Don’t Let Me Be Understood!

batmobile-dubaiIf you thought that Dubai had enough shopping malls, think again! Nakheel has awarded contracts, totalling US$ 627 million, for three retail projects – Deira Islands Night Souk (US$ 319 million), Warsan Souk (US$ 211 million) and The Circle Mall (US$ 97 million).

United Engineering Construction will build in Deira Islands with the project having 5.3k shops and 100 dining outlets, whilst stretching over 2 km on the man-made waterfront. Due for completion by 2018, all 1.2 million sq ft of leasable space has already been let. Warsan Souk, covering 650k sq ft of retail area, will have 1.2k shops and form part of a 930-home gated community. The Circle Mall – to be built by Gulf Technical Construction Company, a division of Drake & Scull – will comprise 235 shops in its 432k sq ft of retail space.

Jumeirah Golf Estates has awarded Al Habtoor STFA Soil Group the contract to build its Alandalus collection of 54 townhouses and 674 apartments. Work will start immediately.

Emaar will launch phase 2 of its Maple townhouses on Saturday. The project, with 666 townhouses at starting prices of US$ 545k, is located within Mohammed bin Rashid City.

Nakheel was one of the first of Dubai’s big companies to announce their 9 month results – an impressive US$ 983 million profit, equivalent to a 39.0% hike on the corresponding 2014 figures. No other details were released.

Business Bay is the initial location for Dubai’s first 7-Eleven convenience store, with bold plans to introduce a national chain of 800 outlets over the next decade. The master franchise holder, Seven Emirates Investment, will have 40 stores open by the end of 2016 and is recruiting 600 new employees, mainly from the Philippines and India.

Tecom has announced that DuBiotech (Dubai Biotechnology and Research Park) and En Park Energy  (Environment Park) will combine to form DSP (Dubai Science Park). The new facility will continue to offer SMEs and international companies a regional hub and facilitate innovation strategy.

A Dubai car dealer is planning to sell the Batmobile, featured in the Dark Knight Trilogy, for a reported US$ 1 million. Although it will not fly, the 5.7 litre vehicle, with a top speed of 250 kph, could soon be seen on Dubai roads.

Lower Russian demand, a strong greenback and suspended flights to Ukraine, Yemen and Syria are the main reasons why flydubai reported a US$ 40 million H1 loss, compared to a US$ 14 million profit for the same period in 2014. The airline, with a 17.2% jump in passenger numbers to 4.2 million, posted a healthy 8.7% increase in H1 revenue to US$ 599 million, although capacity had jumped 33.6% over the same period, resulting in a 12% fall in yields. Nevertheless, CEO, Ghaith Al Ghaith, has indicated that, with strong Q3 results, the budget airline is now back in the black.

This week sees the GITEX Technology Week with one of the highlights being the announcement of Yvolv, a JV between Meraas Holding and the Alibaba Group. The new IT consulting company will be an industry leader in cloud computing solutions for MENA-based enterprises.

At long last, it seems that Etisalat and du will compete directly in fixed-line business and television services. This follows on from July’s announcement that allows consumers a choice, when selecting fixed phone line and broadband services.

Dubai-based Aster DM Healthcare now has a 97% stake in Riyadh’s Sanad Hospital, after acquiring a further 57% shareholding for US$ 245 million. With five other hospitals in the GCC, the healthcare company also operates in Jordan, India and the Philippines.

TaskSpotting, a 2014 Dubai-based start-up, is already looking at expansion plans and has raised US$ 1.2 million funding from MENA Venture Investments and numerous individuals. The app gives local businesses the ability to access directly customer experiences and already has 35k users.

Aramex’s plans for setting up five Egyptian logistics sites with Orascom Telecom Media and Technology have been put on hold for the foreseeable future. The US$ 126 million proposed JV would have seen the Egyptian partner holding a 51% majority shareholding.

The Italian export credit company, Sace has granted a US$ 1.1 billion credit facility to help with the development of the emirate’s new city, Dubai South. The funding agreement was signed at the site of the Milan 2015 Expo and will help Italian companies seeking a business presence in the UAE. Dubai South – a 145 sq km new city with a US$ 32 billion mega airport being built along with a US$ 25 billion residential area – will provide a lucrative source of revenue for many companies as it gears up for Expo 2020.

As H1 bilateral trade between Japan and the GCC sank 41.7% to US$ 50.4 billion, UAE trade figures at US$ 16.3 billion were down 37.2%, with falls in both exports (9.5% to US$ 3.3 billion) and imports (43.2% to US$ 12.1 billion). The declines are attributable to a combination of low oil prices – with fuels accounting for 76% of all trade – and the weak yen.

Dubai’s September inflation rate rose slightly to 4.28% as housing costs, utility charges and beverage prices for the first nine months of the year jumped by 8.0%, 7.25% and 6.68% respectively. However for the month, the rate fell marginally to 3.9%.

Marka, the retailer that listed on the Dubai bourse twelve months ago, currently operates 38 regional stores, with the latest addition being House of Dinh Van. Its ambitious expansion plans will see a further 26 stores added over the next 15 months. Q3 returns are expected to be an improvement on Q1 losses of US$ 2.3 million and Q2’s US$ 583k.

Mashreq reported a 7.6% fall in profit to US$ 150 million – a sure indicator that lower oil prices is taking an inevitable toll on local business and that banks are beginning to suffer, with lower fees and commission income.

The DFM opened Sunday at 3698 and fell 3.0% to 3588 by the end of the week (22 October). Of the bellwether stocks, Emaar Properties was down US$ 0.07 to US$ 1.80, whilst Arabtec fell US$ 0.05 to US$ 0.46. Yet again, trading volumes on Thursday were dismally low, at only 148 million shares, valued at US$ 80 million changing hands, (cf 200 million shares for US$ 57 million, the previous Wednesday).

Oil and gold had a bad week and by Thursday (22 October), Brent crude had closed lower again, down on the week 2.8%, at US$ 48.36, whilst gold lost some of its lustre, after recent weekly gains, falling US$ 21 to US$ 1,166.

FBI staff are investigating claims that East European hackers infiltrated Dow Jones to extract sensitive market information, prior to general release. The data was then sold on to investors who make money from unpublished embargoed financial information. Also this week Talk Talk, a UK telecoms firm, has been hit by cyber criminals who have may have accessed personal and banking details of up to 4 million customers. The Met Police are carrying out investigations.

It is expected that over 8.5 million VW vehicles will be recalled in the 28-member state EU following the diesel emission scandal. Next week Q3 results are expected to show that Europe’s largest carmaker has made a US$ 3.9 billion operating loss, whilst making a US$ 7.2 billion provision in relation to this self-inflicted problem. The potential financial damage could run as high as US$ 40 billion.

In line with its peer group, Morgan Stanley returned disappointing Q3 figures, as net sales fell 13.0% to US$ 7.77 billion and profits nosedived 42.4% to US$ 939 million.

Apple has lost a case against the University of Wisconsin and has been ordered to pay US$ 234 million in damages. The Californian tech company was found guilty of infringing mobile chip technology already patented by the educational facility in 1998; it is set to appeal the verdict.

The EU Competition Commissioner has ordered both Starbucks and Fiat Chrysler to pay back up to US$ 30 million in taxes, having decided that tax deals with Netherlands and Luxembourg respectively were state aid. It found that any measures to artificially reduce a company’s tax liability are illegal and not in line with EU legislation. These two decisions represent the tip of the iceberg and could see other companies such as Amazon and Apple falling foul and ultimately left with huge tax bills.

A mega e-commerce delivery business tie-up is expected to get the green light from the EU. The deal will see FedEx pay US$ 5.0 billion to acquire its Dutch rival, TNT Express, and could be finalised early next year.

Hugo Boss has blamed the double whammy of US and Chinese economic slowdowns, along with weakening Asian consumer confidence, as it revised its Q4 profit forecast downwards to as low as 3%. As news of a 1% fall in Q3 sales reached the markets, its shares fell by almost 10%. Last week Burberry shares sank 8% on the back of poor Asian data and particularly from China where trading had become “increasingly challenging”. The slowdown in China’s economy will continue to hit demand for many luxury brands.

The Australian housing market is beginning to flat line with a marked decline in the rate of realty price growth in both Sydney and Melbourne. The quarterly growth in median house prices more than halved in both cities to 3.2% (from 7.7%) and 2.8% (from 6.0%) respectively. This slowdown comes after annual increases of 21.7% and 15.6% in these two locations, as prices in Brisbane remained flat whilst Perth and Adelaide headed south.

Despite the Chinese economic slowdown, Australian miner, Rio Tinto, recorded a 17% increase in Q3 iron ore shipments – well on its way to meeting its annual target of 340 million tonnes. This is despite the massive fall in prices, over the past 18 months, which on Thursday (22 October) stood at US$ 54.17.

China is expected to invest over US$ 46 billion in the UK, including a 30% investment in a nuclear power plant to be built by a consortium comprising France’s EDF and the Chinese state company CGN. This could produce 25k new jobs and, when completed in 2025, will provide all the energy requirements for 6 million homes. China’s investment splurge and trade deals were announced during President Xi Jinping’s 4-day state visit. (In a bid to boost the number of Chinese tourists, David Cameron’s government is considering a move to cut two-year visa costs by 74% to US$ 130. How about doing the same for UAE applicants?).

As widely expected, Chinese Q3 growth fell below 7% in Q3 – the 6.9% return was the lowest since the GFC. (There are doubts whether this figure is correct and, when other factors are considered, this could easily be halved). There is an urgent need of structural changes as the world’s second largest economy continues to soften with major indicators – including manufacturing, imports and inflation – heading south. Continuing volatility in the stock markets, following the summer collapse, only adds further pressure on Premier Li Keqiang to introduce measures to shore up the flagging economy. To further exacerbate the problem, there is the huge debt bubble to consider, allied with the country’s highly unregulated shadow banking sector.

Talking of wonky figures – for some time this blog has questioned the veracity of some data emanating from the local realty sector – be it from so called consultants, financial institutions, agents, brokers or other interested stakeholders, often with a vested interest! This year, for example, some reports were indicating over 25k units would be handed over in the Dubai supply chain – it seems that less than 10k will be nearer the mark as the two major developers – Emaar and Damac – will only be releasing 2.3k units in 2015.

Over the past two years, Dubai’s population has grown at an annual rate of 7.6%, with official data indicating that the number of Dubai households at the end of last year stood at 448k. If the construction labour content (say 800k) were taken out of Dubai’s current population of 2.4 million, a 7.6% increase would see an additional 122k new residents.  At that rate, Dubai would need to find an extra 30k residences a year. Don’t Let Me Be Understood!

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