Orange Juice Blues

HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum toured the site of The Tower at Dubai Creek Harbour  which, when completed in 2020, will dwarf the Burj Khalifa by 100 mt. Already the foundation work has been completed, whilst the anchorages for the stay cables are in progress. The project will have minimal residential and leisure features but will have a 360 degree viewing deck, with fully glazed rotating balconies that extend outward from the tower’s main frame.

Following a major fire last August, developer SKAI has announced that 40% of its Viceroy Dubai Jumeirah Village hotel and residences is now complete. The US$ 349 million, 60-storey tower, encompassing 247 hotel rooms and 254 hotel apartments, is still scheduled to open by the end of 2018.

MAG Property Development has appointed Parsons to design and supervise its US$ 1.1 billion District 7 project in Meydan City. The US company will be responsible for a development that includes 35 residential buildings, retail / commercial space and a clubhouse.

Initial work has started on HNI Clients Real Estate’s six-tower project in JVC, to be built by Ghantoot Gulf Contracting Company. The 100k sq ft, US$ 112 million development of 772 apartments will be completed by the end of next year.

Al Thuriah Properties has completed the construction of its US$ 80 million, 33-storey Sahara 4 Towers. Located on the border with Sharjah, handover of the 300 apartments has already started.

With office space in non-prime areas having up to 30% vacancy levels and showing flat or reduced rental returns, it appears that the Grade A builds, in the better locations of Downtown, SZR and Tecom, are performing much better. According to CBRE, there are a number of international firms relocating to Dubai, from within the region, as well as existing local companies moving to better properties.  Growth in prime office supply will be limited until early 2019 and then the floodgates will open, led by the ICD Brookfield tower, introducing 1 million sq ft in DIFC to the market.

An E&Y report will confound the growing number of doom and gloom merchants, with news that Dubai hotels not only have the highest occupancy rate at 88% but also the highest revenue per average room of US$ 273 – 18.7% higher than in April 2016.

Financed by a US$ 5 million investment from the likes of DCCI, du, and the EITC, the Dubai Smart City Accelerator has been established. Operated by Startupbootcamp, the three-year programme will help 40 selected start-ups with office space, consultancy and access to US$ 20k cash – in return for just 6% equity.

According to HE Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansouri, federal Minister of Economy, the Dubai Islamic Economic Development Centre has already attained 75% of its targets to make the emirate the global capital for Islamic finance. Earlier in the year, its latest 2017-2021 strategy was released, with three key pillars being Islamic finance, the Halal sector and Islamic lifestyle, including art, culture, fashion and Islamic tourism.

Saturday was the first day for the sale of the Dubai Lamp – a collaboration between Dutch company Philips and Dubai Municipality. The lamp is the most energy efficient light bulb ever made – with a 90% energy reduction – and use of it could save Dubai consumers US$ 545 annually off their DEWA bills.

Canadian Solar Inc has been selected as the sole modular supplier to provide 268 MW of double glass Dymond modules for phase 1 of the Mohammed bin Rashid Solar Park. Upon completion by 2020, the three phases of the project will require 800k modules.

Ground-breaking has occurred for Patchi’s new chocolate manufacturing facility, covering 122 sq mt, in Dubai Industrial Park. The new factory, also housing the company’s HQ and 3k sq mt warehouse, will open by Q4 2018.

MAF has announced a ten year business plan, with the retail developer investing US$ 8.1 billion in the country, introducing new facilities and expanding existing assets. The development will see a new Dubai regional mall, as part of a mixed use development, as well as ten new shopping malls under its City Centre branding. Over the next ten years, MAF will add 170k direct/indirect jobs, as it more than doubles its retail space to 1.5 million sq mt

The National Industries Park is the location for MAF’s new regional distribution centre which is expected to save over 50% energy per cu mt, with its enhanced warehousing, storage, and logistics technologies.

Dubai Maritime City Authority is reportedly considering the establishment of a US$ 1 billion fund to provide financial investment for Dubai-based firms, with the prime aim of developing the local maritime sector. Initial details are sketchy but the financing could come from a combination of state-owned banks and private investors.

To finance the first phase of the15 km new Metro line to the Expo 2020 site, the Dubai government is expected to be in the market for a US$ 500 million loan facility for a project that will probably require financing of around US$ 2.8 billion. Earlier in the year, US$ 3 billion was raised for expansion work on both of Dubai’s airports.

United Airlines has terminated both its ticketing and baggage interline agreements with both Dubai airlines but its impact is likely to be minimal. Emirates has several codeshare arrangements, with the likes of Alaska Airlines and JetBlue, and interline deals with other US carriers.

By the end of April, Dubai International had seen YTD passenger traffic grow by 7.9% to 30.1 million, with April numbers up 9.0% at 7.6 million. The airport also posted gains in cargo traffic – 1.9% higher to 218k tonnes in the month.

Dubai Airport Freezone Authority posted a 7.0% jump in Q1 sales revenue, on the back of a 31% hike in the number of registered companies; at the same time, it has already attained 62% of its total 2017 sales forecast.

JAFZA reported that it added a further 122 new companies to its register in Q1, 55% of which are from the ME region.

The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority reported that Q1 mobile phone usage in the country has risen to 228 phones per 100 people, with a total number of subscriptions standing at 19.8 million.

June fuel prices are set to fall with Special 95 down 2.6% to US$ 0.504 per litre, with diesel 3.6% lower at US$ 0.518.

Moody’s has upgraded the country’s creditworthiness and is now forecasting UAE growth this year of 1.7% (down from the 2.7% level in 2016). As oil prices start to slowly recover, the agency estimates that the 2017 government deficit will fall to 1.9% of GDP, compared to 3.9% the previous year.

Smart Exchange, with only six branches in the country, has been closed down by the Central Bank following numerous complaints of irregularities and non-transfer of monies, ranging from US$ 272 to US$ 13.6k, to overseas locations. It is thought that because of the need for the country’s 65 exchange bureaux to lodge a bank guarantee with the authorities, customers should get their money returned.

It is reported that the Australian-Indian founder of Pacific Controls, Dilip Rahulan has been jailed for three years in absentia.  The case involved issuing two personal cheques totalling US $ 5.9 million “in bad faith” that were returned due to insufficient funds. The 33-year old tech company, once the doyen of the environmentally friendly sector, has had cash flow problems for some time and last year it seems that it was in discussions with banks over debts of some US$ 380 million.

The country’s 23 local banks reported a 9.4% April increase in assets to US$ 62.4 billion, whilst the 35 international institutions posted a 6.5% fall to US$ 101.4 billion. The same trend was seen with credit provided by local banks up 7.6% to US$ 383.8 billion, as overseas banks drifted 9.3% lower to US$ 51.9 billion.

Dubai International Financial Centre’s recently launched FinTech accelerator has already attracted over 100 international companies keen to make use of the chance of highlighting their work in front of possible investors. FinTech Hive at DIFC, in conjunction with Accenture, aims to introduce world class ventures to Dubai to further enhance the region’s financial services industry.

Emirates NBD’s new real estate investment trust has paid US$ 33 million for Dubai’s first purpose-built student accommodation block – a 424-bedroom building, located close to Dubai Academic City. The 7-year sale-and-leaseback agreement, with Global Student Accommodation, brings the value of the bank’s trust portfolio to US$ 349 million.

It is reported that Dubai-based Aster DM Healthcare is considering a 10% capital float later in the year, with the preferred bourse being either London or Mumbai. Money raised will be used for new projects in Saudi Arabia and India, further possible mergers and debt repayment.

With former CEO, Raed Kajoor Al Nuaimi, moving to a new position to manage development projects for Dubai Holding and Meraas Holding, the new incumbent to run DXB Entertainments will be Mohamed Al Mulla.

Drake and Scull International confirmed that it is continuing discussions with all its stakeholders, including banks. The troubled Dubai-listed construction firm is reportedly expecting to have access to US$ 272 million over the next four years, as it chips away to reduce its debt balance.

The DFM opened Sunday at 3327 and traded 0.8% higher this week – closing on Thursday, 01 June, at 3352. Volumes improved noticeably, closing on Thursday at 615 million shares, valued at US$ 243 million, (cf 215 million shares for US$ 74 million, the previous Thursday). Emaar Properties dropped US$ 0.01 to US$ 1.96, whilst Arabtec nudged US$ 0.01 higher to US$ 0.21. For the month of May, the bourse lost 76 points having started May at 3415 to close on 31 May at 3339, with both Emaar and Arabtec down for the month by US$ 0.02 to US$ 1.96 and US$ 0.02 to US$ 0.21.

By Thursday, Brent Crude, having nearly touched US$ 55 two weeks ago, traded down again this week by US$ 0.83 (2.0%) to US$ 50.63, with gold again heading the other way gaining US$ 14 to US$ 1,270 by 01 June 2017. Over the month, Brent traded US$ 1.13 lower to US$ 50.76, whilst the yellow metal moved up US$ 7 to US$ 1,275.

There are several companies, including CVC Capital Partners and Investindustrial, interested in acquiring Body Shop from L’Oreal. A surprise late entrant for the proposed auction, that could raise US$ 780 million, is the Chinese healthcare company, Renhe Pharmacy Co.

On Tuesday, one Amazon share reached the landmark US$ 1,000, having listed in May 1997 at US$ 18. Its market cap is now at US$ 478 billion, making it the 4th most valuable US company behind Apple, Alphabet and Microsoft. It is estimated that the former book-selling company now accounts for about 43% of all US online sales.

After several failed attempts to acquire Akko Nobel, the last being a  US$ 29.7 billion offer, the US paints and coating maker, PPG Industries, has finally seen the light and given up.

United Airlines has terminated both its ticketing and baggage interline agreements with both Dubai airlines but its impact is likely to be minimal. Emirates has several codeshare arrangements, with the likes of Alaska Airlines and JetBlue, and interline with other US carriers.

1.4k investors in Ingenious, involved in a controversial film-funding scheme, are facing a tax bill of nearly US$ 1 billion. The UK’s HMRC has won a case claiming that it was a means of avoiding tax rather than one of supporting films, such as Life of Pi and Avatar, and a tax break claiming 100% tax relief (and not the usual 30%). Among those caught include footballers Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard and Gary Lineker.

BA may be hit with a bill of up to US$ 130 million on the back of a disastrous bank holiday weekend that saw all flights in and out of their two London airports cancelled. A catastrophic IT failure resulted in the airline’s computer systems failing, with a blame game now in full swing. Chief executive, Alex Cruz, has ruled out a cyber-attack (which had been the cause of the NHS shutdown earlier in the month) indicating the cause to be a “power supply issue”; he also reiterated that the move of 600 IT jobs to India had no bearing on the shutdown. By Tuesday, the market value of IAG, BA’s ultimate owner, had fallen by US$ 630 million, as its share value dropped by over 4% on the first day of trading after the Bank Holiday.

IAG hopes to have better luck with the launch of Level, its new budget airline which will initially fly out of Barcelona to three trans-Atlantic destinations – Buenos Aires, Punta Cana (Dominican Republic) and San Francisco. With one-way prices starting at US$ 125, it is little wonder that 100k tickets have already been sold. However, it will have much to do to catch up with the likes of Norwegian.

In the twelve weeks to 21 May, UK grocery inflation reached 2.9% and grocery sales rose by 3.8%, its highest level in almost four years. As has often been the case, the big winners were the German discount stores of Aldi and Lidl which posted impressive 19.8% and 18.3% increases in turnover, compared to an average 1.6% hike by the Big 4 – Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons.

Sberbank posted a record quarterly profit on the back of cheaper funding and reduced management risk costs. Russia’s largest bank, which holds 33% of the country’s banking deposits, reported a Q1 profit of US$ 2.7 billion.

In a bid to raise an extra US$ 3.0 billion for the coffers, the West Australian government may make the country’s two commodity giants, Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton, pay out a one-off iron ore levy (instead of paying a lease rent of US$ 0.18 per tonne).This comes after tax revenue has been badly impacted by the slump in commodity prices, leaving the state government with a debt of over US$ 22.5 billion.

Q1 growth in the Indian economy dipped to an annualised 6.1% compared to 7.0% the previous quarter, as annual growth in the financial year to March 2017 slowed to 7.1%, compared to 8.0% a year earlier. The main reason for the fall was the Modi government’s November withdrawal of 500 and 1k rupee banknotes, effectively removing 86% of the currency out of circulation.

It seems that Greece wants to have its cake and eat it, as Finance Minister, Euclid Tsakalotos, indicated that there are no excuses for his country not to receive the next US$ 8.3 billion tranche of its bailout payment from the EU/IMF.  The Greek government has passed a series of austerity measures, that includes pension cuts and tax reform, and seems to think that it has carried out its side of the bargain. However, Germany does not agree with the IMF about whether the Hellenic country should have its total debt reduced yet again. If no agreement is made before the 15 June deadline, it may have to opt out of a July loan repayment.

There was some good European news on the unemployment front with falls reported in April. The eurozone reported its lowest figure – at 9.3% – in over eight years, with the EU posting a decline to 7.8%, its lowest since December 2008. Germany witnessed even better figures as its jobless rate declined to 5.7%, a new record low since the 1990 reunification.

However it was not all good news for Angela Merkel, as April retail sales slipped to 0.9% year on year following a March return of 2.9%.

Since the start of the year, the Japanese economy has been showing signs of improvement. Positive indicators include Q1 capital spending up 4.5% (following a 3.8% hike in Q4) and the latest manufacturing PMI for May up four notches to 53.1 from a month earlier, driven by rising output and new orders. Both company sales and profits headed north in Q1 by 2.0% to 5.6% and 9.7% to an impressive 26.6% respectively.

Although 14% higher than a year earlier, Chinese industrial firms saw April profit figures, at US$ 83.6 billion, lower than the 23.8% level attained a month earlier; for the first four months of 2017, the total profit figure of US$ 332.7 billion was 24.4% higher than the same period last year. The impressive start to the year, including a 6.9% Q1 growth figure, is not expected to continue, with rising debt becoming a major concern for the authorities.

Brazil has come out of recession after a two-year spell that saw the economy contract by more than 8% and bedeviled by continuing political and corporate scandals. However, the Q1 0.5% expansion figure could be a temporary blip and the country – with a record 14 million unemployed, social unrest and uncertainty about the future of current president, Michel Temer – could soon return to negative growth.

Brazil has yet again been rocked by another scandal – JBS, the world’s largest meat-packing company, has agreed to pay a whopping US$ 3.4 billion fine following a corruption probe involving hush-money payments being made to nearly 1.9k Brazilian politicians, in return for economic favours.

And if that was not enough trouble for the South American country, it is facing problems with its orange industry as a result of changing breakfast habits in other parts of the world and a falling rial. Brazil is the global leader for both oranges and orange juice, producing a third of the world’s oranges and more than half of its orange juice; it has the added problem of relying too much on exports, with 95% of all production shipped overseas. For example, the UK consumption of orange juice, over the past four years, has fallen by 100 million litres – at a time when the demand for coconut water has risen by 80 million litres. Another reason for Brazil to have the Orange Juice Blues!

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