On Tuesday, HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum launched the ambitious Dubai Wholesale City, located close to the new Al Maktoum International Airport. The emirate’s ruler wants to tap into the burgeoning global wholesale trade sector, said to be worth US$ 4.3 trillion. The Dubai Holding project, covering 550 million sq ft and costing up to US$ 8.2 billion, will become the largest such hub in the world.
The first phase of Dubai Properties Group’s new affordable Serena property project, Bella Casa, was sold out within hours on Saturday. The total project, encompassing 8.2 million sq ft, will be built in five phases.
Mawarid Finance and AccorHotels have signed a management agreement that will see a 200-key Ibis Styles Al Jaddaf hotel opening in 2018. The hospitality giant already operates two other properties under this brand – in Jumeirah and Dragon Mart.
Last year, many banks reported larger provisions and impairment costs pertaining to bad debts and, indeed in October 2014, Standard Chartered unilaterally closed many local SME accounts. Now as the effect of low oil prices become more apparent, many banks have started to cut off credit lines. As SMEs account for over 60% of the country’s GDP (and only 3.8% of banks’ loans), this will have a negative impact on the local economy – if finance becomes unavailable or too expensive with some banks charging 20% + interest. With estimates of losses of US$ 1.4 billion last year from people leaving the country, the banks have a fine balancing act but they cannot just stop lending to SMEs.
A significant move in the telecoms sectors will see Etisalat and du sharing costs of installing landlines in all new developments, starting with Dubai Sustainable City. It will be a win win situation for both stakeholders – consumers will then have the option to choose either of the services and Etisalat and du will see their capital costs slashed by up to 50%. (Du posted a 10.1% fall in Q4 profits, as its royalty fee jumped 30.1%, with its annual payments rising 20.6% to US$ 523 million).
With the ME e-commerce market forecast to reach US$ 20 billion, lead player, Souq.com, is confident of increasing its revenue by up to 90%. This week, the company obtained US$ 272 million financing, from a range of international investors, to expand its operations – this was the biggest e-commerce fundraising ever in the ME.
This month saw fuel prices at their lowest level since subsidies were cut last July. Special 95 will sell for US$ 0.37 per litre – down 7.4% from February.
A new survey by Alliance Business Centres Network ranks Dubai as the leading expansion target on a global scale, with 21% of companies placing it ahead of the likes of Singapore, Hong Kong, New York and London. Major factors that put Dubai in the top spot were the ease of establishing companies and doing business.
Six people have been arrested by Dubai police in connection with a huge US$ 270 million international airline ticket fraud that has been ongoing for the past two years. The ruse involved the use of fake or stolen credit cards and then on-selling to duped customers at discounted prices; to date nearly 400 arrests have been made.
The bourse opened Sunday at 3124 and surged 4.0% to 3250 by Thursday (03 March 2016). Bellwether stocks, Emaar Properties and Arabtec, both rose with the former up by US$ 0.05 to US$ 1.58 and the latter, a spectacular 41.9% higher by US$ 0.13 to US$ 0.44. Trading volumes on Thursday improved on last week at 671 million shares, valued at US$ 263 million, changing hands, (cf 671 million shares for US$ 263 million, the previous Thursday).
Brent crude again confounded the doomsayers by jumping 4.5% (US$ 1.59) to US$ 37.07, whilst gold was up US$ 24 to US$ 1,258, by Thursday (03 March) close. On 20 January, crude prices had fallen to US$ 27.10 – their lowest level in 12 years. A senior International Energy Agency analyst considers that oil prices have bottomed out with further increases expected over the next 12 months before returning to normality, as US producers exit the market.
According to a recent HSBC study, it is claimed, that over the next two years, US$ 94 billion in bonds and syndicated loans must be repaid or refinanced in the GCC. The payees are a mix of sovereign, financial and corporate borrowers, with UAE heading the list followed by Qatar and Bahrain. This will be made worse if oil prices do not rebound and then there would be inevitable fiscal and current account deficits with the shortfalls having to be made good out of SWFs.
Barclays has announced that by 2019, the bank will be restructured with two core divisions – Barclays UK and Barclays Corporate and International. Its underlying 2015 profits were down 2.0% to US$ 7.7 billion which includes a further US$ 3.9 billion for PPI mis-selling, bringing this total to US$ 10.6 billion to date.
John Longworth, head of the British Chambers of Commerce, has been suspended after having suggested that the UK would be better off outside the EU. His voice is one of many that indicate opposition to Brexit may be softening, as the crucial 23 June referendum approaches. The official government approach is that the country would be better served if it were to remain in a reformed EU and it has published a report of the options available if it left the bloc – this has been dismissed by the leave campaigners as a “dodgy dossier”.
There was some good news emanating from the eurozone as unemployment rates fell to 10.3% (16.65 million) – its lowest since August 2011. Although Germany had the lowest rate, at 4.3%, Greece (24.6%) and Spain (20.5%) still have problems. However, there was more sober reading – manufacturing activity expanded at its slowest rate in a year, whilst Markit’s manufacturing PMI fell from 52.3 to 51.2. The eurozone fell back into deflation in February – a sure sign that the ECB will introduce more QE measures, probably starting next week. There is also the possibility of further bank deposit rate cuts which are already in negative territory.
Despite the country reeling from low commodity prices, Australia’s economy still grew by 3%, compared to a year earlier, and by 0.6% quarter on quarter. Accordingly, interest rates seem set at 2.0% for the foreseeable future, although the low inflation rate, currently at 1.7%, needs close monitoring; moreso, if it does not reach the 2.9% expected by the end of the year. For the time being, it remains the “Lucky Country”.
The world’s 7th largest economy, Brazil, has hit the ropes and is now in a period of stagflation – the perfect economic storm when recession (3.8% contraction last year) meets high inflation, now topping 11% – and this, despite the Selic rate being at a high 14.25%. Although sluggish global growth and low commodity prices explain some of the difficulties, the economy has suffered more from internal factors – political paralysis and rampant high-level corruption and its budget deficit is now 10.8% of GDP.
The Russian economy is in a financial quagmire as it contracted by 3.7% last year (and is unlikely to improve in 2016) whilst the rouble has more than halved in value over the past two years, since its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula; it now stands at 72 to the US$. Low oil prices and international sanctions continue to dog any progress and it is thought that if budget cuts are not implemented soon, the currency could collapse as it did in 1998.
With the country forecasting 7.6% growth this year, many eyes were on the Indian finance minister Jaitley as he brought down his 2016 budget. He gave a much needed boost to infrastructure, with a US$ 32 billion spend mainly on roads and railways, and introduced specific reforms to help SMEs, as well as giving them favourable tax treatment. He also will have to find US$ 8.3 billion by selling public assets which may be a welcome precursor to start a privatisation programme in earnest. Overall hopes were dashed that the third budget would introduce major economic reforms.
A bellwether indicator shows how economic conditions in China have deteriorated with manufacturing PMI falling to 49 – its lowest level in 7 years. Other indices also fell – a sure sign that stimulus measures have yet to gain traction which may need the introduction of further action to boost the flagging economy. As the country’s economy continues to lose steam and vacillation on reforms continues, Moody’s has cut its outlook from “stable” to “negative” but retains its Aa3 rating.
South Africa joined BRIC in 2010 but was always the poor relative as the other four economies were always growing at a much faster rate, with the new member only posting 2.0%, 1.0% and 0.5% over the first three years. Last year, the economy deteriorated even further, as growth was down to 0.5%, the rand trading down at around 15 to the US$ and government bonds expected to be soon rated junk status. And then there is the president Jacob Zuma, who never went to school and has only ever worked for the ruling African National Congress. However, he has still managed to amass a personal fortune of at least US$ 30 million – small change compared to certain other African leaders.
Only five years ago the BRICS were a powerful economic force and looked as if they would become a dominant global player. This has all changed with only India and China heading north whilst the other three have taken The Wrong Direction.