Out Of Touch

Decree 43 of 2013 laid down set rules on how landlords could raise rentals – but did not account for decreases. Under the regulations, an increase of 10% was permitted if the rental fell within 21% – 30% of average wages, 15% between 31% – 40% and 20% if the rent was 40% less than the average wage. Now the Dubai Land Department has recently updated its rental index that has seen average 10% declines across the board, in non-freehold areas, whilst freehold areas were largely left unscathed.

Following its recent US$ 171 million contract with Arabtec to build 1.3k villas at Akoya Oxygen, Damac Properties has started additional work there, valued at US$ 95 million, so as to speed up development in its 55 million sq ft green development.

As promised by Mirwais Azizi, in September, work has started on his company’s massive US$ 6.8 billion development in District 7 of MBR City. Covering 33 million sq ft, the project will encompass 30k residential units, constructed on 105 mid and high-rise buildings, as well as two hotels and a retail district. To be built in four phases, the first two are slated for completion by Q2 2019.

Not to be outdone, Oriental Pearls announced that its US$ 5.7 billion project, covering 4.6 million sq ft, will be finished by 2022. Phase 1 of the 7k premium freehold apartments, located in the Meydan Master Development, is already 10% completed and the first twelve towers will be ready for handover by November 2019.

Target Engineering, an Arabtec subsidiary, has won a US$ 259 million Emaar contract for work on phase 2 of Forte, located in Downtown. This contract is for the building of two towers (46 and 67 floors) and comes on top of the firm winning a contract for its five basements. Completion is expected by Q1 2021.

InterContinental Hotels Group is planning to launch Hotel Indigo Dubai Sustainable City, a 143-key property slated to be entirely solar energy-powered. No further details were available but it will be in association with Diamond Developers.

Emaar Hospitality expects to quadruple its number of hotels over the next four years. Currently, the Emaar Properties subsidiary has 30 hotels under development in a wide range of countries including the UAE along with Bahrain, Egypt, Maldives, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, with further expansion plans in over fifty countries.

The new Mina Rashid Marina, stretching 13 sq km, was inaugurated this week by Sheikh Mansour bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. Built by DP World’s P&O, the facility will have 19 designated docks, with 646 berths that can accommodate 5k boats. Phase 2 of the project is currently under way and will include retail, residential and F&B, whilst the final phase will see berthing facilities for 16 large yachts, to be completed by Q3 2018. This development is part of the emirate’s 10X Initiative as Dubai is implementing projects now which other global centres will adopt ten years hence.

Exploratory work has begun on DEWA’s five year sewerage treatment system that involves 70 km of tunnels with 140 km of link sewers and pumping stations. Apart from the elimination of 100 pump stations, the new system will result in marked reductions in costs, power demand and carbon emissions.

On the back of an expected boost in regional e-commerce, DHL has opened a US$ 18 million expansion to its Dubai International Airport logistics facility. The global delivery firm has posted 26 consecutive quarterly growths of over 8% but much higher in the ME; itis forecasting 2018 growth of over 15%, aided also by an upturn in global trade. The upgraded facility will see an extra 13.1k sq mt and will enable hourly shipments to double to 5k.

Dubai World Central reported a 9.1% growth in traffic, to 705k, for the first nine months of the year, with passenger numbers rising 7.9% to 650k. However, flight movements were 15.3% lower at 24.9k but average passengers per flight expanded by 29.9% to 120.

It was surprising to see that Manama was ranked the top global city in this year’s Expat Insider Survey whilst Dubai, languishing 17th, was behind Muscat, 12th, and Abu Dhabi – 13th. The survey involved 13k respondents and was conducted by InterNations.

Further to the IMF’s recent forecast of 3.5% 2018 growth for Dubai, the DCCI president, Hamad Buamin is also bullish about the emirate’s future expansion, agreeing with that figure and noting that 98% of the local economy is driven by the non-oil sector. He also pointed to the fact that Expo 2020 will result in increased investment that will “allow the city to grow”.

The Central Bank posted month on month October increases in gross bank assets to US$ 719 billion, gross credit (US$ 432 billion) and Money Supply Aggregate M1by 6.3% to US$ 134 billion.

Five-year old GlamboxME has been acquired by an unnamed Saudi buyer. The beauty subscription e-commerce company had already raised US$ 4 million from local investors and the new set up will see further expansion of both products (already with over 200 beauty brands on offer) and its regional network.

Emirates NBD issued its eighth bond – of US$ 750 million – to bring its total listing on Nasdaq Dubai to US$ 5 billion and ensuring that the bank is the bourse’s leading customer of conventional bonds.

Wednesday saw the launch on the DFM of Emaar Development PJSC, with its Chairman, Mohamed Alabbar, predicting a bright future and, on the back of a US$ 11.6 billion order pipeline, targeting an annual 8.6% dividend yield over the next three years. The shares opened at US$ 1.643, fell 3.6% within an hour of trading and closed the week 4.6% off at US$ 1.567.

The DFM opened Sunday (19 November), at 3460 and despite a topsy-turvy week was only 1 point higher to close on Thursday, 23 November, at 3461. Volumes this week were almost unchanged, with trading of 375 million shares, valued at US$ 169 million, (cf 356 million shares for US$ 172 million, on Thursday, 16 November). Emaar Properties was US$ 0.01 higher at US$ 2.14, with Arabtec continuing its recent downward trend by US$ 0.05 to US$ 0.69.

By Thursday, Brent Crude had lost half of its previous week’s gain dropping US$ 2.13 (3.4%), closing at US$ 61.36, with gold US$ 7 down to US$ 1,278 by 23 November 2017.

Carillion, has announced its third profit warning for the year, as a result of breaches of agreements with lenders. The UK construction firm, employing 43k, is working on some major projects and has to deal with on-going debt problems and badly performing contracts. Following its two earlier profit earnings, the company’s shares sank by 67% and this week the shares slumped by 50% in early trading.

Chinese company Tencent has joined the tech’s big 5, at the expense of Facebook. The social networking giant, founded almost twenty years ago by Ma Huateng, is now valued at US$ 523 billion but still lags behind Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft and Amazon.

This week’s budget sees the UK Chancellor, Phillip Hammond, introduce tax cuts in the form of cancelling stamp duty for first-time home buyers up to a maximum of US$ 400k, as well as an extra US$ 3.7 billion spending for the embattled NHS and the setting up of a US$ 4 billion Brexit war-chest, along with a US$ 2 billion U-turn on Universal Credit. (Remember he was a diehard “Remainer” some eighteen months ago). This is at the same time that he announced that annual growth in over the next five years had been cut, with all years having growth of less than 2% – the first time this has happened in modern times.

The main driver is that the country has been far too slow to rebound from the GFC. Consequently, with less money coming into the treasury, because of lower tax receipts, and less consumer spending because of wage level rises will continue  not to keep pace with inflation,  the government will have to lend more to cover their extra expenditure and the US$ 46 billion budget deficit.

In the US, the Conference Board reported a bigger than expected hike in its October index of leading economic indicators, up 1.2% (rather than the 0.6% expectation). Nine of the ten indicators headed north with the three main contributors being average weekly jobless claims, interest rate spread and the ISM new orders index. Further proof that the US economy is moving in the right direction came with new residential construction up 13.7%, month on month, to 1.29 million. Furthermore, building permits also increased – by 5.9% – to 1.3 million.

With the market bulls still stampeding the global bourses, there has to be renewed concern that a major correction is on the way. The MSCI All-Country World Index, covering 47 markets, hit an all-time high this week and is 19% up on the year and 190% higher than it was at the time of the GFC. Almost weekly, the Dow Jones industrial Average, Nasdaq and the S&P 500 continue to hit record highs (as they did again this week).

This week, the Chinese authorities continued their crackdown on the expanding, and almost unregulated, online micro lending sector. The Central government sent a directive to all its provinces to suspend regulatory approval for all new applicants and to cut back on such firms lending across different regions. This comes after several attempts to regulate more stringently the industry which has seen more than its fair share of scandals, frauds and high profile P2P (peer to peer) failures. Unsecured lending in this sector alone more than tripled last year to  a worryingly high US$ 140 billion.

The IMF has warned that even though Robert Mugabe has been ousted, the short-term economic outlook for Zimbabwe is gloomy. After almost forty years of his tyrannical rule, the country is beset by high government spending, inadequate reforms in place and an untenable foreign exchange regime. There is no doubt that the Chinese will have the country on its radar, with much of the post-Mugabe investment being in renminbi rather than US$ and euro.

The new incumbent – and the country’s third president – the 75-year old Emerson Mnangagwa comes with baggage and whether he pulls the country together remains to be seen. It has to be remembered that he has been a senior figure in Mugabe’s regime and a leading member of the ruling ZANU-PF party for decades. Furthermore, he was the Minister of Security during the Gukurahundi massacres in which thousands of Ndebele civilians were killed. One of the richest men in the country, he is known by his “Ngwena” nickname (Shona for crocodile) for a reason. Even with this changing of the guard, Zimbabwe is a long way from being Out Of The Woods and more like Out Of Touch.

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