Quit Playin’ Games

Dubai Investments Real Estate Company plans to soon launch Nasayem Avenue, the second and centrepiece cluster of its US$ 817 million Mirdif Hills project; the whole  development, covering 3.9 million sq ft and housing 1.05k residential units, a 4-star hotel and a 230-bed hospital, is due for completion by the end of 2018.

Dubai tourism’s strong start to the year was confirmed with latest Q1 figures showing that the emirate received more than 11% more visitors, bringing its total to an impressive 4.57 million; this was more than double the growth reported in the same quarter last year. With free visas on arrival, the numbers were boosted by massive increases from Russian and Chinese tourists – up 64% to 230k and 106% to 126k respectively. The top three positions saw no change with India, Saudi Arabia and the UK accounting for 30% of total visitors.

As the ATM (Arabian Travel Mart) gets into full swing there have been a raft of announcements about the need of a further 40k extra rooms to bring Dubai’s total inventory to almost 150k by the start of Expo.

Damac is to cash in on the Trump brand by building a five-tower hotel project on the golf course, bearing his name, at Akoya Oxygen. Off-plan hotel room units will go on sale at this week’s ATM, with prices starting at US$ 106k – a lot less than the rooms being sold last year for US$ 216k in its SZR Aykon project. The developer will see two hotels – Damac Maison Royale The Distinction and Damac Maison Bay’s Edge – open this year, adding a further 555 keys.

The First Group intends to open four properties by 2020 – Millennium Place in Business Bay, Millennium Place at Jumeirah Triangle Village, The One at Dubai Marina and Ramada Plaza in Jumeirah Circle.

Nakheel broke ground on a US$ 65 million, 375-room AVANI-branded property at Ibn Battuta; it is targeting a portfolio of 5.8k rooms and serviced apartments by 2020.

AccorHotels is to introduce a new brand – Mama Shelter – to Dubai, with a 200-key property in Business Bay, adjacent to Dubai Water Canal, due to open in 2020.

Emaar Hospitality has announced five new Dubai ventures – two under its Address banner (a 202-key hotel and 741 serviced residences) and a Vida hotel at Dubai Creek Harbour. The developer will also build a Vida hotel and Vida Residences in Dubai Marina and has already opened three of its Rove hotels since last August, with another seven in the pipeline.

MAF has indicated that the opening of its 304-key Marriott branded Aloft Dubai CityCentre will be the region’s first cinema-themed hotel concept. The development, set for completion early next year, will feature a cinematic themed floor with 25 rooms and four suites.

The UAE continues to head the GCC media advertising spend, accounting for 46% of the total (US$ 409 million), with Saudi Arabia’s US$ 220 million and Kuwait’s US$ 191 million trailing behind. Of that total, newspapers continued to head the sector spends at US$ 162 million, followed by outdoor and radio with US$ 106 million and US$ 79 million.

Next March, Qantas will no longer fly from Melbourne to London, via Dubai, as it will take advantage of its new direct 14.5k km, 17 hour route via Perth; this change will save Melbourne passengers only an hour, with Dubai losing the chance to entertain transit passengers.

It seems that there could be more collaboration between Dubai’s two airlines – Emirates and flydubai – in the wake of increasing turbulence in the global aviation sector. HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum has pointed to the possibility of greater “synergies” in terms of routes and fleet.

Dubai Aerospace Enterprise has reportedly signed an agreement to take over 100% of global aircraft leasing company, AWAS – a company with a 263-unit fleet. If the sale goes through, the new entity will have almost 400 planes, with a value of US$ 14 billion, serving 110 airlines in 55 countries.

DP World handled 5.7% more TEUs (20’ equivalent units), with a total of 16.4 million, as container volumes on a like for like basis grew by 5.0%, compared to industry estimates of 2.6%. In its own port, there was a 1.8% year on year increase to 3.7 million TEUs.

There is every chance of Union Properties will list its Emirates District Cooling Company on the local bourse later in the year.

The investment arm of the Dubai government, Dubal Holding, posted a 10.0% jump in annual 2016 profits to US$ 283 million, as its current net assets totalled US$ 5.1 billion. The company is studying several investment possibilities in various countries, including Australia, Canada, Chile and the US, mainly in the commodities and mining sectors.

Nakheel posted similar Q1 profits as last year with a return of US$ 403 million. During the quarter, the developer handed over only 412 units but announced a raft of construction contracts worth nearly US$ 1.4 billion, with a further US$ 1.1 billion due in Q2.

Although quarterly revenue was up 2.5% to US$ 864 million, Du posted a disappointing 24.0% slump in net profit, after royalty of US$ 99 million. Government charges continue to hurt the country’s second biggest telecom but the company is expecting to save over US$ 272 million by next year, on the back of cost cutting measures. Meanwhile, Etisalat reported that its Q1 profit, after royalty payment, jumped 5.0% to US$ 572 million, with revenue totalling US$ 3.4 billion.

The DFM opened Monday at 3470 and, having shed 57 points the previous week, continued its losing way – down another 53 points – to end the week 1.6% lower by Thursday (27 April) at 3417. Volumes continue to disappoint, closing on Thursday at 256 million shares, valued at US$ 94 million, (cf 278 million shares for US$ 97 million, the previous Thursday). Emaar Properties lost US$ 0.06 to US$ 1.96, whilst Arabtec is still struggling, closing flat at US$ 0.24.

By Thursday, Brent Crude, having lost 5.7% (US$ 3.27) the previous week, shed another 2.1% (US$ 1.13) to close on US$ 51.46, with gold also lower (US$ 18) at US$ 1,266 by 27 April 2017.

The recent downward pressure on oil prices has not been helped by a rebound of some 500k bpd from US shale output, as their costs halve and mainline producers implement quota cuts. This will have a negative impact on prices in the short-term but the marked reduction in exploration and capital investment over the past two years will inevitably lead to higher prices in the medium to long term.

After filing a case in the London Court of International Arbitration, against the embattled Malaysian investment fund 1MDB, Abu Dhabi’s IPIC (International Petroleum Investment Co) has agreed a settlement. It involves a cash settlement of US$ 1.2 billion to be paid by the end of the year as well as to “assume responsibility for all future interest and principal payments” on two US$1.75 billion bonds. The fund, set up in 2009 by the Malaysian government to develop its economy, has been bedevilled by claims of money laundering and global embezzlement, with investigations still taking place in Luxembourg, Singapore, Switzerland and the US.

VW hopes to draw a line over its long-running US diesel emission scandal; this week, its final criminal penalty, at US$ 2.8 billion, was announced, along with the German carmaker’ earlier agreement to pay US$ 1.5 billion to resolve other issues. Furthermore, it is expected that it will have to find US$ 11 billion for compensation to many of the 600k car users affected by the fraud.

Chevron expressed “disappointment” after losing a High Court appeal against the Australian Tax Office for discrepancies found between 2004 – 2008. The petroleum giant will have to pay an estimated US$ 300 million in taxes and penalties.

Ericsson has posted its first ever quarterly loss (of US$ 1.2 billion), driven by restructuring costs and write-downs, compared to a US$ 230 million profit over the same period in 2016. The Swedish company has been hit by increased competition from the likes of Finland’s Nokia and China’s Huawei.

PPG Industries hope it will be third time lucky as it launches another attempt to take over Dutch paint rival Akzo Nobel, raising its latest offer to US$ 22.8 billion. The American company, behind the Johnstone’s Paints brand, is keen to buy out its rival, which acquired ICI nine years ago, and has vowed to maintain both Azko Nobel’s marine and protective coatings business in Europe.

Several private equity firms, including Advent International, Bain Capital and CVC Partners, are interested in buying out Shop Direct.  The company, owned by the reclusive Barclay twins, owns the Littlewoods and Very brands, and was one of the few retail groups to post favourable Christmas sales – with revenue 9% higher to the seven weeks prior to the festive holiday period.

Bernard Arnault, France’s richest person with a US$ 51 billion fortune,   has made a US$ 10 billion offer to combine his luxury firm, LVMH, and the Christian Dior fashion house, of which he is the main shareholder. The deal will see the magnate take up the remaining Dior shares that he does not own, as well as pay US$ 6.9 billion for Christian Dior Couture. The market appreciated the news with Dior shares up by 11% and LVMH by 5.4%.

Ahead of an announcement that seemed to indicate the distinct possibility that Jimmy Choo could be for sale, the luxury brand had a market cap of US$ 826 million. When the news was released, the shares rocketed by almost 10%. The company went public in October 2014, at a value of US$ 688 million, and any sale now would prove profitable for its 68% shareholder, JAB Luxury, and other stakeholders.

Following Emmanuel Macron’s victory over Marine Le Pen in the first round of the French election, the markets reacted positively, with the French CAC Index 3.76% higher on Monday morning. A sign of the times witnessed no main party candidate (including centre-right François Fillon and hard-left Jean-Luc Mélenchon) making the second round for the first time in nearly 60 years.

Japan posted impressive February economic data with most indicators heading north as the Bank of Japan revised its 2017 growth forecast up a notch to 1.6%. Its all industry activity index jumped 0.7% month on month, driven by a 3.2% hike in industrial production. However, it lowered its CPI forecast to 1.4% but indicated that it will do “whatever it will take” to ensure that inflation reaches the target of 2.0%.

A February seasonally adjusted balance of US$ 41.2 billion – up 45.2% on the month – saw the euro area current account surplus reaching its highest ever level. On an annual basis, the cumulative 12-month balance came in at US$ 392 billion – equivalent to 3.4% of the bloc’s GDP (compared to 3.2% a year earlier). Meanwhile April’s IHS Markit flash composite output index, at 56.7, reached a six-year high, buoyed by both manufacturing and services growth movements; the two major PMI indices both moved two notches higher – factory to 56.8 and services to 56.2

With March imports rising at a quicker rate than exports – 20.3% v 16.4% – it was no surprise that China’s trade surplus was lower at US$ 23.9 billion; this followed the first monthly deficit in over three years – the previous was in February, when imports had surged by 38.1% and exports fell 1.3%.

Following a March blip, US home sales bounced back this month with a 4.4% hike to an annual total of 5.71 million – its highest level in a decade and double of the market’s 2.2% expectations. Median house prices, at US$ 236k, were 6.8% higher on an annual basis and 3.6% up on the previous month. At the end of March, there were 1.83 million US homes for sale, with the unsold inventory equal to 3.8 months of supply.

After proposing a move to cut business tax from 35% to 15%, the Trump administration witnessed a dramatic slowdown in the US economy; the published Q1 0.7% was the slowest quarterly hike in three years. However, the news should be taken with some caution – consumer spending was stagnant as vehicle sales fell from a near record high the previous quarter (e.g. Ford announced a 35% dip in net income to US$ 1.5 billion), inflation is in check, the job market continues in rude health and the latest PMIs indicate better times ahead.

In a move that seems to be placating the US president and his “America First” policy, the IMF has dropped a pledge to fight trade protectionism saying that it would “work together” to reduce global trade and current account imbalance “through appropriate policies”. This comes less than a week after the world body warned that protectionist policies would choke off improving global growth.

The on-going trade dispute between the US and Canada came to a head this week with Trump’s Commerce Department slapping an overall 20% tariff on Canadian softwood lumber. The claim is that the Canadians are improperly subsidising their lumber trade by charging minimal fees to log public lands.  In 2016, exports of softwood to their neighbours were valued at US$ 5.6 billion.

It is reported that French prosecutors are looking into how FIFA came to award the next two World Cups to Russia and Qatar. The world body is still reeling from its near-collapse in 2015 which saw most of its senior management named and shamed out of the game they ruled like a medieval fiefdom. Over the past two years, the UK’s HMRC has collected US$ 190 million in extra tax from the football industry with reports that some 180 EPL players now use private companies, offshore structures and other legal / illegal vehicles to cut millions of US$ from their tax bills. This week, the UK tax authorities have raided offices of West Ham and Newcastle United, making arrests whilst seizing financial records, computers and mobile phones.

It is about time certain people realise that football is being spoilt by the actions of a greedy and often fraudulent minority and it’s time for them to Quit Playin’ Games! 

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