Move On!

lord-coeHH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum donated his riding helmet to a fundraising auction organised by the Al Jalila Foundation. The charity, founded in 2013 and named after his daughter, benefitted by a massive US$ 6.5 million – probably making it the most expensive ever headgear.

On Tuesday, the Dubai ruler also launched a US$ 544 million fund to provide for the country’s innovators. Its main aim is to support an innovation environment by financially assisting it to transform ideas into projects. All applicants will be considered but priority will be given to the seven sectors outlined in the last year’s national innovation strategy – education, health, renewable energy, space, technology, transport and water.

in5 Media is a US$ 16 million start-up concept, launched by Tecom Business Parks, to be located in International Media Production Zone. The purpose-built facility will house as many as 200 entrepreneurs for a 5-month period, during which time all types of media facilities, along with mentoring and advice, will be made available. This is another part of Tecom’s US$ 1.2 billion innovation strategy that started in 2014, with its in5 innovation hub in Dubai Knowledge Village.

With a 70% forecast growth in the global urban population within 15 years, Dubai Municipality has finalised a blueprint that covers the possibility of the emirate expanding four-fold to 9.5 million. No timeframe has been given but the aim of the authority’s plan is to ensure that whatever the future it can be properly implemented. Meanwhile, DM is going ahead with plans for Desert Rose – a new sustainable city, housing 160k.

In a bid to penetrate the Saudi market, Jumeirah Group has signed an MoU with Shuaa Capital to develop hospitality projects. The deal would see the Dubai-based asset manager, which already operates a US$ 143 million Saudi Hospitality Fund 1, assisting Jumeirah with funding for land acquisition and project development. The government-owned hotel management company already operates 23 properties worldwide, with a further 25 in the pipeline.

Khansaheb has won a US$ 109 million, 2-year contract to build 250 Palm Jumeirah units for Palma Development. This is part of the US$ 409 million Serenia Residences project, designed by Hazel Wong, the architect behind Emirates Towers.

Cluttons’ latest property report has noted marginal falls in Q3 villa prices (0.5%) and apartments (0.8%), with the forecast of prices dropping a further 3% – 5% before bottoming out by Q4 next year. Interestingly, the company anticipates supply to increase by only 7.4k, 10.3k and 13.6k units over the next three years; that being the case – and with the onset of the Expo construction boom – there is every chance that demand will be greater than supply.

Furthermore, the firm’s office rental report sees a softening market, with rents remaining stable. In the current environment, rents in Al Garhoud and Bur Dubai reported annual increases of up to 10% to US$ 30 per sq ft and Bur Dubai 20% to over US$ 16 per sq ft respectively. Prime locations such as Emirates Towers and The Gate District still command premium rentals of US$ 84 and US$ 61 per sq ft.

On the rental side, Bayut.com has reported that October apartment rents rose 1.1%, as demand edged the supply curve, with reports indicating that the Dubai government had issued over 200k work permits in H1. An Emirates NBD study also showed a slowing in the pace of Q3 price declines – a possible sign that normality may be returning to the realty sector.

The Jebel Ali-based Conares is to spend US$ 25 million to expand its current US$ 200 million factory which currently produces 500k tonnes of steel rebar and 250k tonnes of steel pipes and tubes. Although local steel prices have fallen 14% this year, the company expects to see an 18% jump in 2015 revenue to US$ 260 million, as new lines (and new export markets) come on stream.

In a 5-year deal, Emirates has taken over as the premier partner of the ATP World Tour, having become a platinum partner to the men’s tennis organisation in 2013. It will also continue being the official airline partner. The carrier will be involved in about 60 tournaments a year in 32 countries, 90% of which are currently serviced by Emirates.

In a bilateral agreement, the two UAE airlines – Emirates and Etihad Airways – will operate a further 14 weekly flights to Australia which would bring the total weekly number to 161. It is estimated the Dubai carrier has 25% of the traffic between Australia and Europe – well ahead of Qantas and Singapore, each with a 15% share.

Dnata has entered the South American market by taking a majority shareholding in the 11-year old RM Ground Services, with operations in 24 Brazilian airports. The ground handling company employs over 2.1k staff, manages 400 flights daily and will be rebranded under the Dubai operator’s name.

Dubai-based Citymax Hotels, owned by the Landmark Group, opened its first overseas location –  Alexandria, Egypt. The 156-key hotel and 46-serviced apartment project is the company’s 7th property – with the other six already operating in the UAE.

After at least five years of deliberation, it does seem that a new arbitration and mediation law could become reality by mid-2016. This could be an alternative to the current time-consuming cases of bounced cheques and debts which often lead to high legal fees, excessive court time and prison for far too many. The new legislation will see cases being dealt with almost immediately by arbitration lawyers, helping to solve cases without having to go to court.

Serco has renewed its US$ 573 million contract with Nakheel to operate and maintain the Palm Jumeirah Monorail System for another five years. The same company has a similar contract with the RTA for the Dubai Metro.

Many retailers have already signed up with Dubai’s latest entrant in the mushrooming food delivery service sector. London-based Deliveroo has also launched in four other cities outside Europe – Hong Kong, Melbourne, Singapore and Sydney.

Following on from Standard Chartered cutting back on local staff, HSBC has announced the retrenchment of 150 employees in the country. This is part of the bank’s plan to reduce its global payroll by up to 50k over the next two years. The country’s 3rd largest bank, FGB, is reportedly shedding 100 jobs, as market conditions deteriorate because of low oil revenue and public spending cuts.

December fuel prices are set to drop again – this time Super 95 will fall 1.2% to US$ 0.46 per litre. Despite this drop in local pump prices, taxi fares have risen for the second time in a year, with passengers having to pay an additional 6.4% to US$ 0.50 per km for regular taxis and 12.0% to US$ 0.53 for airport trips.

Just as China has “Singles Day” and the western world “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday”, UAE online retailers will be “celebrating” White Friday this week. Dubai entities such as Souq.com, Namshi.com and Crazy Deals.com will be hoping that their heavily discounted deals on that day are rewarded by a massive increase in sales.

In its bid to become the most energy efficient business hub, Economic Zones World, owner of JAFZA, has signed an MoU with DEWA to energy retrofit its 157 staff buildings, by replacing all 31k water tanks, 5k a/c units and 85k lights The 7-year project hopes to achieve a 30% reduction in operating costs, equivalent to US$ 36 million.

According to its MD, Ahmad bin Byat, the Dubai ruler’s investment company, Dubai Holding, is expected to post a 17.2% increase in 2015 profit to US$ 1.5 billion. Furthermore, the company will invest US$ 1.2 billion in local infrastructure and will be able to repay all debts on time – the last one, a US$ 760 million bond, being due in January 2017. Among its assets are Dubai Properties Group (with nearly 25k residential units), Jumeirah Group and Tecom.

Much-troubled Drake & Scull has won a combined US$ 36 million MEP contract for two Dubai district cooling plants and an Abu Dhabi tower. This brings its total of contracts won this year to US$ 654 million.

As widely expected, Abraaj Group finally divested its 49% share in Network International to General Atlantic and Warburg Pincus. The Dubai-based private equity firm acquired its shareholding four years ago in the 21-year old payments operator for about US$ 550 million but no sales figures were made available. The company, along with International Finance Corp, also exited their 30% stake in Saham Finances, a leading African insurer, for US$ 375 million.

Next week, the IMF will decide whether to include the Yuan in its global reserves whilst the Dubai Gold and Commodities Exchange has already decided to open a trade in the Chinese currency futures. This move was inevitable following Qatar’s similar move in April and the fact that the country became the UAE’s largest trading partner – recently overtaking India.

It is reported that Saeed Al Mehairbi is taking over as Arabtec’s chief executive, replacing Mohamed Al Fahim, who has been in an acting role since June 2015. Mr Al Fahim will stay on the board and remains head of finance at IPIC, the parent company of Aabar which has a 36% shareholding in the troubled construction company.

The DFM opened Sunday at 3273 to close 2.2% down at 3204 by the end of the week (26 November). Of the bellwether stocks, Emaar Properties lost US$ 0.08 to US$ 1.60, whilst Arabtec fell US$ 0.02 to US$ 0.31. Trading volumes on Thursday were down and still very weak, at only 165 million shares, valued at US$ 54 million changing hands, (cf 219 million shares for US$ 91 million, the previous Thursday).

After a month of falling prices, Brent crude reversed the trend trading up US$ 1.28 on the week to US$ 45.46, whilst gold continued to disappoint, dipping yet again by US$ 7 to US$ 1,070 at Thursday (26 November) close.

The slump in oil prices has seen a 250k global decline in employment numbers in the sector, with more on the way. According to industry consultant, Graves & Co, costs have been slashed with capex expenditure cut by more than US$ 100 billion, with over 1k rigs made idle.

Having been fined US$ 260 million last week for the dam collapse at their Brazilian Samarco mine, BHP Billiton and Vale have been accused of not taking preventative steps to cause environmental damage. The UN has compared the flood to 20k Olympic swimming pools of toxic mud, with the country’s water agency claiming that it had found arsenic levels, ten times over the legal limit.

The latest Gartner report confirms Apple’s continued expansion in the premium smartphone segment, as total Q3 market sales of 353 million units were 15% up on the corresponding 2014 period. Samsung is still the leading company at 83.5 million phones but has seen its market share fall 0.2% to 23.7%, whilst Apple posted a 0.5% increase to 46 million. Although only 3rd to Apple and Samsung, Huawei reported an almost doubling of sales to 17.2 million units, to see their market share increase from 5.2% to 7.7%.

A massive US$ 150 billion deal will see the creation of the largest global drug maker, as Pfizer and Allergan prepare to merge. The terms include 11.3 Pfizer shares for each Allergan share, with the US company reincorporating in Ireland, a country with a lower tax regime (12.5%); known as an “inversion”, this tax saving strategy will not please US legislators.

In Australia, the NSW government has indicated that its Transgrid electricity grid will be leased for 99 years to a consortium for over US$ 7.5 billion. The Australian fund management company, Hastings, will head up the venture that will include Gulf participation by way of the Abu Dhabi and Kuwait investment funds, each with 20% stakes.

SE Asia’s 5th biggest economy grew 6.0% year on year and 1.1% on Q2. The Philippines has benefitted by an increase in infrastructure projects, which has tripled in the past five years, since the election of President Benigno Aquino, and a growth in the services sector. Despite the progress being made, the country still suffers from lack of investment in utilities and infrastructure, with delays estimated to be costing the economy at least US$ 60 million every day.

UK public spending borrowing in October rose 15.5% month on month to US$ 12.5 billion, bringing the YTD total to US$ 82.5 billion – this represents the gap between its spending and income. In the first seven months of the tax year, government spending is up 1.1% to US$ 612 billion. This means that if Chancellor George Osborne wants to meet the Office for Budget Responsibility’s (OBR) annual forecast of US$ 105.5 billion, his borrowing over the next five months will have to be lower than US$ 23.0 billion. Currently, the UK national debts stands at US$ 2.3 trillion, equating to 80.5% of the country’s economic output.

Even though the fall in the price of oil is the leading driver for the low 0.1% inflation level, there is urgency for increased measures to stimulate the rate towards its ECB target of 2.0%. The obvious solution is to expand the ECB’s on-going US$ 1.2 trillion QE (asset purchase) program; it could also charge more for banks’ deposits, thus encouraging these institutions to lend more to industry and households. This is at a time when it seems inevitable that the US Federal Reserve will raise their rates next month.

US Q3 growth figures have been revised up to 2.5% but annual GDP was well down from previous figure of 3.9%. However, stronger returns from house building and investment, as well as growth in other sectors, point to a Fed December rate hike.

It was only three months ago that Seb Coe was elected president of the International Association of Athletics Federations, taking over from the 16-year reign of the disgraced and allegedly corrupt 82-year old Lamine Diack. At the time, the former Olympic gold medallist made light of his own six-figure ambassadorial role with Nike and chairmanship of CSM – a leading sport and entertainment agency. There are reports accusing him of lobbying for the Oregon city of Eugene (with close ties with Nike) to host the 2021 World Championships that was granted earlier in the year, without a bidding process taking place.

It has to be remembered that he was also vice president to the Senegalese for the previous eight years and referred to him as the IAAF’s “spiritual leader”. This is the same person who is now charged with taking millions of dollars to cover up positive doping tests and was reprimanded by the IOC 4 years ago for his role in a FIFA scandal.

There are similarities between the British athlete and a French footballer, as can be gleaned from an August blog,  .   .

”Platini has been on the FIFA executive committee for 13 years and surely association must have tainted his credentials, at least. It is obvious that a new independent leadership, untainted by past practices and corruption, is required. For the Frenchman and the rest of the senior executives, who apparently have done little to improve corporate governance, transparency and accountability at the scandal-ridden organisation, It Is Time To Say Goodbye”.

Surely, Lord Coe should now be considering his position and perhaps it is time for him (and others in the IAAF) to Move On!

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