If It Be Your Will

leonard-cohen-banRealising a dream of his father, HH Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed, his son inaugurated the Dubai Canal on Wednesday. Following the second phase of the US$ 1 billion, 12 km waterway, the canal connects Dubai Creek with the Arabian Gulf.

Earlier in the week, HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum visited the Friday opening of Dubai Parks and Resorts. The Dubai ruler met representatives from the resort’s five exclusive major corporate partners – Dubai First, Etisalat, MasterCard, McDonald’s and PepsiCo.

On Tuesday, HH Sheikh Mohammed also approved a 10-year, US$ 381 million development plan for the Dubai enclave of Hatta. Part of the plan will see the construction of 600 homes, over the next two years, and a new market place for its agricultural community.

Meraas has announced that it will be building a 20k seat arena at City Walk, to be completed within two years. The multi-purpose air-conditioned stadium, covering 500k sq ft, will be used for sporting events and concerts.

Abu Dhabi-based developer, Eshraq Properties, has announced three new developments, valued at US$ 204 million, one of which is a mixed-use development (residential and retail) in Jumeirah Village Circle.

The RTA has signed a deal with Hyperloop One to study the feasibility of developing a transport link with Abu Dhabi that would cut the travelling time between the two emirates to just 12 minutes. Based on an idea by Tesla Motors chief, Elon Musk, this mode of transport uses magnets to levitate pods inside an airless tube. No financial details were available.

DEWA has started work on its new HQ which it totes will become the “tallest, largest, and smartest net zero energy building in the world”. Al-Sheera will cover a built-up area of 1.5 million sq ft and will encompass 16.5k sq mt of photovoltaic solar panels that will produce 3.5k-kilowatt hours.

Marka has added a second Harper’s Bazaar Café to its portfolio following the May opening of the world’s first in Dubai Design District (d3); the listed company also has the restaurant chain Al Bawadi and a UEFA themed café. The two-year-old company has yet to post a quarterly profit but hopes to reverse that in the near future.

Although the Emirates Group posted a 1% increase in turnover to US$ 12.7 billion, H1 profit took a 64.0% dive to US$ 354 million. Still the best airline in the world, it was no surprise to see Emirates Airline record a 75.0% fall in H1 profits to US$ 214 million, as revenue was down 1.0% to US$ 11.4 billion. The main drag factors were the strong greenback, economic uncertainty and a dip in premium travellers. Although fuel costs were 10% lower, it still accounts for 24% of total costs that were up 5%.

Passenger numbers climbed 9.0% to 28 million but there are two quandaries facing the airline. The first is to arrest the problem of falling fare revenues, as many passengers have been forced to downsize their cabin selection or choose a cheaper travel option. The second is basic economics – if supply increases more than demand, the end result is inevitable. In H1, the airline saw capacity (measured by ASKM) up 12%, with demand (measured by RPKM) lagging at 8%. Unfortunately, Emirates can do little to change external factors and will have to sit back and weather the storm until the global economy get back on to track.

The airline is the largest global operator of both Boeing 777 (160) and the Airbus A-380 (85). Its US$ 112 billion order book is for 234 aircraft.

In contrast to declining government deposits (because of falling oil prices), UAE residents’ September accounts have risen by 3.4% to US$ 360 billion. The US$ 1.3 billion monthly fall from the public purse has been more than compensated by the US$ 5.1 billion year on year increase of non-resident deposits to US$ 50.9 billion.

Slowing construction growth at 51.8 pulled down Dubai’s October private sector activity, as the Emirates NBD PMI fell from 55.1 to 53.1. There was some comfort to see travel and tourism holding up at 54.8.

Damac posted an 11.6% Q3 profit fall to US$ 246 million, as revenue dipped 13.3% to US$ 477 million, on the back of the delivery of 800 units in the Akoya by Damac development, (YTD – 1.3k residences). In the first nine months, the developer has booked sales of US$ 1.4 billion of which US$ 464 million occurred in Q3.

Emaar Properties posted a 36.4% surge in Q3 profits to US$ 313 million, as revenue rose by 15.6% to US$ 1.05 billion.

Emaar Malls reported that both its Q3 revenue and profit headed north – by 8.0% to US$ 211 million and 15.7% to US$ 119 million respectively, compared to the same quarter in 2015. Despite the gloom surrounding the retail sector, the company continues with its expansion strategy that will see an additional 245k sq ft of gross leasable area when The Souk at The Meadows and The Springs is completed.

The DFM opened Sunday at 3298 and shed 24 points to close on 3274 by Thursday (10 November 2016). Volumes, on the last day of trading, moved markedly higher at 1 billion shares, valued at US$ 354 million, (cf 259 million shares for US$ 85 million, the previous Thursday). Over the week ending 10 November, bellwether stocks, Emaar Properties lost US$ 0.01 to US$ 1.83, whilst Arabtec remained flat at US$ 0.36. On the day, Amanat was the dominant trade (182 million shares), jumping 6.9% to US$ 0.25.

Having shed 8.2% of its value the previous week, Brent crude continued its losing streak falling 1.1% (US$ 0.51) to close on US$ 45.84; meanwhile gold headed in the same direction, down 2.9%, or US$ 37, to close on US$ 1,266 at Thursday’s (10 November 2016) close.

After failing to resolve safety concerns involving batteries in its Galaxy Note 7, Samsung recalled all 2.5 million units and scrapped the project. In a case of déjà vu, the South Korean tech conglomerate has had to recall 2.8 million of its top load washing machines in the US. Whether the latest debacle has the same damaging effect on the company, that the possible loss of US$ 17 billion had in lost phone sales, remains to be seen.

Proving that it doesn’t rain it pours, Samsung’s offices have now been raided by South Korean prosecutors investigating a worsening scandal involving President Park Geun-hye. It is reported that they are probing allegations that the company gave US$ 3.1 million to the daughter of a close confidant, Choi Soon-sil, to bankroll her equestrian training in Germany. Ms Choi – a good friend of the President – is the daughter Choi Tae-min, a shadowy quasi-religious leader who was associated with Ms Park’s father, the then-president Park Chung-hee; earlier in the month she was arrested and charged with fraud.

Following the success of three US cases against Johnson Johnson, claiming its talc-based products cause ovarian cancer, there have been a further 2.5k claims filed, many of them in the same St Louis court. The October settlement against the company, that has annual revenue in excess of US$ 70 billion, settled on US$ 68 million for the victims.

It appears that the Pentagon’s award of US$ 6.1 billion for 57 F-35s – its biggest to date – has not been well received by Lockheed Martin. The aircraft manufacturer has indicated that it was “not a mutually agreed-upon” contract and it was dissatisfied, inter alia, with “the profit level for the contractor”.

Shares in Hertz Global – which includes brands such as Hertz, Dollar and Thrifty – sank more than 30%, after news that it had cut its full year profit forecast to an average US$ 0.70 from US$ 3.12 per share. Q3 saw earnings per share at US$ 1.58, as revenue and profit both tumbled – by 1.3% to US$ 2.54 billion and 79.7% to US$ 44 million respectively.

Starbucks posted impressive Q4 and annual (year ending 02 October) revenue and profits. Closing the year strongly, quarterly revenue and profit jumped by 16% to US$ 5.7 billion and 27% to US$ US$ 1.2 billion respectively (2016 – by 11% to US$ 21.3 billion and 16% to US$ 4.2 billion). The company opened 690 new stores in Q4 bringing its global total to 25.1k.

One of the world’s largest chocolate companies, Jacobs Holdings, is teaming up with Canada’s PSP Investments in a US$ 5.0 billion bid for Pilsner Urquell. This has come about because AB InBev has had to sell some of its assets to obtain regulatory approval for its purchase of SABMiller.

After a record 2016 US$ 7.28 billion profit for the year ending 30 June, CBA posted flat Q1 earnings of US$ 1.85 billion, citing low rates, strong dollar and higher insurance claims as the main drag factors. Australia’s largest lender also saw its level of impaired assets rise 23.6% to US$ 5.23 billion. Meanwhile, Westpac’s annual profit fell by 7.0% to US$ 5.7 billion.

An unprecedented cyber-attack on UK’s Tesco Bank affected 40k (or 29.4%) customers of which half had money removed from their accounts. The bank, with 136k users, has subsequently stopped all online transactions until the problem has been rectified. According to the Financial Conduct Authority, this is the first such attack that customers have actually lost money.

Terrible results from HSBC see Q3 profits down 88.9% to US$ 843 million further compounded by the fact that the other three major UK banks – Barclays, Lloyds and RBS – posted better than expected returns, The main drivers behind the slump were various one-off costs including a US$ 1.7 billion write-down on its troubled Brazilian unit, US compensation payments and losses from currency moves following Brexit.

The world’s largest carmaker, Toyota, saw its H1 profits nosedive on the back of a sharp rally in the yen and a slowdown in N American sales. Its profit fell 24.3% to US$ 9.1 billion, as revenue dipped 7.2% to US$ 125.7 billion although unit vehicle sales were up 1.8% to 5.06 million. There are reports that Toyota is in the market to acquire Suzuki.

With Q3 sales down 12.0% to US$ 26.0 billion, on the sale of 2.6 million vehicles, Nissan posted a 15.6% fall in profit to US$ 1.4 billion. The carmaker, that recently acquired a 35% stake in rival Mitsubishi, still expects annual profit of US$ 5.0 billion.

The VW diesel emissions scandal has claimed another high profile person – its chairman and CFO, Hans Dieter Poetsch, who joins former boss Martin Winterkorn under investigation. The German car maker has indicated that some 11 million vehicles were affected by the scandal that indicated that some models were pumping out 40 times the legal limit of nitrogen oxide.

After H1 profits had fallen by 88.4%, from US$ 264 to just US$ 31 million, Steve Rowe, the new boss of Marks & Spencer, has wasted no time in trying to return the retailer to its former glory. It is expected that he will still go ahead with the planned retrenchment of 500 HO staff and close some 50 international stores most notably in China. But in a radical move, M&S will close up to 60 of its 300+ UK stores and stop clothing sales in others to concentrate on foodstuffs.

Although the US unemployment rate was down to 4.9%, only 161k jobs were added in October, as US service industry activity weakened, caused by a slowdown in both hiring and new orders. The ISM’s non-manufacturing index, accounting for 67% of the country’s economy, fell 2.3% to 54.8.

The stuttering Chinese economy had another wobble in October, with falls in both exports down 7.3% and imports – 1.4%; YTD data shows that exports and imports, in the world’s second largest economy, have dropped by 7.7% and 7.5% respectively. At the end of October, the Chinese surplus was at US$ 49.0 billion. These figures seem to indicate that any recovery is still some way off, although the economy is still growing at the annual rate of 6.7%. Interestingly, in a surprise political – rather than an economic – move, President Xi Jinping has replaced his finance minister, Lou Jiwei, with Xiao Jie.

In an unsuspected move, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi withdrew 500 and 1k rupee notes from circulation, in a bid to crackdown on corruption and illegal cash holdings. These two notes account for over 85% of the total paper money in circulation in a country that is overwhelmingly a cash society.

Instead of studying and then learning from all of its shortfalls and deficiencies, it is no surprise to see that the EU meritocracy continues to blame Brexit for all its economic woes. The 19-country bloc has upped its 2016 growth forecast to 1.7%, with an expected fall to 1.5% next year. It also expected this year’s inflation rate to reach 0.3% and jump to 1.4% – still some way off its long-term 2.0% target. Who will they blame when Greece becomes the first of several members to hit the buffers -perhaps President-elect Donald John Trump?

This week has seen the death of the great wordsmith, Leonard Cohen, who would have had something to say about the US democratic process. The big poser is why, yet again, did the pollsters get it so wrong? Once more, they claim their techniques were right – but their assumptions were wrong! If they mess up on these high profile cases, what credence can we put on any survey (big or small, local or global) and how reliable are their methods and conclusions? If It Be Your Will!

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