Running On Empty!

concourse-d-dubai-airportOn Sunday, HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum inspected the new US$ 1.2 billion Concourse D, at Dubai International Airport. The world’s first dedicated facility for Airbus 380s covers an area of 150k sq mt and has an annual capacity for 18 million passengers, equivalent to 50k every day.

Millennium & Copthorne is to partner with the First Group to manage its Millennium Place JVT – a 34-storey, 599-key 4-star property; the hotel, which is expected to open in 2019, will be First Group’s third, following others in Dubai Marina and Jumeirah Village Circle (JVC).

Dubai Properties has launched Bellevue Towers – twin 23-floor buildings, housing a total of 300 units, along with retail and hospitality outlets. Located in Downtown, the project will be completed by 2019.

With ongoing developments already in Sports City and Silicon Oasis, Shaikhani Group has released details of its US$ 954 million 2025 plan. Phase 1, a US$ 60 million mixed use development in JVC, includes 133 residential units.

It is reported that Dubai Investments, 11.5% owned by the Investment Corporation of Dubai, is seeking US$ 300 million to help finance its Mirdiff Hills project, slated to cost US$ 954 million (including land at US$ 272 million). The development will be a mix of residential, retail and commercial.

RTA contracts, valued at US$ 192 million, have been awarded for phases 4 and 5 of the Dubai Water Canal project, due for completion by this September. The former, costing US$ 84 million, relates to infrastructure work on both sides of the canal, whilst the latter is to complete the link with the Business Bay Canal.

Savills’ latest report indicates that Dubai residential market prices may have bottomed out and that, with limited available prime stock being released over the next three years, its outlook continues to be steady.

Meanwhile, the bullish Reidin/Global Capital Partners report concludes that the recent property correction has not been as severe as the 2008 debacle, citing the fact that price falls, for instance, in JLT and The Greens were 53% and 47% after the GFC, but this time around came in 4% lower and flat respectively. Furthermore, average prices fell 31% in the 22 months after the 2008 meltdown, compared to 13% over the same period since 2014.

Majid Al Futtaim is to invest US$ 8.1 billion locally over the next decade, with plans for 10 City Centre shopping malls, 10 Carrefour hypermarkets, 30 Carrefour supermarkets and 6 hotels. Following this expansion, the group will have doubled its retail footprint to 1.5 million sq mt, have 4.8k hotel rooms, and have provided an extra 170k direct and indirect jobs.

New DED rules have been established to ensure that the emirate’s 2.8k grocery stores have a “uniform identity”. Existing outlets will have two years to accede to these regulations, that will see standardisation in business identity, store design, fit outs, signage etc. The main aim is to improve the quality of retail service, in line with Dubai’s global image.

According to reports, D&D London, owners of Quaglino’s and Coq d’Argent, are looking to expand operations into Dubai for a number of their concepts and brands. The group already has restaurants in London, New York and Paris.

Drake & Scull has won a two-year, US$ 33 million Emicool contract to design, build and operate a chilled water facility in Dubai Sports City. The extension of the new district-cooling network will increase capacity to 77k tonnes of refrigeration.

DP World has announced a US$ 442 million agreement with the government of Somaliland to develop and operate a regional trade and logistics hub, primarily for fast growing Ethiopia. The port of Berbera will be the company’s 8th operation in Africa, following similar agreements in Algeria, Djibouti, Egypt, Mozambique and Senegal. With spending of over US$ 1 billion, DP World’s capacity in the continent is estimated at 6.2 million TEUs (20’ equivalent units).

One of the world’s biggest liners, at 348 mt, the Ovation of the Seas, berthed in Dubai, on its journey from Barcelona to Singapore. It is such stopovers at Port Rashid that should see the number of cruise tourists in 2016 reach 500k, compared to 456k last year – and an ambitious one million total by 2020.

An often overlooked facet of Dubai’s burgeoning hospitality sector is time-sharing. With the sector expected to contribute US$ 3.8 billion to Dubai’s economy by 2020, Arabian Falcon Holidays is actively looking to Africa – a continent that accounts for 5% of Dubai’s inbound visitors – for new business prospects.

The proposed US$ 2.2 billion, 69% acquisition of Kuwait Food Co’s (Americana) by Dubai investment firm Adeptio has fallen through. The Kuwaiti company, owned by the Al Kharafi family, has been on the market for over two years but no agreement could be reached between the two parties.

DEWA confirmed that it would be building the world’s largest CSP (concentrated solar power) plant, located at Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park. On completion in 2030, the solar park will have a capacity of 5 GW but the tender for phase 1 is for 200 MW. CSP is some five times more expensive than the traditional photovoltaic (PV) technology but has the advantage of having storage capabilities.

With the aim of investing more in Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, local company Najibi has launched an Australian investment and development company, Sanad Capital. The new entity will focus on community-based, eco-friendly projects in an area that has 9 million visitors every year.

Emirates NBD has indicated that it is considering plans for the country’s first digital bank, as it announces a US$ 136 million investment into digital innovation and a complete overhaul in its modus operandi.

According to the UAE Central Bank, April Money Supply Aggregate M1 rose 0.6% to US$ 134.4 billion, with M2 down 1.3% to US$ 327.8 billion and M3 marginally up to US$ 374.4 billion. Both gross bank assets and gross credit remained flat at US$ 678.7 billion and US$ 413.2 billion respectively.

Following last month’s 10.6% fuel increase, July has seen a further 4.8% hike in Special 95 to US$ 0.477 per litre, as diesel jumps 10.6% to US$ 0.482.

40% of the estimated US$ 100 million, 2014 MENA venture capital investment found its way to the UAE, according to a report from this week’s Arab Digital Forum. However, the total regional figure investment rate is low on a global comparison and 12 times less when compared to the US. Interestingly, only 19% of 2014 start-ups, that received funding over the previous three years, have failed.

Payfort reported that UAE internet spending rose by 23% last year to top US$ 10 billion and that this figure could reach US$ 27 billion by 2020. Airlines and e-commerce accounted for more than 86% of the 2015 total spend, with entertainment showing impressive growth.

The ME’s largest online retailer is looking at an IPO within the next two years. With ambitious expansion plans, Souq.com would need a further capital boost to its finance – and a public issue is an option. Three months ago, the company received overseas funding totalling US$ 275 million. With on-line shopping accounting for only 1.5% of regional retail traffic (compared to 8% globally), the Dubai-based company sees a bright and profitable future for the sector.

Arabtec shareholders agreed to write off 44% of retained losses by using US$ 272 million of its US$ 312 million statutory reserves. The beleaguered contractor is in the throes of a major restructuring plan to firm up its capital base and improve business practices.

Following the recent Dubai Parks and Resorts US$ 458 million capital boost, it is reported that Qatar Holding now holds an 11% stake in the entertainment company. Its major shareholder, Meraas, now has a 52% holding, down from 60% before the capital increase. Shares were trading at US$ 0.38 at Thursday’s close.

The DFM opened on Sunday at 3351 and returned to negative territory, with a 2.6% fall in thin pre-Ramadan trading to close on 3263 by Thursday (02 June 2016). Trading volumes on Thursday were at 446 million shares, valued at US$ 114 million, changing hands, (cf 467 million shares for US$ 120 million, the previous Thursday). Next week, with the start of the holy month of Ramadan, trading could be further subdued.

Bellwether stocks, Emaar Properties and Arabtec, fell in tandem – by US$ 0.06 to US$ 1.68 and US$ 0.02 to US$ 0.37 respectively.

Brent crude dipped US$ 0.42 to US$ 49.17, whilst gold continued its recent downward trend – down US$ 7 to US$ 1,213 by the Thursday (02 June 2016) close.

The Russian firm, Krasnye Barrikady, has been awarded a US$ 1 billion Iranian order for ten rigs. The agreement sees both parties to jointly build the rigs for exploration and production in the Gulf.

It was no surprise to see that VW reported a 19.4% fall in Q1 profits to US$ 3.5 billion (and a 3.4% drop in revenue to US$ 55.8 billion), as the fallout from the emissions scandal rumbles on. The carmaker has already put aside US$ 17.5 billion to cover these costs to date with some forecasting that this figure will eventually top US$ 32 billion.

IATA has forecast that ME carriers will see a 14.2% hike in 2016 profits to US$ 1.6 billion, as global airline profits are expected to rise by 8.5% to US$ 39.4 billion; worldwide cargo revenue is expected to fall by 6.1% to US$ 49.6 billion. Regionally, demand is expected to jump 11.2%, whilst supply is expected to grow at the higher rate of 12.2%.

Sainsbury’s planned US$ 2 billion takeover of Argos could be in jeopardy as the Competition and Markets Authority is looking into the question of unfair competition, if the merger were to go ahead. The new entity – with non-food sales of US$ 8.7 billion and 2k sites – would compete with the likes of M&S and John Lewis.

Greybull Capital has acquired Tata Steel’s European long-products division, following confirmation of a US$ 580 million financing package being finalised. The new business, manufacturing steel for the rail and construction sectors, will be known as British Steel and the owners expect to be profitable within a year. With the government considering a restructuring of the industry’s US$ 21.8 billion pension scheme, there are reports that Tata may decide not to sell its remaining 11 UK plants.

In the UK, HM Revenue & Customs have lost a case, involving Project Blue, ultimately owned by the Qatari government, and its 2007 purchase of Chelsea Barracks. With US$ 73 million at stake, the Court of Appeal ruled that the tax office had pursued the wrong party for the stamp duty on the US$ 1.7 billion sale. Project Blue did not actually own the property as it had used an Ijara arrangement so that it belonged to the bank, Masraf al Rayan, who then leased it back to the defendant.

Although a slight improvement, May eurozone inflation still remains in negative territory at -0.1%. This data – along with the fact that unemployment was unchanged at 10.2% – will have forced the ECB not to go ahead with further QE measures. The rate for the 28-country bloc EU came in at 8.7% as the German figure dropped to a record low of 6.0%. Despite the good news, the likes of Greece, Spain and Italy still have double digit rates of 24.4%, 20.1% and 11.7% respectively. Another disturbing feature of the unemployment data is that 18.8% of those under 24 have no job.

With Australia going to the polls on 02 July, the Turnbull government got a boost with a better than expected 1.1% in Q1 growth figures, as both exports and household spending headed north. With an annualised growth of 3.1%, the data probably precludes the need for a further cut in interest rates, now standing at a historically low 1.75%.

The world’s fastest growing major economy just got faster. India recorded a 0.4% increase in 2015-16 to 7.6%, as the April quarter’s growth touched 7.9%. Meanwhile, with some analysts predicting a hard landing, China’s expansion continues to slow.

An amnesty in Argentine aims to see the return of some of the US$ 500 billion of unregistered funds, deposited in overseas accounts, so that monies can be used to pay for much needed infrastructure projects and to pay outstanding pension funds. President Mauricio Macri is introducing a law that will see the returned funds having to pay between 0% – 15% tax, depending on the amounts involved.

For the 5th successive quarter, Brazil recorded negative growth, with the economy reeling from political problems, the zika virus, corruption and the pending impeachment trial of President Dilma Rousseff. It is estimated that its GDP fell 5.4% year on year and although a marginal improvement to a 4.3% contraction is expected this year, the recession could continue for several more years. Even with the August Olympics coming up, the country is surely Running On Empty!

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