Long Hot Summer!

dubai-stepsDubai Municipality is still considering the whereabouts of a new tourist landmark, Dubai Steps – potential locations include Dubai Creek, Dubai Marina and Union Square. The 100 mt, 500-step structure will be unique because it will lead to nowhere.

Following its success with its initial release last month, Dubai Properties launched phase 2 of Bellevue Towers project, located in Business Bay. The 23-storey tower will house 300 apartments and be ready for hand over in 2019.

The IMF notes that the quality of loans to Dubai households has improved, as the ratio of non-performing accounts has fallen from 10.0% to 4.9% over the past three years – a sure indicator that this realty slowdown will not have the same negative impact as occurred after the GFC.

The authority estimated that Dubai’s average residential prices dropped 11% in 2015. Meanwhile JLL has indicated that over the past 18 months prices have fallen 15%, with villa prices in Q2 down 5%. Chestertons’ MENA reported that Q2 villa prices nudged 0.7% higher, whilst ValuStrat indicated a 1.1% decline over the same period.

As usual for Dubai realty, there are a plethora of conflicting reports about the state of the market. Phidar estimate that, quarter on quarter, there were 3.7% and 1.1% falls in apartment and villa prices. The firm expects further declines over the next 18 months, as institutional buyers and occupiers keep out, citing reasons such as the strong greenback and the uncertain economic climate. Land Sterling also reported Q2 falls in apartment prices – but at the much lower rate of 0.4%. On the other hand, Reidin has reported 1% increases in Q2 property values. Seven surveys, seven different findings!

A recent federal government directive sees SMEs, which are members of the Youth Project Development Organisation and owned by Emiratis, no longer requiring a bank guarantee to continue their businesses. The aims of the exercise are to encourage young locals to embrace the competitive knowledge-based economy and support their progress in a slowing economy.

One of Dubai’s lesser known free zones is Dubai Science Park and, as the name suggests, one of its main aims is to foster the growth of the UAE’s science sector. Among the facility’s 300 companies are a mix of SMEs and international companies, many of which will relocate to DSP’s new twin towers, on their completion early next year.

Thumbay Group has announced that it plans a US$ 327 million investment to build 6 hospitals and 12 clinics in various countries including the UAE, Egypt, India, and Qatar. Last month, the Dubai-based company had indicated it would spend US$ 163 million in the UAE on various healthcare and residential projects.

Following claims by the three biggest US carriers – American, Delta and United – that Gulf carriers, including Emirates, received massive government subsidies, it seems that the State Department, having studied the complaints, will take no formal action. The US administration has indicated that it will continue its commitment to the Open Skies policy and noted its economic benefits for the US economy.

Budget airline flydubai is travelling further afield, with news that it plans to fly to Bangkok, as from November. There seems to be a growing trend for such carriers to move away from just their traditional 4-hour or less routes to include longer-haul destinations. More effective and improved aircraft make this jump possible – the new Boeing 737 Next-Generation can now fly 37% further (up to 5.5k km) than older models.

A BMI report estimates that, following a decade of annual 17% asset growth, regional banks are set to see a marked decline to an average of 6%, over the next four years. The main driver is the slump in oil revenues, resulting in governments having to make good fiscal deficits, utilise local banks and reduce their spending.

Having already invested upward of US$ 900 million in Turkey, Dubai-based Abraaj Group has closed its 2014 Abraaj Turkey Fund I, which had raised US$ 486 million. The fund has already made two investments and focuses on mid-sized businesses that rely on domestic consumption, such as healthcare and logistics.

According to a recent study by TopHotelProjects, Dubai and Abu Dhabi have a combined total of 155 hotels projects (with 47.7k rooms) in the pipeline, with a further 28 (6.3k keys) in the other five emirates. Most will be ready for Expo 2020, with 56 and 58 slated for opening in 2017 and 2018 respectively. The top 10 Dubai hotel projects are:

  Keys Due Date
The Address Sky View 712 2016
Wyndham Marina 497 2016
Sky Central 672 2016
Lapita 503 2016
Tryp by Wyndham 672 2017
Royal Atlantis 1,050 2017
Rotana Al Barsha 528 2018
Bespoke 1,400 2018
Paramount 1,250 2018
Oyster Resort 1,748 Delayed
Total 9,032  

DP World reported a 1.2% increase in H1 gross container volumes on a like-for-like basis, handling 31.4 million TEUs (20’ equivalent units). Stronger results from Europe and India made up for “challenging” market conditions in Australia and Latin America, as well as a 6.0% domestic fall, as lower-margin cargo continued its downward trend.

The Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry has seen its membership grow 4.3% to 193k in the first half of this year; most of the new 8k members were SMEs. In H1, registered businesses recorded exports and reexports, totalling US$ 37.6 billion, with Saudi Arabia, at US$ 12.0 billion, the leading destination.

Privately owned Dubai-based Pacific Controls is reportedly in discussions with banks, in relation to a US$ 381 million debt restructure plan. The tech company, founded in 2000, is making use of a special mechanism, introduced by the banks, in order to help such companies affected by the likes of slow payments and working capital issues.

After four months of price increases, the Ministry of Energy has announced that Special 95 will drop 8.5% to US$ 0.44 per litre and diesel by 4.9% to US$ 0.48 for the month of August,

It is reported that the Emaar Properties Chairman, Mohammed Alabbar, has acquired 9.9% of Aramex from its founder, Fadi Ghandour, in a deal worth US$ 142 million. Its Q1 profits were up 11.9%, at US$ 26 million, and Q2 by 45.9% to US$ 34 million, compared to the same period in 2015.

Emaar Malls, 85% owned by its parent Emaar Properties, posted a 11.2% hike in Q2 profits to US$ 125 million, as revenue rose 10.3% to US$ 214 million.

Nakheel recorded a 4.0% hike in H1 profit to US$ 804 million, as it has handed over 1.2k residential units YTD. The developer also opened its first hotel, a 251-key property managed by Accor, located by the newly opened Dragon Mart 2.

Etisalat posted impressive Q2 consolidated results, indicating a 51.0% hike in net profit to US$ 627 million, as revenue moved 2.0% higher to US$ 3.62 billion. The telecoms company, with a 163 million-subscriber base, has declared a US$ 0.109 interim dividend.

Dubai Islamic reported a credible 11.1% hike in H1 net profit to US$ 545 million, as revenue jumped 16.9% to US$ 1.15 billion and impairment charges declined; Q2 profits were up 5.2% to US$ 272 million. Both net financing assets and customer deposits expanded by 12.0% to US$ 29.7 billion and 13.6% to US$ 34.1 billion respectively.

The DFM posted a 31.2% slump in H1 net profit to US$ 38 million, with Q2 profit down 59.6% to US$ 15 million. With overheads remaining relatively flat at US$ 13 million, the disappointing figures were the result of a 22.4% slide in revenue to US$ 62 million, of which US$ 50 million was attributable to operating income and the balance from investment returns. Trading value on the bourse in H1 was down 32.8% to US$ 18.9 billion. (The DFM is planning a new location in Business Bay, having received a 10k sq mt plot of land, valued at US$ 63 million, from Dubai Properties).

The DFM opened on Sunday at 3544 and fell back 0.7% to close the week on 3519 by Thursday (28 July 2016). Volumes, on the last day of trading, were at 164 million shares, valued at US$ 86 million, changing hands, (cf 461 million shares for US$ 156 million, the previous Thursday). Bellwether stock, Emaar Properties, was down US$ 0.04 to US$ 1.87, whilst Arabtec fell US$ 0.01 to US$ 0.40.

Brent crude continued its downward trend, closing the week US$ 3.50 down at US$ 42.70 – whilst gold was marginally higher by US$ 1 to US$ 1,332 at Thursday’s (28 July 2016) close.

Saudi Aramco has awarded a consortium, headed by Hydrocarbon Engineering (LTHE), a US$ 1.6 billion contract to develop the second phase of the Hasbah Offshore Gas Field.

BP reported a 44.6% fall in Q2 underlying replacement cost profits to US$ 720 million, as margins slid and oil prices remained low. The company also took another US$ 5.2 billion charge to cover liabilities from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, with the final bill being US$ 61.6 billion in legal fees, compensation pay-outs and government penalties.

McDonald’s reported a 3.6% fall in revenue to US$ 6.3 billion, whilst Q2 same-store global sales rose 3.1%; however the US increase was only 1.8% (compared to 5.4% the previous quarter). These returns were lower than market expectations, leading to some analysts predicting a further slowdown – and even a sector recession – within the next 12 months. On the bourses, leading fast-food chains – including Wendy’s, Red Robin Gourmet Burgers, Texas Roadhouse Inc and Noodles & Co – have seen worrying dips in share prices.

Troubled Mitsubishi, Japan’s 6th largest carmaker, had a disastrous quarter, as profits sank more than 75% to US$ 44 million, with revenue down 14.0% to US$ 4.1 billion. Nissan fared better recording a US$ 31 million Q2 profit, down 11.0%, as revenue fell 8.5% to US$ 25.0 billion, not helped by the strong yen. On the other hand, Peugeot Citroën more than doubled H1 profit to US$ 1.3 billion despite a fall in revenue and deliveries.

Although Airbus posted a 15.8% hike in H1 profits to US$ 1.96 billion on flat revenue of US$ 32.1 billion, it suffered a US$ 1.56 impairment relating to its gearbox problems with its military A400M model (US$ 1.15 billion) and other problems with the A350.

Malaysia Airlines has placed a US$ 5.5 billion order with Boeing for 50 Boeing Max planes as it continues to overhaul its aging fleet. The airline, taken over by the government following the MH370 incident, expects to return to profitability within three years and be listed on the local bourse thereafter.

Air France/KLM is still making losses; however, there has been an improvement with H1 2016 loss of US$ 125 million better than the US$ 174 million in the same period last year.

Deutsche Bank came in with worrying Q1 figures, as profit fell a disastrous 97.5% from US$ 877 million to US$ 22 million, with revenue falling 20.0%. Although its legal costs fell from US$ 1.32 billion to US$ 132 million, the bank still has to settle four large litigation cases, including forex manipulation and misselling of mortgage-backed securities.

As expected, Verizon Communication has acquired Yahoo, with the US telecoms firm paying US$ 5 billion for its search and advertising businesses. The deal does not include the company’s shareholding in Alibaba and Yahoo Japan, said to be worth in excess of US$ 40 billion. Yahoo posted a US$ 4.4 billion loss last year, when its share value plummeted by 34%; in Q1, it recorded a US$ 99 million deficit. Verizon’s Q2 profits have slumped 83% to US$ 702 million.

For the second quarter in a row the number of iPhones fell – this time by 15% to 40.4 million units in Q2; prior to this, sales of iPhones had never fallen since their 2007 launch. Apple posted a 27.0% drop in quarterly profits to US$ 7.8 billion on the back of a 14.6% fall in revenue to US$ 42.4 billion. As the smartphone accounts for up to 67% of the firm’s turnover – and sale numbers expected to dip over the coming months – profit improvements are not expected in the short term.

As active users rose only 1.0% to 313 million, the market was disappointed with Twitter’s Q2 revenue figure of US$ 602 million, even though it was up 20.0%, compared to the same quarter in 2015. The company seems to be moving to more of a breaking news and live video medium than just a social communication platform.

SABMiller shareholders are holding out for a better offer from brewing giant AB InBev, especially now that the pound has depreciated since Brexit. The previous offer valued the company at US$ 100 billion (£70 billion) which would now be worth US$ 92.4 billion. Now the offer has been upped to US$ 104.3 billion (£79 billion). If the deal were to go through, the new entity would produce almost 30% of the world’s beer.

Despite a major decline in fuel prices, American Airlines saw a 44.0% fall in Q2 profits to US$ 950 million, citing increased payroll costs, lower revenue and taxes, as the main reasons for this turnaround in fortunes. The world’s biggest airline also had a marginal reduction in revenue to US$ 10.32 billion.

The world’s last video cassette recorder will be produced by Funai Electric Co later this month. In 2000, the Japanese electronics made 15 million units, of which 70% were for the US market. Last year, with production down to an uneconomical 750k and the company facing mounting supply problems, the decision to cease production was taken.

Yet again another case of blaming Brexit – a Baker & McKenzie’s Global Transactions Forecast estimates that a disorderly exit from the EU could result in a reduction of US$ 1.2 trillion in mergers and acquisitions. However, the global M&A sector had already fallen 16.0% to US$ 1.5 trillion in H1, prior to the 23 June Brexit vote.

A former close ally of IMF chief Christine Lagarde has appealed a court decision forcing him to repay US$ 441 million; this was the sum that Bernard Tapie, also a confidante to the then-President Nicolas Sarkozy, was paid as compensation for a 1993 case against Credit Lyonnais. As French finance minister in 2008, Ms Lagarde approved this unusually high pay-out and now stands accused of negligence, with a possible (but highly unlikely) jail sentence in the offing.

With lethargic growth continuing, it is highly unlikely that Japan will meet its 2020 nominal GDP target of US$ 5.7 trillion by as much as 10%, with an estimated primary deficit of US$ 874 million. Abenomics is clearly not working for the world’s third largest economy and this despite a huge QE package, record low interest rates and structural reforms. Like the IMF, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has a tendency to amend growth forecasts on a regular basis – and all downwards. On Wednesday, the government announced yet another stimulus package – this time totalling US$ 266 billion, in an attempt to get the economy moving.

Indicating that near-term risks have diminished, the Federal Reserve did not move on interest rates, maintaining them at record lows of 0.5%. The fact that household spending was higher, as unemployment rates head the other way, seem to be precursors of a hike in September, although inflation at 1.6% is still below the target number of 2.0%.

Much has been written about the shenanigans associated with 1Malaysia Development Bhd. Following US prosecutors alleging that at least US$ 3.5 billion has been misappropriated, 1MBD’s board has said that its 2013 and 2014 audited financial statements should not be relied on; at the same time, Deloitte, its auditors, resigned. The fund is under investigation in several countries, including Luxembourg, Singapore, Switzerland and US, for alleged corruption and money laundering. For Dubai residents and 1MBD stakeholders, it is going to be a Long Hot Summer!

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