Games People Play!

cod-bo3-banSeptember was another disappointing month for the hospitality sector as average room rates in the 4/5-star category dropped 2.3% to US$ 208. Although occupancy levels at 76.6% remained flat, all other indicators headed south – including total revenue per available room (8.1% to US$ 283) and gross operating profit per available room (8.7% to US$ 85).

UAE-based MAN Investments has signed an agreement with easyHotel to build properties in the ME. The first one planned is a 300-key hotel in Bur Dubai which is slated for a 2017 opening.

The latest MPM Properties report indicated an 8.6% drop in Q3 Dubai apartment sales to US$ 1.15 billion as prices fell 9.0% over the twelve month period.

Damac returned a healthy 44.4% jump in Q3 profit to US$ 278 million, despite a 4.7% fall in revenue to US$ 550 million. The cumulative 9-month returns see revenue at US$ 1.84 billion, with a 43.0% surge in profit to US$ 1.0 billion.

On the other hand, troubles continue for Arabtec with a Q3 loss of US$ 257 million, compared to a US$ 19 million profit over the same period in 2014; Q3 revenue also fell 24.0% to US$ 436 million. YTD figures prove depressing reading with both revenue and profit sinking – down 10.0% to US$ 1.42 billion and a loss of US$ 529 million following a US$ 84 million profit over the same period in 2014.  It was no surprise then to see that when the news broke, the developer’s share price fell 9.4% to US$ 0.34 – its lowest level in 30 months.

With less than a year to its opening, Dubai Parks and Resorts reported total assets of US$ 2.1 billion, with cumulative capex of US$ 1.3 billion. So as to ensure that the October 2016 deadline is met, the project now has over 11k workers on site, with structure work 73% complete. The theme park expects to pull in US$ 654 million in revenue over the first year of operations, as well as generating 5k new jobs.

This week saw the opening of Nakheel’s Dragon Mart 2 at a cost of US$ 272 million; the 1.4 million sq ft development has almost doubled the size of the existing facility. The extension will add 600 kiosks, 500 outlets and a multi-storey car park, along with a cinema and a 250-key hotel.

Dubai World reportedly indicated that there are no plans to scrap the 50-year old QE2. The liner was bought by Istithmar seven years ago for US$ 100 million and has been left in Dubai since then despite previous reports to be refurbished in a Chinese shipyard.

Dubai Healthcare City and Nshama have formed a JV to build Al Fursan – a mixed use development with apartments, hotels and outlets. The development, covering 2.9 million sq mt, is part of Phase 2 of DHC’s ambitious expansion plans which aim to position the emirate as one of the top global medical tourism destinations; according to the latest Medical Tourism Destination Index, Dubai is currently ranked 17th  in the world.

Local entities, Al Tayer Group and Dubai Investments, are equity partners in a new venture that will see King’s College London opening a hospital and several clinics in Dubai. The planned US$ 200 million, 100-bed hospital will be located in Dubai Hills and is slated for opening by 2018.

The former CEO of Dubai-based GFH Capital, and ex-MD of Leeds United FC, David Haigh, is due to be released from a Dubai jail early next week, following a two-year sentence for “breach of trust”. He was accused of misappropriating US$ 5 million from his former employer but has always maintained his innocence.

As one leaves another one enters. MM Ramachandran, the 73 year old owner of the Dubai-based gold and jewellery retailer Atlas Group, has reportedly been sentenced to three years in jail for issuing bounced cheques worth USD$ 9 million.

Nakheel wishes to expand Indian interest in its developments as it participates in the Dubai Real Estate Show in Mumbai. The Dubai developer estimates that Indians have already invested over US$ 681 million when buying over 4.4k of its property units, equating to 11.0% of its total output to date.

Emirates Flight Training Academy has paid US$ 39 million for five twin-jet Embraer Phenom 100Es and 22 single-piston engine Cirrus SR22s. From 2017, all training for future Emirates pilots will be carried out in Dubai in a new 500-cadet facility, currently being built at Dubai South.

In order to pay off maturing debt and help with the financing of 30 new aircraft in 2016, it seems likely that Emirates will issue up to US$ 1 billion in bonds. 60.9% of the airline’s total debt of US$ 1.82 billion is payable next year.

GE Aviation received a massive boost at this week’s air show with the announcement of a US$ 16 billion maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) order. This is the Dubai carrier’s largest ever such contract, covering its fleet of 150 Boeing 777s until 2027. (Coincidentally shares in its engine rival, Rolls Royce plunged 16% on Wednesday, when a profits warning indicated a further fall of US$ 1 billion as a result of sharply weaker demand).

An Indian and Italian venture – comprising Haveus Aerotech, Air India Engineering Services Ltd and AIitalia Maintenance – is building a US$ 100 million, 9k sq mt MRO facility in the same area. When operational, in mid-2017, the company will service 100 engines a year and generate 2k new employment opportunities.

At a private meeting with Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, on the fringes of this week’s air show, Boeing has also agreed to build its ME headquarters in Dubai South. This is a major boost for the emirate in its drive to establish itself as a major global aviation hub.

At the air show, the Ministry of Defence announced two orders – with Saab and AgustaWestland. The first was a US$ 1.27 billion order for two Saab Global 6000 jets, together with upgrading two existing Saab 340s of its turboprop fleet. The Italian order covered 3 AW609 tilt-rotor aircraft, for search and rescue operations, with an option for a further three helicopters, with delivery by 2019.

The two biggest aircraft orders of the week came from Jet Airways and Vietjet. The Indian airline confirmed its purchase of 75 Boeing 737MAX, worth US$ 8 billion, whilst the Vietnamese carrier’s US$ 3.6 billion order was for 30 Airbus A321s. Total orders placed throughout the week came to just under US$ 40 billion.

Following a record Q3, which witnessed a stellar 36.0% growth in trading volumes to 4.1 million contracts, the Dubai Gold and Commodities Exchange reported a 30.0% jump in October metal trades to 58.6k contracts.

Emirates NBD has released its October Dubai Economy Tracker which indicates the slowest business expansion in over five years. There was a massive monthly dip of 4.2 to 51.4, with a marked slowdown in the travel and tourism sectors, which at 49.0 actually dipped into contraction; any reading of over 50 signifies growth.

With Abraaj planning to sell its 49% stake in local payments provider, Network International, it seems that two private equity firms are interested in a deal. General Atlantic and Warburg Pincus could link up with the 51% shareholder Emirates NBD to become owners of the region’s largest payment processor.

Meanwhile Abraaj expanded its North African portfolio by acquiring major stakes in two Moroccan oncology centres – Al Kindy and Menara. Over the past 12 years, the Dubai-based asset manager has invested over US$ 1 billion in the global healthcare sector. Abraaj was also involved in the infusion of US$ 60 million for Careem, as the Dubai-based car-booking service seeks further MENA expansion

Dubai-listed Marka announced a Q3 US$ 4 million loss due to the impact of its significant acquisition activity. The retailer currently manages 39 retail outlets and has acquired the likes of Reem Al Bawadi and the franchise rights of the luxury ice-cream brand Morelli’s.

The local healthcare and education company, Amanat Holdings, reported a 9-month profit of US$ 2 million, with operating expenses at US$ 5 million. In August, the company had acquired a 35% stake in Sukoon International Holding Company. On Thursday, its shares were trading at US$ 0.21.

Emaar Malls reported a Q3 17.2% profit hike to US$ 103 million, as its nine month profit figure surged 27.9% to US$ 327 million. Both quarterly and YTD revenue were up – by 12.0% to US$ 198 million and 15.2% to US$ 597 million. Dubai Mall accounted for 87.4% of the total tenant sales of US$ 3.7 billion. The Emaar Properties subsidiary also recorded a 6.2% increase in its assets to US$ 6.5 billion.

The DFM opened Sunday at 3451 and fell a worrying 5.4% to 3265 by the end of the week (12 November). Of the bellwether stocks, Emaar Properties lost US$ 0.01 to US$ 1.74, whilst Arabtec fell US$ 0.08 to US$ 0.32. Trading volumes on Thursday were up but still comparatively weak, at only 264 million shares, valued at US$ 87 million changing hands, (cf 106 million shares for US$ 42 million, the previous Thursday).

Oil and gold prices both fell this week so that by Thursday (12 November), Brent crude had closed 8.0% down on the week at US$ 44.06, whilst gold continued heading south, falling US$ 6 to US$ 1,081.

Although it is sad to see people lose their job, there will not be too many tears shed by those who had their Standard Chartered accounts unceremoniously closed a year ago. As part of their global restructuring, the bank is cutting 15k jobs, including 25% fewer senior staff, in a bid to save US$ 2.2 billion by 2018.

BHP Billiton saw its share value dive to its lowest level in ten years in the wake of weak commodity prices, a strengthening local currency, a royalties dispute with the Queensland government and the recent Brazilian mine disaster. The Rousseff government has fined the Australian miner – along with its Brazilian partner Vale – US$ 66 million, after a mud slide at its Samarco iron ore mine killed eight with another 19 still missing. Both companies have pledged a further US$ 100 million for relief efforts but some estimates of the final cost point to over US$ 1 billion.

Macy’s returned disappointing quarterly figures as its Q3 net income plunged 45.6% to US$ 118 million. The US department store, which also owns Bloomingdales, has cut its 2015 profit outlook and saw its share value lose 14% following the news. Meanwhile US October retail sales at 0.1% disappointed the market as growth slowed to an annual 1.5%.

The Chinese company, which last year paid US$ 2.9 billion for Motorola, plans to save a further US$ 1.4 billion, as a result of 3.2k job cuts announced earlier in the year. The world’s largest PC maker and 4th biggest smartphone seller, Lenovo, recorded a US$ 714 million quarterly loss.

On 11 November, the 6th Singles Day, e-commerce giant, Alibaba recorded a 53.8% increase in online trading to US$ 14.3 billion, compared to the same day in 2014. There was further good news for the maligned economy, with October retail sales jumping 11%, its quickest gain this year – an indicator that the economy is moving towards a consumption and services base. However, this was tempered by industrial production increasing 5.6%, compared to a year earlier – a return that disappointed the market and a sign that the economy continues to face downward pressure.

Egyptian authorities estimate that the country’s beleaguered tourism sector could lose US$ 280 million every month because both Russian and the UK have suspended flights, following the Sinai Peninsula crash. Those two countries account for 67% of all traffic to Sharm al-Sheikh.

After a four-month hiatus, Greece returns to its old normality with its first general strike since Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his Syriza party came to power in January. The unions are fighting against the terms of the country’s third eurozone bailout in which it would receive US$ 91 billion in return for unpopular tax hikes and public spending cuts.

In the September quarter, UK unemployment levels fell by 103k to 1.75 million. Although regular pay growth slipped 0.3% to 2.5%, it still indicates good news for the wage earner as inflation still hovers around the zero mark; in real terms, pay growth is still up and employees have increased spending powers. Although encouraging, the figures are not strong enough to justify any early rate hikes. Two problems that could damage growth prospects are the inflation rate being a long way off the BoE’s target of 2% and the likelihood of a property bubble in certain parts of the country, notably London.

The Bank of England governor, Mark Carney has indicated that public faith in financial markets has been shaken by “widespread misconduct”. It seems that the public are becoming increasingly disillusioned with the large scale graft and corruption in all walks of life.

Unfortunately, this is not confined to just the financial sector. On the sporting side, football, athletics and cycling have been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. There is no doubt that such corruption and incompetence is endemic and will not only be confined to these three sports.

Activision Blizzard is acquiring King Digital Entertainment, the brains behind mega games such as “Call Of Duty” and “World Of Warcraft”, for US$ 5.9 billion. Interestingly, the latest Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 video game recorded sales in excess of US$ 550 million in the first three days of its Saturday release – more than any other game, film or music debut in 2015. There is money to be made from the Games People Play!

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