the high greenback and the slowdown in China. Last November, three of Moldova’s biggest banks became insolvent having lost over US$ 1 billion, through fraudulent loans. The impoverished country’s central bank then injected US$ 660 million in new capital but, with a GDP of only US$ 8 billion, the country had to literally print extra money. The consequences have been catastrophic – inflation has doubled to 8%, the leu has fallen 20% to the US$, interest rates have almost doubled to 15.5% this year and GDP is forecast to contract 4.6%. In the wake of endemic corruption and mismanagement in the banking sector, both the EU and World Bank, along with other international agencies, have refused any further financial assistance, until the deep-rooted problem of corruption in Moldova is addressed.

Having entered into negative inflation for the first time in 55 years in April, the UK’s CPI fell back to 0% in August. Two of the main drivers for the country’s inflation, remaining flat this year, are the low oil price and the on-going supermarket price war. The end result is that, as the 2.0% government target is still a long way off, the chances of a hike in interest rates this year are minimal.

With increasing concerns about the sluggish global growth, volatility in the equity markets, Chinese uncertainty and low oil prices, the Federal Reserve decided not to raise US interest rates. The august body seems to have more sense than the many analysts who have been predicting rate hikes all this year.

There are reports that FIFA’s Secretary General, Jerome Valcke, has been put on leave by the scandal-ridden world football body. The 54-year old denies any wrongdoing but it is alleged that he was involved in a scheme to sell World Cup tickets for up to five times face value. Sepp Blatter’s right hand man also reportedly tried to secure a pay-off of several million dollars before this suspension; so it is not difficult to see what the hierarchy are being paid for bringing the game into disrepute and ridicule. Now even his self-deluded boss must realise that The Party Is Over!

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