In The Summertime

Chestertons reported a marked improvement in the local realty sector, with off plan sales up 45%, an overall Q1 transactional activity higher by 25% and a 4% hike in the number of transactions for ready property. There was a 31% quarter on quarter rise in the value of transactions to US$ 3.3 billion, 45% of which were made up of off plan purchases. The company estimates that 16k units were added to the total number of Dubai residences last year, with a slightly lower figure of 15k expected for 2017.

JLL report minimal Q1 rental changes and expect no recovery in Dubai property prices over the next six months. It estimates that only 2.6k units were handed over in the first three months of the year, with that number expected  to rise to just 14k for the whole year. That being the case, there will be only a 2.9% increase in the emirate’s total real estate portfolio to 489k units. With Dubai’s population at 2.76 million – up 10.4% from the 2.50 million recorded only eleven months ago – and set to expand to 5.2 million by 2030, it seems logical that current future supply is going to be well short of future demand.

There is no doubt that Azizi Developments are on a roll. Having recently purchased 186 plots at Meydan One, the company has two contracts, totalling US$ 463 million, to build 35 apartment blocks there. Phase 1 construction work, to be carried out by KCC Engineering Construction and Maintenance and Actco General Contracting, will comprise 18 low to medium rise buildings, with 2.3k apartments.

Towers Technology Contracting Co has been awarded a US$ 16 million Dubailand contract by Damac to carry out work on the main structure works of Akoya Oxygen villas at Mulberry cluster.

Seven Tides is set to develop a luxury resort on one of its islands in The World archipelago, located in the South American cluster. The developer has already started work on one of the islands, closest to the Dubai shoreline, with plans to build 60 low-rise villas.

After a blip in February, doom and gloom returned to the hospitality sector, with all main year on year indicators heading south. Average daily rates, revenue per available room and occupancy all plummeted by 10.0% to US$ 206, 11.0% to US$ 178 and 1.3% to 86.3%. One of the main drivers is the fact that supply – at 6.0% – is increasing at a faster rate than the 4.6% demand – and the problem could be exacerbated with many new hotels due to open in the coming months.

Despite these figures, AccorHotels is planning to almost double the number of rooms in its UAE portfolio from 8k to 15k over the next twelve months. Currently, the French hotel operator has 38 properties, with 23 of them located in Dubai. It is also rebranding and refurbishing the Yassat Gloria into a 5-star Mercure Dubai Barsha Heights Hotel Suites and Apartments which would make the 1k-key property the largest Mercure hotel in the world.

According to the developer, Damac Towers by Paramount Hotels & Resorts, originally due to open in 2015, is now 85% complete. The US$ 1 billion project comprises four towers, taller than 250 mt, and covering 2 million sq ft. One tower will house an 800-key, 5-star hotel to be operated by Paramount Hotels & Resorts, whilst the other three will have over 1.1k luxury serviced apartments under the Damac Maison brand.

Meraas has announced its intention to establish four hotel brands – Evado, MQ, Re Vera and Vivas – which will range from boutique to upper midscale grading. The developer expects that these will open next year, nearby to Ain Dubai (its landmark Ferris wheel) on the US$ 1.16 billion Blue Waters Island development.

It is reported that the Al Fardan Group has spent US$ 136 million to acquire the 47-storey Carlton Downtown Hotel (formerly known as the Warwick Hotel). This will be the third property to be operated by Carlton Hotel Management in Dubai whilst it also owns and operates Marriott Executive Apartments, Villa Rotana and Four Points by Sheraton in Dubai.

United Engineering Construction was awarded a US$ 1.7 billion contract to construct Nakheel’s Deira Mall, due for completion by 2020. The huge four million sq ft development will be the focal point of the developer’s ambitious 15.3 sq km waterfront city – Deira Islands – which will eventually be home to 250k people. On top of this contract, Nakheel plans to increase the value of its construction tenders by 20% to US$ 3.3 billion, including US$ 1.4 billion for Deira Boulevard.

Nakheel’s fifth community retail centre, Jumeirah Islands Pavilion, opened this week to service 8k residents of the 767 luxury villas and mansions, along with 246 duplex apartments, living in and around the US$ 123 million local community.

A Carrefour hypermarket will replace the closed HyperPanda outlet in Dubai Festival City and will open in May. The chain, which posted a 6.2% hike in Q1 revenue to US$ 22.7 billion, is now the second largest global retailer in the world behind Wal-Mart. MAF has the exclusive rights to operate the French supermarket brand in 38 countries, with 23 such stores operating in the UAE. (Interestingly, its owner, Majid Al Futtaim, has been ranked second in the latest Forbes list of the world’s richest Arabs with a value of US$ 10.6 billion).

According to JLL, Dubai office vacancy rates are in the region of 14%, with a trend for tenants to search for cheaper options. For the next nine months, it is expected that a further 235k sq mt of gross leasable area will be added, with 25.5% of the total expected in JLT.

DP World is in discussions with Egypt’s General Authority for Investment and Free Zones to expand the capacity of Sokhna port. This is just one of the port operator’s 77 operating marine and inland terminals in over 40 countries.

State-owed P&O Ports has been awarded a 30-year concession to manage and develop the Bosasso port in Puntland, Somalia. The total project costs is US$ 336 million, with development in two stages – the first including a new 450m quay, dredging and reclamation work.

Rotary Engineering of Fujairah has won the Enoc contract to build twelve storage tanks that will help its refinery capacity increase by more than 50% to 210k bpd. This is part of the oil company’s US$ 1 billion Jebel Ali expansion plan that will also see storage of jet fuel, naphtha and petrol blends rising to 450k cubic mt.

Dubai’s non-oil private sector continues to improve and is in its best position in over two years. The Q1 Emirates NBD Economy Tracker Index posted a March 56.6 reading (56.2 a month earlier), driven by increases in new orders, employment and stocks of purchases.

With its 21st season closing earlier in the week, Dubai’s Global Village posted record attendances of 5.6 million guests over the 156-day event. During that time, it is estimated that total business transactions for the 10k exhibitors topped US$ 627 million.

Following its acquisition of Souq.com, Amazon is looking to establish a permanent Dubai operation which will require office and logistics space to run the company’s regional operations.

Dubai Islamic Bank has had success in the English courts defending a US$ 2.5 billion claim brought against it by Argentine firm, Plantation Holdings. The case involved a 20 million sq ft of land in Dubai with claims of breaches of contract and of the bank’s duties as mortgagee. As a result of a complex financing fraud, the bank took over security of the project, as part of a US$ 625 million debt.

Dubai Investments’ shareholders approved a 12% 2016 cash dividend, along with a 5% bonus share issue, which brings the total payout to US$ 188 million, of which US$ 132 million applies to the dividend. The company reported a 9.9% hike in profits last year to US$ 332 million.

Dubai Aerospace Enterprise posted a 67.4% fall in 2016 net income to US$ 54 million, although revenue was 22.0% higher at US$ 418 million. Last year, the company, whose major shareholder is the Investment Corporation of Dubai, divested itself of the engineering services provider StandardAero and invested over US$ 1 billion acquiring more aircraft for leasing; the company now has 112 planes, with a total value of US$ 5.1 billion.

UAE’s largest Islamic financial institution, Dubai Islamic Bank reported a 4.0% increase in Q1 net profit to US$ 283 million, as income surged 12.9% to US$ 646 million. All other indicators headed north – net operating revenue, net financing assets and total assets were up by 6.5% to US$ 490 million, 5.7% to US$ 33.1 billion and 6.9% to US$ 50.9 billion respectively.

Dubai’s third biggest bank, Mashreq, posted a 2.7% hike in Q1 profits to US$ 149 million, driven by a 15% reduction in impairment provisions. There were slight declines in both in total assets (by 1.7% to US$ 32.9 billion) and customer deposits which fell to US$ 20.9 billion.

The DFM opened Sunday at 3566 and shed 57 points to end the week 1.6% lower by Thursday (13 April) at 3509. Volumes were again disappointingly low, closing on Thursday at 336 million shares, valued at US$ 106 million, (cf 266 million shares for US$ 88 million, the previous Thursday). Emaar Properties fell US$ 0.06 to US$ 1.98, with Arabtec also in negative territory, down US$ 0.01 at US$ 0.25.

By Thursday, Brent Crude continued to regain recent losses, being up US$ 0.97 (1.8%) to close on US$ 55.86, with gold higher (US$ 37) at US$ 1,290 by 13 April 2017.

On Tuesday, Toshiba finally posted its long awaited nine months’ unaudited results to 31 December 2016, indicating a US$ 4.9 billion loss, with the company warning that its future survival was at risk; there is a chance that this deficit could more than double by the 31 March year end as its write-downs from its US nuclear unit Westinghouse Electric become clearer. It is reported that Broadcom, Foxconn and Hynix are interested in the company’s memory chip business that could be valued at US$ 27.6 billion, whilst Turkey’s Vestel is in discussions relating to the sale of its television division.

BMW recorded its best ever March figure, with a year on year jump of 5.9% to 225k vehicles, as Q1 sales increased to 587k units. Of that total, 503k came from the BMW brand, with the balance emanating from its ancillary brands, including the Mini and Rolls Royce.

With its former disgraced chief, John Stumpf, returning US$ 28 million and Carrie Tolstedt, head of the Community Bank division, losing US$ 47 million of share options, Wells Fargo has reclaimed a further US$ 75 million following the scandal, involving two million fake accounts; in total the two, who had resigned, have now repaid US$ 136 million. US authorities fined the bank US$ 185 million, for “widespread illegal activity” and it also had to pay customers a further US$ 110 million to settle various lawsuits. Nevertheless the bank still reported flat Q1 profit at US$ 5.5 billion.

JP Morgan Chase had a stellar Q1, with profits 17.3% higher at US$ 6.45 billion as revenue climbed 6.0% to US$ 24.7 billion, driven by higher interest rates, increased trading activity and a 28.0% fall in provisions for credit losses to US$ 1.3 billion. There were similar results from Citi, with a 17.0% lift in profits to US$ 4.1 billion, as revenue edged 3% higher to US$ 18.1 billion.

The BBC has been busy investigating two possible financial scandals. The first involves Shell’s activity in Nigeria some seven years ago, where it is claimed that top executives were aware of money being paid to the government being passed to a convicted money launderer; former oil minister, Dan Etete, then allegedly used these funds to pay political bribes. The case involved an oil field, with estimated reserves of nine billion barrels, for which Shell and the Italian oil company ENI acquired rights, having paid US$ 1.3 billion to the government; over US$ 1 billion was then forwarded to Malabu, a company controlled by Mr Etete.

The other implicates the Bank of England who reportedly pressured commercial banks back in 2008 to move their Libor rates down. In a recording, it seems a senior Barclays manager instructed a Libor submitter to lower his Libor rates, claiming that there was “some very serious pressure from the UK government and the Bank of England about pushing our Libors lower.”

The Chief Executive of Barclays, Jes Staley is in trouble for trying to discover the identity of a whistleblower, within the bank, via its internal investigation term. Barclays’ deputy chairman has investigated the case, following which the CE will lose his annual bonus, totalling US$ 1.6 million, and be issued a formal written reprimand for making “an honest but serious mistake”. Regulators are now looking at the case and they will probably take more extreme action, as whistelblowers need to be encouraged as a key element in the war against corruption – and not picked on and hounded by the likes of Mr Staley.

UK’s largest retailer, Tesco recorded its first increase of 4.3% in annual sales (at US$ 62.3 billion) for seven years, as operating profit surged 30.0% to US$ 1.6 billion. However, because of other factors, including a US$ 161 million fine (in relation to its 2014 profits scandal) by the Serious Fraud Office and other probes, pre-tax profits fell 28.0% to US$ 180 million.

The UK High Street is set to lose another famous brand, as the 133-year Jaeger goes into administration. The fashion chain has 46 stores and 63 concessions and there has been no buyer at a selling price of US$ 37 million – an indicator of the dismal trading conditions, especially since the fall in sterling.

The first ever rail freight service between UK and China left Essex this week on a 17-day, 7.5k km journey ending in Zhejiang province. The DP World locomotive, carrying 30 containers, is expected to arrive on 27 April; the operators claim that the cost is cheaper than air and quicker than sea.

The March UK inflation rate remained at 2.3%, month on month, but is significantly higher than the 0.5% rate of March 2016, resulting from the fall in sterling and higher fuel costs. With this level above the Bank of England’s 2.0% target, it seems likely that a rate hike is on the cards despite wage growth remaining weak, having slowed to 2.1% over the past quarter. With spending power also dipping, it was no surprise to see retail sales falling the most in over six years.

Latest reports show that Australian home prices – in their five biggest cities – continue to head northwards, with an average 3.8% increase already this year; both Sydney (with 5.6%) and Melbourne’s 4.6% both now defying gravity. Only Perth, with a 2.5% fall, was in negative territory. It is inevitable that prices are far too high for the Australian economy and it is highly likely that the property bubble will start deflating later in the year, as rising mortgage rates and increased supply start to hit home.

The Bank of Japan confirmed the continuance of its massive QE programme, as the economy still only shows a moderate recovery; the stimulus package is set to continue until the country’s inflation level nears 2%. Its February trade surplus stood at US$ 25.4 billion, slightly less than market expectations but showed a 18.2% hike over the year. However, there was marked weakening in the country’s current economic assessment that fell to 47.4 in March – lower than the 49.8 forecast and down on the previous month’ return of 48.6.

There was some positive new emanating from two leading global authorities. The WTO forecast a rebound in global trade by 2.4% this year (1.3% in 2016) and between 2.1% – 4.0% in 2018 but warned that that this could be undermined if certain countries curtailed trade for political and their own national interests. Other potential hurdles could result from higher interest rates and tighter fiscal policies.

IMF’s Christine Lagarde is bullish on the global recovery with the one proviso – the shadow of protectionism rearing its ugly head. After six years of sluggish growth, momentum is gathering with stronger manufacturing activity, more jobs, higher incomes and greater prosperity for the global economy. (However, weak productivity is still a universal drag factor with the French chief indicating that if growth had followed its pre-GFC levels, the overall GDP in advanced economies would be a significant 5% higher).

This year, Dubai has moved inexorably between a late winter and an early summer. One can only hope that both the global and local economies move likewise and the inevitable turnaround occurs earlier than many analysts expect. This year, Dubai could be the place to be In The Summertime.

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