A Little Bit More

burj-al-arabThe Burj Al Arab has opened its much-vaunted 10k sq mt artificial island, built by the Finnish firm, Admares. Boasting two pools, private cabanas, dining options and a beach made from 1k tonnes of introduced white sand, annual membership rates reportedly start at US$ 28k.

Dubai Municipality is planning to build a US$ 490 million conference centre and arena in Al Jadaf, adjacent to Dubai Festival City. With a 592k sq ft footprint, the creek-side facility will house a 10k capacity, 190k sq ft conference centre which will be connected to three towers – one commercial and two hotels.

Dubai Properties announced the emirate’s second major development of the week – Marasi Business Bay, a US$ 272 million project, encompassing up to 200 “water” homes, 100 outlets, 12 km of waterfront and a 1.3k-berth marina. Financing for the 7-year project, designed by U+A Architects, will be by corporate reserves ‘in partnership with local financial institutions’.

This week, HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum opened the world’s first 3D-printed office, located near to Emirates Towers and to be used by Dubai Future Foundation. The process of printing the building, on a 20’ high, 120’ long and 40’ wide machine, took 17 days, followed by the internal and external designs, with a further two days for final installation.

Work has started on Yotel’s first ME property – a 582-key hotel and serviced apartments. The Kuwaiti operator has signed an agreement with Dubai Investment Properties and expects the facility, located on SZR, to open by the end of 2018.

Gemini Property Developers have launched phase 1 of its Splendor project – 134 luxury units in the Hartland community of Mohammed Bin Rashid (MBR) City. The 320k sq ft development is expected to be complete within 24 months and will also include retail and recreational facilities.

Deyaar Development has signed a strategic partnership with Asçioglu that will see the real estate company introduce interested Turkish investors to an exclusive tower in the Dubai developer’s Dania District. This is in the 2nd phase of Deyaar’s US$ 817 million Midtown project, covering 1.2 million sq ft, and located in Dubai Production City.

With their 200th outlet opening by Sachin Tendulkar, Aster Pharmacy introduced the GCC’s first health and wellness e-commerce store. The online platform has a range of over 10k products.

Dubai-based Green Valley International has launched a US$ 139 million project in Morocco. The City of Green Valley Marrakech will have 350 villas, spread across 410k sq mt, and is the latest of many of its international developments; in March, it announced similar projects in Bosnia and Morocco, with a combined value of US$ 169 million.

As UAE sales growth slows, with the reduction in high spending tourists, Damas is looking at the Saudi market. Since the start of 2015, the jeweller has opened 20 outlets in the kingdom, with the same number of shops to open before the end of the year.

The latest Nielsen report indicates that UAE Q1 consumer confidence level lost 4 points to 104 – its lowest level in 6 years. The index is a measure of a mix of spending intents, personal finance and job prospects and is a reflection of the negative impact of low oil prices.

With both food and education costs heading up, it was no surprise to see the country’s inflation rate edge higher to 1.63%, from 1.4% a month earlier. Although the rate is expected to fall in Q2 – because of lower rents and reduced utility bills – Dubai still remains an expensive location in which to live. According to a recent Mercer survey, the emirate is ranked 23rd in the world’s most expensive cities, with Abu Dhabi 10 places lower.

Last November, it was reported that local banks could have lost US$ 1.4 billion (equivalent to 0.5% of all banks’ total lending), as SME owners left the country, without settling their loan facilities. A slowing economy, resulting from low oil prices and the tightening of liquidity, made it difficult for some owners to remain solvent; with the risk of a possible jail sentence for default, some decided just to leave Dubai . . . and their debts. But following a March voluntary system, announced by the banks, to introduce more lenient repayment schedules in case of financial difficulty, seems to have largely contained the problem.

With its A+ Fitch rating, and a 76% hike in 2015 profits to US$ 175 million, it was no surprise to see Emirates Islamic’s 5-year US$ 750 million sukuk nearly three times oversubscribed. The Dubai bank’s Islamic bond will be listed on both Nasdaq Dubai and the Irish Stock Exchange.

It is reported that Shuua Capital has cut its 70-strong payroll by 15%, at the same time that a Dubai Holding division is mooted to be selling its 48% shareholding in the investment bank; the stake is valued at US$ 86 million at current prices. Following this news, the investment bank’s shares jumped 5.4%.

It also appears that Abraaj Group is in discussions with the US-based private equity firm TPG Capital to acquire the Spinneys supermarket chain in Egypt, valued at US$ 100 million.

Noor Bank, rated A- by Fitch, is expected to raise US$ 500 million, by way of a 5-year sukuk, priced at 6.25%; this will boost the Dubai bank’s Tier 1, or core, capital.

DP World is seeking a 7-year US$ 1.2 billion sukuk to fund the part-repurchase of an earlier US$ 1.5 billion bond, due to mature next year.

The DFM opened on Sunday at 3230 and returned to positive territory, posting a 3.7% gain in improved trading to close on 3351 by Thursday (26 May 2016). Bellwether stocks, Emaar Properties and Arabtec, nudged higher – by US$ 0.05 to US$ 1.74, and US$ 0.01 to US$ 0.39 respectively. Trading volumes were markedly higher on Thursday at 467 million shares, valued at US$ 120 million, changing hands, (cf 279 million shares for US$ 87 million, the previous Thursday).

Brent crude moved past US$ 50 this week and, although dipping a little, it was still 1.6% (US$ 0.75) up at US$ 49.59 – whilst gold lost US$ 35 to US$ 1,220 by the Thursday (26 May) close.

Coinciding with the visit of the US president, Barrack Obama, to Vietnam, its budget airline, VietJet signed a US$ 11.3 billion order with Boeing for 100 737s which follows a February US$ 3.0 billion Pratt & Whitney engine order.

Bayer’s all cash US$ 62 billion bid to take over the seed company. Monsanto, has been rejected as “incomplete and financially inadequate”. It is expected that a revised offer will be on the table. To date, it has been a busy year for mergers, with global deals of US$ 494 billion just behind the total for the whole of last year.

Toyota has joined with Uber by investing an unspecified amount in the online rideshare company, as well as offering leasing options for its drivers. The Japanese conglomerate is keen to share in ideas and resources in areas such as R&D, into driverless cars, and in-car apps.

Australian authorities have put a temporary block on the US$ 6.5 billion acquisition of the mega rail and ports operator, Asciano. The Commission is keen to ensure that any competition reduction in the container logistics business does not have a negative impact on the industry. Brookfield is still the front runner to take over Asciano.

As its chief executive resigns with immediate effect, criminal proceedings have opened against Swiss bank BSI, for alleged corruption links with Malaysia’s 1MDB fund. The bank, which manages US$ 85 billion of clients’ assets, was also ordered to close its Singapore branch for “serious breaches of money laundering requirements” – the first time in 32 years that the Monetary Authority of Singapore has withdrawn approval for a merchant bank. MAS is one of several regulatory authorities investigating possible wrongdoing by the Malaysian fund.

The world’s largest insurer Axa, with managed assets of US$ 1.5 trillion, has announced that it will no longer invest in the tobacco industry and will sell its US$ 1.7 billion sector portfolio .This comes as a further blow to the industry, as last week the UK government introduced plain packaging for all cigarette packets.

French authorities have raided the Paris office of Google in a tax-related probe involving 100 investigators. It is reported that the US internet giant has an outstanding tax liability of US$ 1.8 billion – slightly more than the US$ 188 million settled with the UK government earlier in the year! The next multinational on the French tax radar could be MacDonald’s.

All eight of France’s oil refineries have been affected by a strike over new labour laws, leaving 20% of the country’s petrol stations with little or no fuel. The aim of the CGT union is to reverse new work legislation (which had already been watered down) that makes it simpler for companies to hire and fire employees. If the dispute spreads, it could affect both the country’s tourism industry and upcoming Euro 2016 football championships.

Although France and Germany bucked the trend, May eurozone output growth slowed to its weakest reading in 16 months. Although still in positive territory, Markit’s flash composite purchasing managers’ index was marginally down on the previous month at 52.9.The usual suspects – Brexit, Chinese slowdown and global volatility – were the drivers for the disappointing figures, with more of the same in the coming months.

European leaders gave the green light for beleaguered Greece to access US$ 11.5 billion in a new bailout package following the country’s recent program of tax increases and budget cuts. This will inevitably see the Hellenic country a further beneficiary of debt relief in the way of “haircuts”, repayment extensions and subsidised interest rates. The country is labouring because of debts totalling US$ 370 billion which equates to 180% of its GDP.

In the wake of the deteriorating health of its 92-year old chairman, Sumner Redstone, the control of Viacom, owner of the Paramount film studio and networks including MTV, continues unabated. The nonagenarian has appointed two new trustees who will have control of 80% of voting rights, replacing Viacom’s chief executive and a board member. The two ousted trustees have now filed a lawsuit against Mr Redstone’s daughter claiming that she is manipulating her father to gain more control of the company.

European leaders gave the green light for beleaguered Greece to access US$ 11.5 billion in a new bailout package following the country’s recent program of tax increases and budget cuts. This will inevitably see the Hellenic country a further beneficiary of debt relief in the way of “haircuts”, repayment extensions and subsidised interest rates. The country is labouring because of debts totalling US$ 370 billion which equates to 180% of its GDP. How many times can the Greeks continue to request its creditors for A Little Bit More?

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