We Won’t Get Fooled Again!

Q1 saw a 37.0 % decline to 4.6k in the number of new launches for Dubai off-plan sales, with an even steeper 46.0% fall in value at US$ 1.6 billion. Over the same period, ready property numbers and values were lower by 17.0% to 3k and 24.0% at US$ 1.3 billion. With the holy month of Ramadan approaching within six months, it is highly like that the decline for H1could top 50%.

Saudi Arabia’s Tanmiyat has awarded Al Adnan Contracting a US$ 163 million contract to build six towers in its Living Legends project in Dubailand; handover is expected by the end of 2019. Last year, Beijing Emirates Contracting was appointed to build two towers for the same location, along with another adjacent to the Dubai Water Canal. On completion, Living Legends will house over 20k residents.

Emaar is expected to soon launch Sunrise Bay, a twin-tower project that will form part of the developer’s massive 10 million sq ft Emaar Beachfront, with twenty residential towers and hotels. The 26-storey buildings will house various sized apartments, ranging from 75 sq mt to 253 sq mt.

Progress Construction is the latest to be awarded a contract by Azizi Developments. It will be building the Dhs 166m Azizi Grand in Dubai Sports City – a 47.1k sq mt development housing 431 studio,1-2 B/R apartments which will resemble four towers merging into one.

DMCC is to join forces with AccorHotels to develop its first SO hotel in Dubai. To be located in Uptown Dubai, in the first super tower to be built there, the luxury brand, with 188 keys and 215 branded residences, will open in 2020.

Jumeirah has launched its first 3-star brand hotel – the new Zabeel House by Jumeirah, with 150 rooms, will open in Al Seef, with room rates starting at a reasonable US$ 95.

Radisson Blu has opened its latest, and fifth, Dubai offering – the 432-room Radisson Blu Hotel, Dubai Waterfront. One of its main features will be the Gotha nightclub, encompassing 16k sq ft, with a 1k person capacity; it plans to replicate the Gotha in Cannes, famous for themed nights and major performers.

With four hotels now operating in Dubai, Emaar’s Rove brand has signed an agreement with Mada’in Properties to operate Rove Mina Seyahi, due to open in 2021. The proposed 50-storey tower will house a 270-key hotel and 443 serviced residences.

United Properties has announced the first phase of its new US$ 2.2 billion scheme to redevelop Dubai Motor City. Zawaya, encompassing 148k sq ft, will house 400 residential units along with retail, F&B and sporting facilities.

Nakheel has tied up with Shurooq to develop a US$ 20 million shopping complex in Sharjah’s Al Rahmaniya district. This will be the Dubai developer’s first project outside its home emirate and will be similar to the seven neighbourhood retail hubs, known as Nakheel Pavilions, already established in Dubai.

DEWA has awarded a US$ 90 million contract to ABB to build a substation that will integrate the upcoming solar power into the emirate’s grid. Last year, the Swiss company completed its first one that integrated 200 MW of electricity into the main supply.

In this day of increased technology and talk of flying taxis, hyperloops and driverless cars, it is refreshing to see that DHL is to re-introduce pedal power to Dubai. The global courier company is set to bring the cubicycle, a 4-wheel bike that can carry loads of up to 125 kg, to the emirate’s streets.

Following a period of some doom and gloom, a mini boom has descended on the local construction sector as, according to a Ventures Onsite report, the UAE can expect contractor awards totalling US$ 50.4 billion, equating to a third of the total awards for the GCC, this year; this is some way ahead of Saudi Arabia’s total of US$ 40.0 billion, accounting for some 27% of the total. The biggest contributor will be the buildings segment, with a year on year increase of 10%, as the UAE’s share comes in at US$ 37.3 billion.

The importance of the expanding MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) sector to the Dubai economy – including hospitality and retail – cannot be emphasised enough. Last year, the DWTC hosted 353 such events, with a 9% increase in numbers to 3.3 million, a third of which were overseas visitors. During the year, 56.3k companies from 154 countries took part. The knock-on impact is crucial to the progress of Dubai’s economy.

There was a marginal 0.3% February fall to 6.9 million passengers at Dubai International, with YTD traffic falling 0.6% to 14.9 million; at the same time, flight movements were 3.4% lower at 66.8k. India, Saudi Arabia and the UK remained the top three markets, whilst Eastern Europe recorded the largest increase with numbers rising by 17.6%. The top three destinations – London, Mumbai and Bangkok – remained unchanged.

A sign that business is returning to normal for Emirates is the fact that the airline is to undertake a cabin staff recruitment drive not only in Dubai but also in the region, Africa and Europe. With operating 269 planes (and being the largest global operator for Airbus 380s and Boeing 777s), it flies to 159 destinations.

There was a slowdown in the Emirates NBD March PMI March figures with a 0.3 month on month decline to 54.8, driven by sluggish new order numbers, slower output (at  a 23-month low) and dismal foreign demand for the locally produced goods. As has been the norm for past months, there has been a continued easing of output charges with the aim to encourage more demand; this should bear fruit by mid-year. The rate of employment growth is at a 17-month low.

The fragility of the local markets last year was reflected by the number and value of MENA’s mergers and acquisitions declining by 2.3% to 126 deals and by 57.7% to just US$ 16.0 billion; a significant driver for this downturn was construction, with its value dropping from US$ 1.3 billion to US$ 59 million. 72.5% of M&As originated from three sectors – Financial Services (US$ 4.5 billion), Industrials/Chemicals – US$ 3.9 billion and Telecommunications – US$ 3.2 billion.

The Ministry of Economy expects the country’s economy to grow 3.4% this year to US$ 436 billion, with the non-oil sector now accounting for around 70% of the total, as the reliance of oil continues to fall to just 20% by 2020. With the industrial sector expected to invest US$ 75 billion over the next eight years, with Dubai spending significant amounts on the upcoming Expo 2020 and the capital catching up with its infrastructure projects, the overall UAE growth is all but guaranteed.

Research by Euromonitor International indicates a possible 7.7% growth this year to US$ 2.8 billion for the country’s consumer electronics market, driven mainly from inflation in inventories. However, the brick and mortar retailers are still the dominant force in this sector, although it is slowly losing ground to e-commerce which now accounts for 19% of total revenue, with growth of 6% to US$ 259 million this year.

Nasdaq Dubai’s latest sukuk is a Dar Al Arkan Real Estate US$ 500 million issue; this is the Saudi company’s fourth listing on the Dubai bourse, bringing its total listing to US$ 1.85 billion. The money raised will help finance the company’s latest project, I Love Florence, in Downtown.

Having raised US$ 850 million from 94 investors in February, Dubai-based Telegram Group was again in the market last week, raising a further US$ 850 million and planning to use the funds to further develop the Telegram Open Network blockchain, including its cryptocurrency Gram. The encrypted messaging app was founded by the Russian exile, Pavel Durov, and has a reported 200 million active monthly users.

The DFM opened on Sunday (01 April), at 3109, and again moved south over the week, closing 26 points (0.9%) lower at 3083 by Thursday, 05 April. As some analysts continue to show concern about the state of the local property sector, Emaar Properties continued its downward trend, and has lost 37.2% in value since September 2016, shedding another US$ 0.06 to close at US$ 1.52, with Arabtec US$ 0.01 higher at US$ 0.62. Volumes traded lower at 155 million shares on Thursday, valued at US$ 69 million, (compared to 231 million shares worth US$ 80 million the previous Thursday – 29 March).

By Thursday, Brent Crude dipped over the week, shedding US$ 0.58 (2.3%) to US$ 68.33, with gold down US$ 2 at US$ 1,328 by 05 April 2018. For the month of March, both commodities traded higher with Brent up US$ 4.61 (7.1%) to US$ 69.34 and the yellow metal by 1.0% to US$ 1,330.

In the US, VW has spent US$ 7.4 billion in buying back some 350k of its vehicles tainted by the diesel emissions control system scandal. Only a tiny portion of the vehicles has been sold (13k) and a further 28k have been destroyed. The rest are currently stored in 37 storage areas until it is decided either to repair the damage caused or destroy them. It has become a long ongoing problem, for which the German carmaker has already paid US$ 4.3 billion in federal penalties.

With some surprise, GKN has been finally acquired by Melrose Industries, in a deal worth US$ 11.3 billion, with a further US$ 1.4 billion to support the pension fund – 14.1% higher than its original bid in January. Many stakeholders, including unions, customers (particularly Airbus) and government, opposed the takeover but 52% of shareholders voted for the change on the promise that it would increase the company’s profitability after five years of declines. Labour called the buyer, which specialise in turning round troubled manufacturing businesses before selling them off, a “short-term asset stripper”.

The world’s fifth and Australia’s largest wine producer, Accolade Wines, has been acquired by the US private equity firm, the Carlyle Group, for US$ 769 million. The company, established in 2011 with the purchase of two separate divisions from Constellation Brands for US$ 223 million, delivers 38 million cases to over 140 countries, including China, every year. In 2017, Australia saw wine exports to China increase by 64% to US$ 652 million.

As Chinese companies try to expand their local food delivery services, Alibaba has acquired from Baixu Inc the remaining 57% share it did not hold in Ele.mem, which values the company at US$ 9.5 billion. The company will be competing in a sector that is dominated by Meituan Dianping which it backed by Tencent Holdings and could be valued at US$ 60 billion if it goes public later in the year. Both Chinese giants see the delivery of food and other services will benefit their online payment services.

Spotify went public on Monday and within an hour had seen its market value jump by 28.7% before closing the day 14.0% higher, with a closing price of US$ 149.01, after opening the session at US$ 132.00. The Swedish music streaming service, that has never posted a profit, has a market value of US$ 30 billion.

The ailing UK car industry received a welcome boost this week with the announcement that Vauxhall will make its new Opel/Vauxhall Vivaro model in Luton, this saving 1.4k jobs (and possibly creating a further 450). The brand’s owner PSA Group is expected to invest US$ 238 million in the upgraded plant that could produce 100k units from next year.

Latest February figures from IATA indicate that air freight markets increased by 6.8 % over the year, as capacity expanded at the lower 5.6% level; accordingly, demand outstripped capacity growth for the 19th straight month. Figures were dampened and distorted by the Chinese Lunar New Year in February. However, the ME data pointed to less impressive returns with just a 3.4% hike in demand, as capacity was at a higher 3.9%.  Over the same period, international passenger traffic jumped 7.2%, with total capacity 5.9% higher and load factor nudging 1.0% higher to 79.3%.

March Eurozone inflation figures increased by 0.3% to 1.4%, month on month, and this despite core prices – excluding alcohol, energy, food and tobacco – remaining steadfastly flat.

The latest manufacturing PMI data in March nudged slightly higher to 55.1, with output growth on the rise, offset by slower rises in both employment and new orders.

In a bid to appease regulators as it attempts to take over Sky plc, the US media group, 21st Century Fox (already a 39% Sky shareholder), has offered to sell Sky News to Disney. The regulators have reservations about the takeover could result in the Murdoch Family Trust – which has major interests in Fox, News Corporation, The Sun, The Times and The Sunday Times – wielding too much influence on the UK media sector. Last December, Disney tabled a US$ 66 billion offer for Fox’s entertainment assets, including Sky. 21st Century Fox has suggested two options to ensure regulatory approval for it to sell Sky News to Disney.

This blog has in the past recorded that many of the US mega companies seem to be abrogating their responsibilities by parking their cash and profits outside of their home base, where tax rates were less onerous. Luxembourg was one of the favoured locations where the then Prime Minister, Jean Claude Juncker, actively encouraged companies to set up in the duchy to avoid paying higher tax rates in their home countries. One of the main recipients of the now EU President’s magnanimity was Amazon so it was no surprise (and not before time) to see Donald Trump take a pot shot at them earlier this week.

There was a slowdown in the US manufacturing sector in March as the ISM PMI fell 1.5, month on month, to 59.3 – still a very healthy figure. The main drivers behind the fall were a 2.4 drop to 57.3 in the employment index, new orders by 2.3 to 61.9 and production by 1.0 to 61.0. There was an upturn in February construction spending to US$ 1.27 trillion, with spending on private construction came in 0.7% higher at US$ 982 billion, split 54.3:45.7 between residential and non-residential.

Barely a week after the Trump announcement of scything tariffs on China, retaliation has come in the form of duties of up to 25% on US producers and in proportion to the US$ 3 billion introduced by the US on 23 March. At the same time, China’s Ministry of Commerce confirmed it was suspending its WTO (World Trade Organisation) obligations to reduce tariffs on 120 US goods. Whether this turns into a fully-fledged trade war – and its negative impact on global trade – is unlikely.

Last Sunday saw April Fools’ Day which coincided with Emirates announcing that its new 777s would incorporate a SkyLounge with transparent walls and ceilings. Who said We Won’t Get Fooled Again!

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