The Ground Beneath Her Feet!

According to the latest Global Capital Partners-Reidin study, off-plan sales surged 58.2% to 7.2k for the first five months of 2017. The three more popular locations were Dubai South up 613.5% to 528 units, JVC (169.8% to 342) and Dubai Creek Harbour (224.2% to 632). In the more established areas, such as Dubai Marina and Downtown, growth was somewhat subdued, with increases of 120.0% to 608 and 60.9% to 820 units. The two main drivers behind this resurgence seem to be improved payment plans and other incentives. The report estimates that 2017 handovers at 15k will be 1k less than last year which seems to be more probable than the 30k figure, espoused by some consultancies earlier in the year.

A June ValuStrat report estimates that current residential prices are still 14.2% off their 2014 highs although, as expected, some locations are performing better than others. 25% of all locations are within 10% off from their value three years ago, with Motor City only 1% shy of that target. At the other end of the scale, apartment prices in Dubai Marina, JBR and JLT are up to 28% lower on 2014 peaks.

The Shaikhani Group has handed over a further 100 apartments of its US$ 41 million, 15-storey Champions Tower 1. The Dubai-based group has five projects that are under construction, three of which are in Dubai Sports City, and in total expect to add 2.1k units to Dubai’s property portfolio by 2020.

Dubai Investments Real Estate Company has advised that preparation work on phase 1 of its US$ 817 million Mirdif Hills project is now complete. The 1k+ apartments – in three components, Janayen Avenue, Nasayem Avenue and Al Multaqa Avenue – will be ready within 18 months.

Al Qandeel Contracting Company has been awarded a US$ 32 million contract by Azizi Developments, as part of its Aura project in Downtown Jebel Ali. The project – encompassing 479 (studio – 2 bedroom) units, retail space and health club – is already 57% sold.

wasl Topaz is to build 90 apartments in one of Dubai’s older districts – Umm Hurair. The revamp will also include other community amenities, such as additional retail space, gyms and a swimming pool.

The foundation has been laid for the emirate’s first fully fledged water homes on the Dubai Water Canal. Using Dutch technology, known as Seaflex, Dubai Properties, the developer, will use a mooring technology that ebbs and flows with the tides. No financial details were given about the 100 homes that are to be built but prices could top US$ 1k per sq ft. An official launch is expected later in the year, with a building time of two years.

Dubai is well on its way to achieve its target of 500k medical tourists by 2020, with 2016 returns 9.5% higher at 327k, bringing in revenue for the emirate of US$ 387 million.

Staying on the topic of health, the country wants to enhance its position as a global leader in the healthcare and pharmaceutical sector by doubling the number of related factories by 2021. It is aiming for a 39% hike in the current number of major pharmaceutical firms to 75 and a doubling of drugs manufacturing factories to 34 over the next four years. There is no doubt that the market is ripe for investment when the 2016 market value spend on drugs is expected to jump by 36.6% to US$ 3.6 billion by 2020.

Ahmad Buamin, the GM of DCCI, estimates the size of the region’s e-commerce market to top US$ 41.5 billion as yet again Dubai paves the way, with a 55% market share, followed a long way behind by Saudi Arabia (14%) and Oman (12%). He also expects that over the next eight years, 19% of the forecast US$ 4.3 trillion global retail sales will be done on-line.

DEWA has signed a US$ 463 million, 12-year deal with Siemens that will see the German company responsible for the utility’s operating plant services. It will also include maintenance and spare parts at specified power stations within the emirate.

France’s EDF has won the US$ 16 million DEWA consultancy contract for the hydroelectric station in Hatta. This is the first of its kind in the Gulf and is expected to last up to 80 years. The authority will build the power station to generate electricity that can be connected to the grid, making use of up to 1,716 million gallons, stored in the Hatta dam, and a newly built reservoir above the dam capable of holding 880 million gallons.

The Masdar/EDF consortium has successfully arranged financing for phase 3 of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park. The 16 sq km 800 MW photovoltaic  plant, the largest global single site solar park, is being developed in three phases – 200 MW by 2018, 300 MW (2019) and the final 300 MW a year later. On completion, it will generate 2.5 million megawatt hours every year.

Following last December’s first tranche for US$ 350 million financing, local ride-hailing app Careem has successfully raised a further US$ 150 million from investors such as Coates, Daimler, DCM, and Kingdom Holding; the latter, headed by Prince Waleed bin Talal, has also acquired a further stake by buying The Abraaj Group’s shareholding; this brings its total shareholding to 7%, currently valued at US$ 62 million. Some analysts estimate the Dubai company could now be worth up to US$ 1.5 billion!

Further to the latest Emirates NBD Economic Tracker Index, Dubai’s construction sector is on the move up, touching 56.2 in May, although the seasonally adjusted index fell from its two-year April high of 57.7 to 55.0. Other sub-sectors impressed including wholesale/retail (55.5) and travel/tourism (54.2).

The country’s first residential estate investment trust, launched in February 2017, is looking to go public next year. The initial seven-year old REIT, floated in 2014 by Equitiva, has seen its portfolio grow 21%, year on year, and expects rental income to top US$ 50 million this year.

The DFM opened Sunday at 3400 and traded 1.4% higher this eventful week – closing on Thursday – 15 June – at 3459. Volumes were lower, closing on Thursday at 565 million shares, valued at US$ 132 million, (cf 615 million shares for US$ 243 million, the previous Thursday). Emaar Properties, increased by a further US$ 0.11 (as it did the previous week) to US$ 2.18, whilst Arabtec also remained flat at US$ 0.21.

By Thursday, Brent Crude, having shed 7.5% the previous two weeks, traded down again US$ 0.98 (2.0%) to US$ 46.88, with gold losing US$ 25 to US$ 1,255 by 15 June 2017. The growing US output appears to be taking up the slack from the recent OPEC production quota cuts which are weighing heavily on downward prices.

The world’s biggest gaming trade show, E3, opened its doors on Tuesday in Los Angeles, although some high profile game studios – such as Microsoft and Sony – hold events earlier. For the first time in its 24-year history, the industry-only event will allow 15k game fans to attend the conference showcasing the latest games.

With its acquisition of Google’s Alphabet robot-maker Boston Dynamics for an undisclosed amount, Softbank’s shares in Tokyo climbed 7% to its highest level in almost twenty years. The Japanese conglomerate, founded by Masayoshi Son, has also bought robotics group Schaft.

For a company yet to turn in a profit, Uber has an impressive market value of US$ 68 billion. Following a report into the company, that still is privately owned with voting controlled by its Chief Executive Travis Kalanick and two other board members, its senior Vice President Emil Michael has left the car riding firm; a former US Attorney General was asked to investigate the company’s culture and practices following high profile incidents involving sexual harassment, discrimination and staff bullying, as well as looking at procedures involving spending and human resources. Kalanick is now to take time away and may even return to a lesser role in the organisation. Uber has to take stock of the situation and take urgent action before the unthinkable happens.

To cover its mega losses in its US nuclear division, Westinghouse Electric, Toshiba is planning to sell part or all of its chip unit business with the Taiwan-based Foxconn the front runner; the company will head a consortium, including the likes of Alphabet, Amazon, Cisco Systems, Dell and Microsoft, that will offer up to US$ 18 billion. However, other interested parties include Broadcom, Micron Technology and SK Digital. (There is no better news for the embattled Toshiba, with its latest trouble being a law suit from 26 foreign investors suing the Japanese electronics giant for US$ 1.0 billion in relation to their seven-year scam in which they inflated their profits by US$ 1.2 billion).

Troubled RBS looks set to be fined at least US$ 4.5 billion by US authorities for their role in the mis-selling of toxic mortgage bonds prior to the 2008 financial crisis. An announcement is expected next month that will then clear the path for the UK Government to start divesting its stake for which the then Labour government paid US$ 6.43 per share (US$ 58.2 billion); prior to last week’s debacle, Chancellor Hammond indicated that he thought the fair value of the taxpayers’ shareholding could be below this price. How right he was – as the shares are now trading at less than half that value at US$ 3.20!

Barclays is another UK bank that will also soon receive bad news and this will be from the Serious Fraud Office’s probe into their actions relating to the US$ 13.6 billion share sale in 2008 that saved the financial institution from being bailed out by the government. The enquiry has centred on arrangements made with a Qatari SWF and how they – unlike RBS and Lloyds – were able to raise capital at such a difficult time. Barclays is also facing a civil lawsuit about non-payment of fees in its dealings with PCP Capital Partners.

One Australian company that has fallen from grace is the Ten Network that has gone into voluntary administration after two of its major backers, Lachlan Murdoch and Bruce Gordon, lost patience and decided not to guarantee a US$ 190 million rescue package. Over the past year, its stock had traded at an average of US$ 0.80 – this week it sank to a nadir of US$ 0.12.

Industrial production in China continued its recent upward trend growing by 6.5% in May, year on year, and unchanged from a month earlier. Also heading north on an annual basis were fixed asset investment at 8.6% and retail sales at 10.7%.

As expected, the US Federal Reserve lifted rates a further 0.25% to 1.25% – its second increase this year – which is at its highest level in nine years. The main drivers were the historically low unemployment rates and recent economic growth. However, the 2% inflation target is still some way off and this could have a possible drag impact on the economy.

Low inflation is one thing that does not worry UK economists and at 2.8% – and rising – it is beginning to hurt the retail sector. May reported a 1.2% fall, month on month, whilst the 12 month growth of only 0.9% was the weakest return in four years. This is at a time when average annual store prices rose at their highest in five years – at 2.8% – and was driven by the rising cost of imported computer games and more expensive overseas holidays. Two of the main reasons for this recent surge are the fall in the value of sterling, following last year’s Brexit referendum, and wage increases (of only 2.1% that have not kept up with the rising prices). There will be no let up for the rest of the year and inflation could reach 3.5% by Q4 and, at that level, it is hard to envisage any interest hikes in 2017.

There is no doubt that the self-aggrandising UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, is living on borrowed time. Recent events indicate that she has been badly advised, easily swayed and is now lacking the confidence of both her party and the electorate. This time last year, she was steadfastly in the “Remain” camp but soon moved her position to appear pro-Brexit. The same can be said of her cohort, Chancellor Phillip Hammond as both canvassed for a “Hard” exit after the referendum. Now it looks as if the debate will go full circle and both turncoats will opt for a very soft Brexit resulting in the UK retaining more than one foot in the EU – so much for the PM’s battle cry of “no deal is better than a bad deal”! With allies like Mr Hammond, the vicar’s daughter had better keep checking The Ground Beneath Her Feet!

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