Let The Sun Shine In!

dubai-balloonsIn a bid to make the emirate a global centre for clean energy and green economy, HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum has launched the US$ 13.6 billion Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050. Its main target is to ensure that clean energy sources contribute over 75% of Dubai’s energy requirements to make the city have the least carbon footprint in the world. At the launch, the Dubai Ruler also revealed plans for the Dubai Green Zone, to attract industry research and development expertise as well as establishing a US$ 272 billion Dubai Green Fund.

The Palm is set to have yet another 5-star property – this time developer Nakheel has contracted Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide to operate The St Regis Dubai. The 289-room, 23-suite hotel will be located on the first 18 floors of the US$ 223 million, 52-storey Palm Tower – the remaining floors will house 504 luxury apartments.

Twelve years after its launch, the long-stalled and much-changed Dubai Peal development, overlooking Jumeirah Palm, may spring back to life. Canada Business Holdings is considering this project, along with other distressed realty opportunities in Dubai, and has a war chest of US$ 6 billion to reportedly spend in the emirate. Last year, Hong Kong’s Chow Tai Fook Endowment Industry Investment Development (CTFE) took a US$ 1.9 billion stake in the 4-tower project which includes plans for 1.5k apartments, seven 5-star hotels, 60 restaurants, retail outlets and a 1.6k seat theatre.

Dubai Sports City will see yet another residential complex open by H2 next year. Fortuna Village, built around the Els Golf Course and comprising only 30 four-bedroom luxury villas, will be Victory Heights 8th community, bringing the total amount of villas to 1k.

The world’s largest indoor theme park is set to open, almost 2 years later than planned, in Q1 2016. The IMG Worlds of Adventure, covering 1.5 million sq ft, encompasses four distinct zones – Cartoon Network, IMG Boulevard, Lost Valley – Dinosaur Adventure and MARVEL. The owners – brothers, Ilyas and Mustafa Galadari – expect 20k daily visitors.

The Dutco Group has signed an agreement with the UK-based Snoozebox – a company that converts shipping containers into portable hotel ‘on-site’ accommodation. The rooms do not require water or mains electricity but still come with en-suite wet rooms with shower, basin and toilet. They can be quickly assembled and, being fully operational within days, are in demand for major events.

HNC Healthcare Group will be spending US$ 82 million over the next five years. The Dubai-based company will start with ten new facilities in the UAE, expanding to 100 by 2020 in the GCC and India.

Schlumberger becomes the first free zone company to be licensed by DWTC as it takes up office space in the Dubai Trade Centre District. The building is already 70% pre-let, with a 588-key Ibis hotel, due to be open next year, as part of phase 2 of the development; this will also include two more office buildings.

A recent study indicates that Emirates has already contributed US$ 848 million to the Indian GDP, despite restrictions on flights. It is estimated that if the airline were allowed a further 4.5k extra weekly seats, the Indian economy would benefit by an additional 40k tourists and 4.8k new jobs. If this entitlement were to be tripled to 13.5k weekly seats, 100k new jobs would be created, that would be a boost to the GDP and foreign exchange earnings of US$ 2 billion. Despite this, there is reluctance from the Indian government to increase Emirates current weekly quota of 183 flights. (This week, Spice Jet announced plans to start Dubai flights from both Hyderabad and Jaipur).

Emirates has signed a code-sharing agreement with Malaysia Airlines which will stop flying to Paris and Amsterdam and will use Dubai as a future base. The deal sees EK passengers using MH for connections within the Asia Pacific region. Meanwhile Emirates has been ranked 6th in a global survey by Airlinrratings.com, with Air New Zealand maintaining its top position, for the third year in a row, followed by Qantas.

Although still on the rise, with October demand up 8.3% and 11.6% on the same month last year, the rate of cargo growth has slowed in the ME. IATA reported that October global airfreight was up by only 0.5% compared to the same month last year, as measured by freight tonne kilometres.

Dubai-based hospitality group, Rotana, is planning to expand its global footprint by a further 27% extra capacity, with the addition of 3.8k rooms. The addition of 14 new hotels next year would bring its total number of properties under management to 100.

Emaar Properties has agreed a joint venture with Bitexco Group to develop a 427-hectare site in Ho Chi Minh City over the next 15 years. The US$ 1.4 billion project will be the Dubai company’s first foray in Vietnam but its 11th in the international market that includes Egypt, India, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

Latest figures from the Federal Customs Authority indicated a 2.4% hike in H1 non-oil foreign trade to US$ 145.5 billion as imports dipped 0.9% to US$ 92 billion, whilst exports surged 28.0% to US$ 22.2 billion. Gold, raw aluminum and jewellery accounted for 55.6% of exports, contributing US$ 7.8 billion, US$ 2.4 billion and US$ 2.1 billion respectively. Native gold, vehicles and non-composite diamonds led the imports, with 28.9% of the total, with US$ 13.8 billion, US$ 6.8 billion and US$ 6.0 billion respectively.  Reexports dropped 2.0% to US$ 31.4 billion.

There was some good news for the UAE economy as its 2015 budget deficit forecast is set to be lower than expected. Because of spending cuts, abolishing certain subsidies and higher than expected revenue streams, its deficit will be 2.1% of GDP, down from the original 2.5%.  The fiscal H1 deficit was US$ 5.7 billion and, at the current rate of spending, this will easily fall short of the earlier 2015 projection total of US$ 33.8 billion.

It is reported that online commodity trader, Gold AE’s trade licence has been terminated by the DMCC, following bitter disputes between its shareholders. The company had suspended its online services late last month and dissatisfied clients are being advised to take any complaints to the courts or DIFC, where the company’s parent, Gold Holding Limited, is registered.

Union Insurance has raised its stake holding in Depa by 4.7% to 11.41% – a sign that it has confidence in the troubled fit-out company’s future, despite the fact that it has lost over 25% of its market capitalisation this year; it had also reported a 44.0% decline in H1 profits to US$ 4 million. Following a Q3 loss of US$ 6 million on a 32.0% slump in revenue to US$ 95 million, the company is undergoing a restructuring which will inevitably involve staff cuts.

The DFM opened Sunday at 3204 and closed at the same 3204 by the end of the shortened week (30 November) because of National Day holidays. Of the bellwether stocks, Emaar Properties lost US$ 0.03 to US$ 1.57, whilst Arabtec fell US$ 0.01 to US$ 0.30. Trading volumes on Tuesday were marginally up but still very weak, at only 169 million shares, valued at US$ 92 million changing hands, (cf 165 million shares for US$ 54 million, the previous Thursday). In November, both shares recorded dramatic falls – Emaar by US$ 0.18 to US$ 1.57 and Arabtec US$ 0.14 to US$ 0.30 – as the index slid 300 points to 3204.

Both Brent crude and gold headed south again this week by US$ 1.62 to US$ 43.84 and US$ 9 to US$ 1,061 at Thursday (03 December) close. At the end of November, YTD, both commodities had slumped – Brent crude by 22.2% (US$ 12.72) to US$ 44.61 and gold by 10.2% (US$ 121) to US$ 1,065.

Iran has apparently overhauled the way it offers energy contracts to overseas companies, as the lifting of sanctions will see the country’s energy investment reaching US$ 30 billon. Previous oil contracts often deterred foreign participation but new ones will give investors a greater share in long-term profits. Once sanctions are finally lifted, the country plans to immediately increase production by 16.7% to 3.5 million bpd, increasing to 5 million bpd by 2020.

Every week there are never-ending stories of corruption in governments, sporting bodies, financial institutions and business entities. The latest company to come under the bribery spotlight is British American Tobacco. According to a BBC Panorama investigation, the company illegally paid off politicians and civil servants in East Africa for a number of years with one of its employees, turned whistleblower, indicating, “it was the cost of doing business there”.

The Serious Fraud Office reported that Sweett Group had admitted two 2013 bribery charges in the Middle East. The UK company provides professional services for the construction and infrastructure projects.

Fast food chain MacDonald’s is the latest international company to be investigated over its tax policy, with the European Commission claiming it has avoided paying tax in both Luxemburg and US on European royalties. The company has paid no tax in Luxemburg since 2009 despite large profits, the last one recorded being over US$ 250 million in 2013.

Ten months after Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Kawasaki Heavy Industries were a shoo-in to build Australia’s new submarines, without a competitive tender process, two European competitors have joined the fray. France’s DCNS and Germany’s ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems have now entered bids for a contract that could be worth US$ 36 billion. A final decision is expected in 2016 and whoever wins the project, it will prove a huge stimulant for the local economy.

Atlassian, founded in 2002 on a US$ 7k credit card debt, is expected to be valued at US$ 3.6 billion, as it goes public on New York’s Nasdaq Stock Market. The Australian software maker, whose latest revenue figures are at US$ 320 million, plans to sell 20 million Class A shares. The two Australian founders – Scott Farquhar and Mike Cannon-Brookes – are expected to retain a 67.2% stake in the new public company.

Despite the current inflation rate of 1.8%, being below its 2% – 3% target, the RBA has decided to leave rates unchanged, at the historically low level of 2.0%. Although its currency is at the relatively low 0.71 to the US$ and employment is nudging higher, the economy is still reeling from sinking commodity prices and sluggish investment. However, with signs of the economy gaining some sort of traction – quarterly company profits and wages up 2.4 and 1.0% – it is unlikely that the RBA will risk tinkering with interest rates in the short-term.

A new report indicates that over the next four years, the Australian economy will be over US$ 27 billion worse off because of the Chinese economic slowdown. The main cause of the US$ 3.8 billion increase in the current budget deficit to US$ 29.0 billion is down to China. Furthermore, it is expected that economic growth will also dip from Its May forecast of 3.0% to 2.7%.

The ECB’s moves to boost the flagging eurozone economy – by cutting deposit rates to minus 0.3% and extending the monthly US$ 65 billion QE strategy a further six months to March 2017 – seems to have been a damp squib. Even the faltering euro gained over 2% reaching 1.08 to the US$, whilst markets were left unimpressed falling over 2% on the news. More needs to be done by Mr Draghi and urgently – perhaps by lifting the monthly stimulus amount to say US$ 90 billion and cutting rates further to minus 0.5%.

On the other hand, Fed Chair, Janet Yellen, seemed to rubber stamp the first US rate increase in 9 years, expected later in the month.

With the Olympics fast approaching, the Brazilian economy continues in the doldrums with a Q3 1.7% contraction. South America’s largest economy, reeling from spiralling inflation, rising unemployment and sinking domestic demand, is being hamstrung by the massive Petrobas corruption scandal. It is expected that, over the next nine months, benchmark rates will stay at around the 14% mark, whilst the recession will continue well into 2016, following a 3.2% fall this year.

There was more disappointing news out of China – this time its PMI fell from 49.8 to 49.6 in November, indicating another downturn in its manufacturing sector which fell to a 3-year low. The world’s second largest economy is heading for a growth level of less than 7.0% which would be its lowest since 1990. The government, in actively trying to change to a consumption-based economy from its traditional export-driven one, has cut interest rates six times over the past year.

Conversely, India is heading in the other direction, as Q3 returns show an annual growth rate of 7.4%, making it the fastest growing major economy. Both domestic demand and manufacturing have increased, buoyed by lower oil and gold prices and the recent 50-point cut in interest rates to 6.75%.

In a bid to make the emirate a global centre for clean energy and a green economy, HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum has launched the US$ 13.6 billion Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050. Its main target is to ensure that clean energy sources contribute over 75% of Dubai’s energy requirements to make it the city with the least carbon footprint in the world. At the launch, HH also revealed plans for the Dubai Green Zone, to attract industry research and development expertise, as well as establishing a US$ 272 billion Dubai Green Fund. Over the next 15 years, the Dubai ruler expects every building in the emirate to have solar panels on their roofs, connected to the local grid. Let The Sun Shine In!

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