Year Of The “Fat” Cat 19 August 2021
For the past week ending 19 August, Dubai Land Department recorded a total of 1,367 real estate and property transactions, with a gross value of US$ 1.20 billion. It confirmed that 1,163 villas/apartments were sold for US$ 595 million, and 204 plots for US$ 263 million over the week. The top three land transactions were for a plot in Jumeirah First, sold for US$ 10 million, and two plots in Al Nahda First selling for US$ 9 million and US$ 8 million. The most popular locations were in Jabal Ali First, with 78 sales transactions worth US$ 75 million, Al Hebiah Third, with 37 sales at US$ 21 million, and Hadaeq Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid, with 19 sales transactions worth US$ 51 million. Mortgaged properties for the week totalled US$ 272 million, including a plot for US$ 87 million in Al Barsha South Fourth. 66 properties were granted between first-degree relatives worth US$ 94 million.
Yesterday, Wednesday 18 August, Dubai property sector had a bumper day posting 283 transactions valued at US$ 158 million and 48 mortgage deals totalling US$ 29 million. According to the Dubai Land Department, the sales covered 194 units, 31 buildings, and 58 land plots, while the mortgages included 20 units, 5 buildings and 23 land plots; in addition, there were 12 gift transactions amounting to US$ 6 million.
Chestertons’ latest property report concludes that consumer confidence, and ongoing international buyer interest, were the main drivers behind a marked increase in Q2 residential transactions in Dubai. Their Observer: UAE Q2 2021 Market Report indicated that total residential transaction value jumped by 49.4%, on the quarter, to US$ 8.45 billion, with volumes up 35.5% to 14.4k units; completedproperty sales accounted for 71% of total transaction value and 59% of volume in Q2. It estimated that average villa prices were 5.7% higher, on the quarter, and 9.1%, on the year, with The Meadows/The Springs recording the highest quarterly rise, at 6.6%, with average prices reaching US$ 241 per sq ft, followed by The Lakes, 6.5% higher to US$ 290 per sq ft, Jumeirah Park rising 5.4%, Palm Jumeirah 4.9% and Arabian Ranches 4.9%. On an annual basis, the leading villa locations were Palm Jumeirah, The Lakes and The Meadows/The Springs, with increases of 12.4%, 8.7% and 8.6%.
In relation to apartment prices, the average quarterly rise was at 0.8% but a 3.7% decline on the year. Only eight locations recorded quarterly price increases –The Views (5.3% to US$ 290 per sq ft), Downtown (4.5%), The Greens (3.0% to US$ 234), JLT (3.0% to US$ 208), Dubai Marina (2.2%), Motor City (1.8%), Business Bay (1.5%) and International City (0.7%). All other locations posted Q2 declines of between 1.0% to 5.1%, with the two big losers being Dubailand (-5.1% to US$ 161 per sq ft), followed by Discovery Gardens, (-2.6%, to US$ 138 per sq ft). Only four “apartment locations” recorded price rises – Downtown Dubai, The Views, The Greens, and Business Bay with increases of 4.4%, 3.3%, 2.9% and 0.3%, with all other locations posting price declines of between 0.2% to 12.4%.
According to the latest EFG Hermes report, Dubai’s luxury residential market registered a 360% year on year growth, to US$ 730 million, in July. Luxury property sale prices rose 40.3%, year-on-year, to US$ 597 per square foot, (while affordable real estate sale prices increased 26.1% to US$ 326 and the budget segment 7.1% higher to US$ 195). It estimated that Palm Jumeirah – with a 76.9%, year on year, increase to US$ 584 per sq ft – was the best performing location, with Motor City at the other end of scale, with annual prices falling 45.6% to US$ 184 per sq ft. Despite rentals falling, both Downtown Dubai and Palm Jumeirah bucked the trend, with an average 2 B/R luxury apartment seeing rents increase by 31.8% to US$ 50k and US$ 44k.
In the rental market, average villa and apartment rents were 2.6% higher and 0.5% lower, quarter on quarter, and up 3.5% and 8.7% lower on the year. Palm Jumeirah saw the highest increase in villa rents, at 3.9%, on the quarter, followed by Jumeirah Golf Estates, Victory Heights and The Lakes, which reported respective rises of 3.4%, 3.1% and 3.0%; all other locations posted quarterly increases of between 1.6% to 2.3%. For apartments, the three best locations were Downtown Dubai with a 1.7% quarterly rental increase, followed by Dubai Marina at 1.5% and JLT at 1.1%. DIFC saw the highest quarterly decline, at 3.4%, followed by Discovery Gardens at 2.8%, with Dubai Silicon Oasis and Dubailand both recording 2.5% declines.
Meanwhile, Asteco reports that Q2 demand for villas climbed and that villa prices were 23% higher, with rentals up 10%, as residents continue to seek bigger homes and take advantage of historically low mortgage rates. Notable increases of 52%, 39% and 46% were witnessed in Jumeirah Park, Dubai Hills and The Springs. Rentals also moved northwards in Arabian Ranches,(up 24%), Dubai Hills Estate,(20%), Meadows, Mirdif and Dubai Sports City.
There was no surprise to see that Dubai’s H1 residential values grew 4.2% on the availability of good quality stock, affordable prices and strong transaction activity. Savills latest report notes that the recent surge in property prices can be attributed to the government’s success in handling the pandemic and its proactive policy measures to jump-start the economy. The global property consultancy also expects “the return of international travel is likely to provide an increased supply of buyers for prime properties.” It anticipates the prime residential sector is likely to remain strong through the rest of the year. Dubai was ranked 11th in their thirty property markets in the Savills global index, with the index rising on average by 3.9% – the fastest growth rate since December 2016. The top four positions were taken by China’s Shanghai and Hangzhou, with the US cities of Los Angeles and Miami in third and fourth places.
The first phase of Souk Al Marfa, a new waterfront marketplace stretching 1.9km along the shoreline, was opened in Dubai’s Deira Islands. The indoor shopping and trading hub, with 400 outlets – such as small kiosks, retail stores, showrooms, and street food outlets – across various categories, will see a further 600 outlets open by the end of the year. When fully operational, it will become the country’s largest wholesale souk and waterfront destination, with 4k onsite parking spots.
The Ithra Dubai “One Deira” project, wholly owned by the Investment Corporation of Dubai, with the aim of rejuvenating the emirate’s historic heart of commerce, was launched on Monday. It comprises an office building and a 131-room Days Hotel, along with a two-level retail podium; it also features a state-of-the-art integrated transportation hub, including an RTA Bus Terminal, taxi ranks, the metro station and an additional 158 podium parking spaces at one central location. As the hub of the Deira Enrichment Project, District 4 follows each of Sherina, Osha, Afra, Maryam and Hind Plazas already handed over since last September. By the end of the year, Districts 5, 8, 9 and 10 will be launched. The One Deira will serve the thriving residential and commercial communities of the surrounding phase one Districts, comprising 2.2k residential units, 700+ retail units, 700k sq ft office area, F&B outlets and 1.45k keys in eight international brand hotels, including Adagio, Wyndham, Super 8, and Days Hotel.
This week, HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President inaugurated the 300-megawatt first stage of the 900MW fifth phase of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, which is the largest single-site solar park in the world. On completion in 2030, it will have a 5k MW capacity, with the Solar Park becoming one of the key pillars of the Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050, which aims to provide 75% of the emirate’s total power capacity from clean energy sources by then. The consortium led by ACWA Power and Gulf Investment Corporation as the Preferred Bidder was appointed in November 2019 to build and operate the fifth phase of the MBR Al Maktoum Solar Park, using photovoltaic (PV) solar panels, based on the IPP model. The fifth phase will provide clean energy to over 270k residences in Dubai, including 90k residences by the commissioned first stage, and will reduce 1.18 million tonnes of carbon emissions annually.
When it comes to air and sea, the UAE is already one of the world’s largest logistics and transportation centres, and now it is building an extensive rail network across the region to speed up the transport of freight – and people. Etihad Rail is building a 1k rail network that extends from Ghuweifat at the border with Saudi Arabia to Fujairah on the country’s east coast and on completion, in 2024, it will connect Abu Dhabi’s Khalifa Port and Mussaffah with Jebel Ali Port in Dubai and the Port of Fujairah.
DP World Limited has posted H1 gains in both revenue and EBITDA – 21.3% higher at US$ 4.94 billion and 18.2% to US$ 1.81 billion; the gross margin was at 36.7%. The improvement was helped by acquisitions and strong growth in India, Australia, and the UK, compensating for lower growth of 9.0% from like-for-like revenue. Profit attributable to its owners increased to US$ 475 million. Cash generated in H1 was 32.6% higher at US$ 1.49 billion and capex was at US$ 687 million, in line with its earlier 2021 US$ 1.2 billion guidance, with investments planned in the UAE, Canada, Jeddah, Berbera (Somaliland), Sokhna (Egypt), Luanda, P&O Ferries, London Gateway and Callao (Peru). Over the period, the company acquired syncreon and Imperial Logistics.
There is no doubt of the UAE’s conviction to fight money laundering and the financing of terrorism/illegal organisations, and that includes the involvement of Designated Non-Financial Businesses and Professions that include professions outside the financial services sector that have higher anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism exposure. The federal Ministry of Economy is keen to be a leader in the global fight against money laundering and terrorism financing and has undertaken to comply with the obligations of the International Financial Action Task Force. The Ministry is liaising with seventeen registrars of companies and has taken on board a hundred inspectors to ensure compliance across the DNFBPs. Another step sees the requirements for all pertinent companies to forward UBO (Ultimate Benefit Owners) details to their registrars of companies.
The government’s 2012 Global Star Rating System saw its first ever six-star rating with Fujairah Traffic and Licensing Department, and Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship (ICA) Al Barsha branch in Dubai, being placed in the coveted positions. The fourth edition of the Global Star Rating System for Services saw the evaluation of sixty-nine centres in twelve federal government entities. Of that total, 14 centres received five-star ratings, 32 – 4-star ratings and 21 centres – 3-star ratings. On Saturday, HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum announced that, “Today, we approved the results of the Star Rating System for 69 government service centres, 14 of them have achieved an increase in their classification”. He congratulated the two 6-star rating centres and noted that “for the 3-star centres, we say that technology has advanced and offered better services.” He also stressed that “serving people and facilitating their lives will remain the main pillar in the UAE government’s work and the ultimate goal of all its plans and programmes.” The Dubai Ruler commented that more than 1.3k services provided by ministries and federal government agencies would be evaluated and reiterated that the five best and worst federal government agencies would be revealed in September.
Apart from the six-star Al Barsha Licensing Department and Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship, other Dubai entitles ranked included – Al Rashidiya Center for Customer Happiness – Dubai (five-star), three four-star Customer Happiness Centers – Ministry of Industry and Advanced Technology, Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure and Communications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority: Three other government offices received a three-star rating – Ministry of Foreign Affairs office, the Ministry of Health’s Customer Happiness Center and the Ministry of Education’s Community Development’s Jumeirah Center.
Network International surprised the market when posting a 16.5% hike in H1 revenue to US$ 156 million, driving a 17.2% jump in EBITDA to US$ 60 million, with recovery seen in all its markets, including the UAE. The Dubai-based payments giant invested US$ 288 million to acquire a leading African services provider which will continue to operate under its own name
DPO Group, a payments services provider for African businesses. The acquisition, which is expected to be finalised in Q3, will see DPO Group continue to operate under the same brand and will help boost H2 revenue.
By acquiring the 8.7% stake for US$ 505 million from the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development, Etisalat is now the 100% owner of Etisalat Investment North Africa which in turn increases its effective ownership of Maroc Telecom Group by 4.6% to 53.0%. The UAE’s biggest telecoms operator will fund this purchase through a bank loan which will help boost its future consolidated profit. Its recently Q2 profit came in 0.4% higher at US$ 651 million and in H1, it successfully raised US$ 1.2 billion through bond issuance to repay a maturing bond tranche.
With no financial details available, Swvl has agreed to buy Shotl, an Uber-like service in Barcelona for bus and van operators that caters to municipalities, corporations and educational institutions. The Dubai-based mass transit and shared mobility services will use this acquisition as a base for further European expansion. Founded in 2017, Swvl allows commuters to reserve seats on private buses operating on fixed routes and pay fares through its mobile app, with a strategy of transforming traditional public transport to make it more accessible, convenient and sustainable. With a US$ 1.5 billion valuation, the Dubai tech company expects to go public in Q4 through a special purpose acquisition company, (SPAC), with a listing on the Nasdaq.
The country’s third largest developer posted a 35.5% decline in Q2 revenue at US$ 200 million, as it narrowed its loss to US$ 27 million, compared to US$ 76 million a year earlier. Damac also posted a H1 loss of US$ 79 million (compared to a deficit of US$ 105 in H1 2020), but it did see an increase in H1 booked sales at US$ 710 million and delivered 2.7k units in the period.
Property developer Deyaar reported a 165% rise in Q2 profits to US$ 6 million, as revenue came in 70.3% higher at US$ 81 million. Last month, the Dubai developer launched it US$ 272 million, 70-storey Regalia Project in Business Bay.
Yet another Dubai developer returned to profit on the back of a booming Dubai property market. Union Properties posted a Q2 profit of US$ 9 million, (compared to a US$ 10 million loss in H2 2020), with revenue 19% higher at US$ 27 million. Its H1 contract revenue was 1% higher, at US$ 54 million, driving it to a half yearly profit of US$ 9 million. following a US$ 44 million loss in the comparative 2020 return. The profit was helped by a US$ 22 million gain on fair valuation of investment properties, with finance costs also declining. It still has to account for accumulated losses of US$ 523 million and is taking measures to address the situation, including restructuring its outstanding debt to reduce the finance cost, taking legal action to recover its outstanding debts, reducing its operating costs and developing its land bank and assets with recurring cash flow. It is also planning to list three of its subsidiary companies to reduce losses and focus on cash-generating activities. During H1, it reached an agreement with Emirates NBD to restructure an outstanding debt of US$ 258 million and also agreed to sell a 40% stake in its Dubai Autodrome subsidiary for US$ 109 million.
Amanat Holdings posted a massive 906% surge in H1 income to US$ 70 million, compared to a year earlier, with income from investments growing at a similar rate to US$ 69 million. The health and education provider reported a US$ 64 million profit compared to almost break even in H1 2020, driven by the US$ 44 million gain on its April sale of its stake in Taaleem, and strong returns from its new healthcare investment, Cambridge Medical and Rehabilitation Centre. Its total H1 expenses stood at US$ 6 million, 26.8% lower, year on year.
Amlak Finance managed to turn a H1 2020 loss of US$ 21 million into a US$ 54 million profit in 2021, as revenues decreased 19% to US$ 32 million, excluding fair value losses on investment properties and a gain on debt settlement. The leading Islamic real estate financier saw revenues, from financing business activities, marginally lower at US$ 23 million, with rental income declining by 48% to US$ 4 million. Amlak’s 2020 debt settlement arrangements continued in H1, with successful agreements with four financiers. During H1, the company also posted a reduction in operating expenses to US$ 12 million, with amortisation costs almost doubling to US$ 23 million.
Gulf Navigation Holding posted a H1 net profit of US$ 22 million, compared to a net loss of US$ 14 million a year earlier, even though revenue dipped 8.8% to US$ 17 million. The DFM-listed shipping company also reported US$ 27 million operating profits in H1 (US$ 7 million operating loss in H1 2020). Having incurred a gross US$ 736 million loss in H1 2020, the company just crept into positive territory with a return of US$ 4 million. By 30 June, it saw a US$ 32 million increase in net cash flows, whilst its assets stood at US$ 235 million.
The DFM opened on Sunday 15 August, 111 points (3.8%) higher the previous four weeks, rose 23 points (0.8%) to close the week on 2,838. Emaar Properties, US$ 0.01 lower the previous week, regained US$ 0.01 to close on US$ 1.11. Emirates NBD and Damac started the previous week on US$ 3.65 and US$ 0.33 and closed at US$ 3.68 and US$ 0.34. On Thursday, 19 August, 99 million shares changed hands, with a value of US$ 50 million, compared to 103 million shares, with a value of US$ 35 million, on 11 August.
By Thursday, 19 August, Brent, US$ 3.61 (4.8%) lower the previous fortnight, tanked US$ 4.55 (6.4%), to close on US$ 66.76. Gold, US$ 79 (4.3%) lower the previous fortnight, regained US$ 38 (2.2%) to close Thursday 19 August on US$ 1,787. Oil prices sank to their lowest levels since May on concerns the US Federal Reserve may taper its quantitative easing programme before the end of the year. So far this month, Brent and WTI have slumped 8.2% and 10.4% respectively. Fresh Covid outbreaks around the world, as well as the world’s third-busiest container port at Ningbo-Zhoushan in China being closed, further weighed on demand for crude, probably by around 250k bpd, from the world’s top oil importer, China, along with a 220k bpd demand decline from the US, the world’s top consumer.
Thanks to a 14% H1 growth in its stock portfolio, driven by its investments in energy, finance and technology companies, Norges Bank Investment Management generated a 9.4% growth, equivalent to US$ 110 billion. Norway has the largest sovereign wealth fund, at US$ 1.4 trillion, with its equity portfolio accounting for 72.4% of total assets at the end of June. It recorded a 16.8% rise in tech stocks in H1, dominated by stakes in Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet and Amazon, with US stocks accounting for 45.2% of the total. The fund’s biggest threat going forward is inflation which will impact future returns. There is also concern whether the current price growth is “transitory” or is becoming more entrenched. It was also inevitable that the mega fund, built on the country’s past oil and gas revenue, would eventually be “forced” into investing in renewable energy infrastructure and this has happened in H1.
As BHP and Woodside Petroleum have signed a US$ 14.5 billion merger agreement of their oil and gas businesses, Australia will he home to one of the world’s top ten biggest energy companies – and the largest oil company trading on the ASX. The merger will see Woodside holding a 52% majority stake in the new entity and they will also issue new shares to BHP shareholders. BHP, with oil and gas fields in Australia, the Gulf of Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago and Algeria, saw its annual net profit 42.0% higher at US$ 11.3 billion, driven by record iron ore prices.
Since the first car rolled off Toyota’s production line in 1966, the motor giant has produced fifty million Corollas over the past fifty-five years. The model, now in its 12th generation, started life as a two-door saloon, with a 1.1-litre engine and was built as a practical family car with reliability and usability. In 1974, it became the world’s best-selling car taking the crown from the Volkswagen Beetle, and since 1997 became the world’s best-selling model when cumulative sales reached 22.65 million. By the ninth-generation model in the 1990s, it was made available, with nine different engine sizes, and hybrid options started in 2012, with a new Corolla expected to be launched next year. It has been estimated that a Corolla is bought somewhere in the world every forty seconds.
The world’s largest gaming company, China’s Tencent posted a Q2 29% increase in year-on-year net profit at US$ 6.6 billion, on a 20% rise in revenue to US$ 21.3 billion, attributable to increased advertising revenue and gaming demand. It is noted that profit on a quarter-on-quarter basis was 10% lower and that the revenue climbed at its slowest pace in two years because of increasing regulatory scrutiny by the Chinese government. The gaming and social media giant saw its Q2 gaming revenue 12% higher at US$ 6.6 billion, mainly driven by the increase in revenue from games such as Honour of Kings and Pubg Mobile. Over the period, its fee-based VAS (value added services) subscriptions grew 13% year-on-year to 229 million, video subscriptions 9% to 125 million, and music subscriptions 41% to 66 million.
Despite objections by Mastercard, the UK Supreme Court has approved former financial ombudsman Walter Merrick’s case to take a collective US$ 14 billion action against the international card provider. If successful, it could result in some 46 million people receiving an average US$ 410 in compensation for Mastercard charging interchange fees – the fees retailers pay with credit card companies when consumers use a card to shop – between May 1992 and June 2008. This legal decision also sets a precedent for a string of other proposed class actions that have been stalled in its wake. This unwelcome news for Mastercard follows it being banned in India from issuing new credit and debit cards for not complying with the country’s data storage rules.
In the hope of a rapid rebound of leisure travel from the pandemic, Hyatt Hotels is to invest US$ 2.7 billion in cash to acquire resorts operator Apple Leisure Group from private equity firms KKR and KSL Capital Partners. With its latest purchase, Hyatt will double its global resorts footprint, as it takes over luxury resort brands Zoëtry and Alua hotels and will be able to expand its existing and new markets, including in Europe. With leisure travel expected to recover faster than other segments, with pent-up demand for holidays after months of lockdowns, Hyatt’s position of targeting wealthy travellers will be further boosted by this deal. Over the next three years, it expects to raise US$ 3.5 billion through the sale of various hotels, with cash proceeds used to pay down debt, including debt incurred to fund this latest acquisition.
Authentic Brands Group has agreed a deal with Adidas to acquire its underperforming Reebok business for a reported US$ 2.5 billion. A large slice of the deal will be via cash., (most of which will be distributed among the German sportswear company’s shareholders), with the balance coming as deferred and contingent consideration. Authentic Brands already owns numerous bankrupt brands, such as Barneys New York, Brooks Brothers, Forever 21 and Aeropostale, and will maintain the brand’s global footprint across retail, wholesale and e-commerce channels. Reebok currently operates in eighty countries, with around 70% of its business coming from outside the US and Canada.
Being part of a sector that was ravished by the impact of the pandemic, as its foot traffic was decimated, coffee chain, Pret a Manger, is planning to open 200 outlets outside of major UK urban centres. One of the strange features of the pandemic was that whilst city centre outlets had barely any traffic, its regional outlets had never been busier. The new openings will be a mix of franchised operations and outlets owned and managed by the coffee chain. That strategy has already started – earlier in the year, it made an agreement with Tesco, with their outlets now being seen inside many of the supermarket’s stores.
By the beginning of the week, the value of the cryptocurrency market once again topped US$ 2 trillion, with rises among most of the players, including Bitcoin, topping US$ 48k. Over the previous week, Cardano, Binance Coin, XRP and Dogecoin all posted marked increases of 47%, 14%, 61% and 18% respectively.
Australia’s July unemployment rate dipped 0.3%, month on month to 4.6%, and now stands at the lowest since December 2008. The Australian Bureau of Statistics notes that the official unemployment rate dropped early on in the latest round of lockdowns, as the number of people looking for work fell, and that a massive decline in NSW labour force participation was a major factor in the fall. The ABS pointed to the fact that many people gave up looking for work during lockdowns, with the participation rate dropping 0.2% to 66%.
Following the release of the minutes of the Fed’s July meeting, and an indication that there is a distinct possibility that there will be a roll back of its quantitative easing policy, ongoing over the past eighteen months since the onset of the pandemic, oil prices continued their downward spiral. Some consider that the Fed would start phasing out the current monthly US$ 120 billion programme of purchases of Treasury securities and agency MBS mortgage-backed securities, as early as November if the labour market can keep generating around one million jobs a month. If that were to happen, the tapering will take about ten months. This would see the greenback move northwards which normally results in oil prices heading in the other direction, as the commodity becomes more expensive in the international arena.
Latest figures see the UK’s labour market “rebounding robustly”, with the number of vacancies hitting 953k in the quarter to July. As the annual growth in average pay rose 7.4%, the unemployment rate fell to 4.7%. Although July payrolls jumped 182k, month on month, and 500k over the previous quarter, with 28.9 million now in employment, it is still 201k down on pre-pandemic levels. Most of the increase has been attributed to labour improvements in the arts, leisure and food service sectors. Recent data seems to signify that there will be no major problems when the furlough scheme being finally phased out next month, and that employment figures are positive on all counts, including unemployment rates lower and vacancy numbers of over one million.
Although 17.2% lower on the year, at US$ 3.7 million, mainly because of the impact of Covid, the median pay of a chief executive of a FTSE-100 company was 86 times that of the average full-time wage last year; their average bonus shrank 24.7% to US$ 1.14 million. By 3pm on the third day of a working year, the fat cats will have earned the same as the average annual pay for the rest. It is thought that in the UK, the gap between rich and poor is greater than in most other European countries. The top three highly paid executives were AstraZeneca’s Pascal Soriot, Experian’s Brian Cassin and CRH’s Albert Manifold at US$ 21.3 million, US$ 14.2 million and US$ 13.7 million. For the lucky few, 2021 could be the Year of The “Fat” Cat.