It’s Just Only Begun!

It’s Only Just Begun!                                                          16 September 2021

For the past week, ending 16 September, Dubai Land Department recorded a total of 1,610 real estate and properties transactions, with a gross value of US$ 1.75 billion. It confirmed that 1,081 villas/apartments were sold for US$ 583 million, and 119 plots for US$ 379 million over the week. The top three land transactions were in Palm Jumeirah for US$ 138 million, and two in Saih Shuaib 2 for US$ 19 million and US$ 14 million. The most popular locations were in Al Hebiah Third, with 20 sales transactions, worth US$ 17 million, Al Yufrah 2, with 15 sales at US$ 5 million, and Hadaeq Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, with 14 sales transactions worth US$ 69 million. Mortgaged properties for the week totalled US$ 545 million, including a plot for US$ 87 million in Al Safouh Second. 93 properties were granted between first-degree relatives worth US$ 76 million.

The International Schools Market in the Mena Region’s latest report notes that enrolments at the 2.3k international schools (1.83 million pupils) in the Mena have seen a 20.1% increase over the past five years. It also confirmed that the UAE – with 725 international schools of which 333 are in Dubai – has the highest number of students in the world at 697k. Some way behind are China and India with 419k and 316k pupils. Within the region, there is Saudi Arabia, with 292 schools (320k pupils), Egypt, with 279 (120k), and Qatar, with 207 (182k). Over the six-year period to 2021, the number of teaching staff has risen 21.4% to 153k, average tuition fees have increased 10.0% to US$ 7.7k, and total fee income by 36.8% to US$ 13.48 billion.

With travel restrictions being eased, and Emirates returning to some form of normalcy, it is reported that the Dubai carrier is planning to recruit a further 3k cabin crew and 0.5k airport staff over the next six months. For the past three months, the airline has been recalling pilots, cabin crew and other operational employees who were stood down during the early stages of Covid in Q2 2020. The current schedule sees Emirates flying to 90% of its pre-pandemic destinations and hopes to be flying at 70% capacity by year end.

Within the next six months, the country is preparing to be the leading global destination for travellers during Expo 2020 Dubai. Last month, the total number of passengers travelling to the UAE was 207% higher, on the year, at 2.5 million, while it is reported that local hotel sector has regained its pre-pandemic reservation rates, with hotel reservations in the UAE showing a marked growth prior to the opening of Expo 2020 Dubai. “Wego” registered over 500k searches for flights and hotel reservations for Dubai during the event period. The country, although surprisingly still on the UK ‘amber list’, is seen as a safe haven by many travellers, more so when 79.3% of its population has been fully vaccinated and 90.1% having had their first dose. Another driver has been the government’s decision to allow fully vaccinated individuals to apply for an entry visa, and this could be a real game changer.

H.H. Sheikh Mansour bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum opened the four-day 42nd edition of ‘The Big 5’ exhibition The region’s largest event for the construction industry has attracted 1.2k exhibitors from fifty countries and is the only live in-person event to connect the global construction industry in 2021. Sheikh Mansour noted that the strong momentum witnessed in Dubai’s events sector was the result of the emirate’s long experience in hosting and organising international events, as well as its prudent handling of the global pandemic.

Following this week’s two-day Dubai Digital Economy Retreat, a new plan has been established, with the help of the one hundred industrial experts who were attendees, to develop Dubai’s digital economy strategy. The scheme revolves around three pillars – enhancing the digital business environment, supporting digital firms and attracting leading digital companies to Dubai. Some of the topics aired included:

  • the need to attract more international digital companies and specialised talent to Dubai
  • high costs for companies operating in this sector
  • encouraging more digital start-ups
  • enhancing investments in growing these businesses
  • widening acceptance of e-commerce payments
  • removing barriers of entry
  • enhancing the quality of services operating in this space

Currently, the digital economy contributes about 4.3% to the country’s GDP, equating to  t  the US$ 27.2  billion action plan that lays the groundwork for developing Dubai’s digital economy strategy and ecosystem, which will lead to many new jobs and growth opportunities. It is estimated that the UAE is home to 1.4k start-ups, (estimated to be valued at US$ 24.5 billion), ninety investment funds in the digital sector and twelve business incubators.

Following last month’s start-up of Unit 2 of the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant, the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation confirmed that its operations and maintenance subsidiary, Nawah Energy Company, had safely and successfully connected the unit to the UAE grid. This will add a further 1.4k MW of clean electricity capacity to the UAE grid and takes the facility halfway to its target of supplying up to 25% of the country’s electricity needs; it will also drive reductions in UAE’s carbon emissions. The project, started in 2012 and which is more than 96% finished, will boast four APR-1400s, with Units 3 and 4 in the final stages of commissioning at 95% and 91% completed respectively. It is expected that the plant will produce 5.6 gigawatts of free carbon electricity for the next sixty years.

On Sunday, the government released thirteen policies, being the second batch from the UAE’s 50 Projects for the Future, first announced earlier in the month. One of its more striking requirements, in a thirteen-policy package, was that UAE private sector employers must ensure 10% of their workforce is Emirati over the next five years, with hiring having to show a 2% rise each year; this would boost the number of Emiratis in the private sector by 75k. The government confirmed that “unskilled labourers will not be counted, only the skilled labour will be within in our target”. Other projects include paid training programmes, subsidies for Emiratis working in the private sector and support for local entrepreneurs looking to leave the public sector and start up their own companies. A further US$ 341 million will be made available to train Emiratis and prepare them for specialised private sector roles, as well as a monthly US$ 2k payment for university fees to support the cost of training citizens in the private sector for up to a year. Furthermore, pensions for those in lower paid jobs will also be supplemented by government funds for the next five years.

In a bid to encourage Emiratis to set up their own businesses, rather than working in the public sector, newly introduced incentives include:

  • a monthly US$ 1.4k top-up, for five years, for Emirati university graduates who take a role in a privately-owned company
  • six-month state support for Emiratis who lose their job in the private sector
  • a fixed five-year US$ 1.4k monthly bonus for nationals working in specialised fields in the private sector, such as programmers, nurses, accountants, and others
  • federal government employees can take a six or twelve-month sabbatical on 50% pay so as to start their own business, and employees aged over fifty can take early retirement to do the same

In the eight months to August 2021, Dubai Chamber reported a 21.8% jump, to US$ 40.1 billion, in the value of exports and re-exports year-on-year, driven by a rebound in trade activity in Dubai; on the year, the growth was 43.9% higher. Last month, the Chamber issued 58.2k certificates of origin – 20.8% higher compared to July 2021. The GCC region accounted for 53% of the total exports and re-exports of members in August – 37% higher on the month, at US$ 3.1 billion, and up 16.4%, year on year, to US$ 22.7 billion. The Chamber is to support the five-year plan, announced by HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, to boost Dubai’s foreign trade by 42.9% to US$ 545 billion.

Latest figures indicate that the value of the UAE’s 2020 non-oil foreign trade jumped to US$ 382.3 billion, including a 10.1% hike in year-on-year non-oil exports at US$ 69.4 billion; imports, accounting for 56% of total trade, were at US$ 213.9 billion and re-exports at US$ 99.0 billion. The top five trading partners – China, Saudi Arabia, India, US and Iraq – with bilateral trade amounting to US$ 47.4 billion, US$ 28.3 billion, US$ 27.9 billion, US$ 21.9 billion and US$ 14.4 billion respectively. These five accounted for 36.6% of total trade, compared to 44.1% a year earlier. In relation to exports. the top five nations were Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, India, Turkey and Italy with totals of US$ 8.0 billion, US$ 7.0 billion, US$ 5.4 billion, US$ 5.0 billion and US$ 4.9 billion. For imports, the leading five were China, US, India, Japan and Germany, (accounting for 41.6% of all imports), with figures of US$ 39.3 billion, US$ 16.5 billion, US$ 16.5 billion, US$ 9.5 billion and US$ 7.3 billion. Re-exports saw Saudi Arabia the leading nation, with US$ 14.9 billion, followed by Iraq, (US$ 11.1 billion), Oman, (US$ 6.6 billion), India, (US$ 6.1 billion), and China (US$ 5.3 billion).

At a meeting at 10 Downing Street today, an agreement was signed that expanded the UAE-UK Sovereign Investment Partnership. This framework for investment was signed in March that saw Mubadala Investment Company tie up with the UK Office for Investment, with the former committing US$ 1.10 billion (GBP 800 million) and OfI US$ 275 million (GBP 200 million) to be invested in UK life sciences. Following today’s meeting, the UAE-UK SIP will receive a major boost by a further five-year investment of US$ 13.8 billion (GBP 10 billion) by the Abu Dhabi partner not only in life sciences but also in three more sectors – technology, infrastructure, and energy transition. It was also decided that the UAE-UK SIP will become the central investment platform under the new Partnership for the Future bilateral framework, attracting many UAE and UK entities to invest under the UAE-UK SIP umbrella.

The UAE’s Central Bank has issued  new guidlines on transaction monitoring and sanctions screening for its licensed financial institutions that requires them to demonstrate compliance with CBUAE’s requirements by 12 October. Among LFI’s obligations include to:

  • develop internal policies, controls, and procedures that are commensurate with the nature and size of their business
  • manage their identified money laundering and financing of terrorism risks
  • put in place indicators to identify suspicious transactions and activities
  • file suspicious transaction and activity reports or other report types to the UAE’s Financial Intelligence Unit
  • regularly screen their databases and transactions against names on lists issued by the UN or by the UAE Cabinet 

The Federal Tax Authority has reminded impacted registrants to benefit from the June Cabinet Decision No. 49 of 2021 which includes reductions on administrative penalties. The aim of this latest Decision, which sees reductions in sixteen types of administrative penalties, seems to enhance the legislation to encourage self-compliance. To benefit, certain conditions have to be met, including the:

  • administrative penalty must have been imposed under Cabinet Decision No. 40 of 2017 before 28 June 2021
  • administrative penalty due was not settled in full until 27 June 27, 2021
  • the registrant should settle all due payable tax by 31 December 2021
  • the registrant should settle 30% of the total unsettled administrative penalties imposed before 28 June 2021, no later than 31 December 2021

If these conditions are met, the administrative penalties will be redetermined to equal 30% of the total unpaid penalties that will appear on the FTA’s electronic system after 31 December 2021.

Amanat Holdings has invested over US$ 12 million to acquire the real estate assets of Cambridge Medical and Rehabilitation Centre in Abu Dhabi – the Dubai-listed company’s first foray into healthcare sector real estate investment. Earlier in the year, the company acquired Cambridge Medical for US$ 232 million, in one of the region’s biggest healthcare sector deals, from TVM Capital Healthcare, a private equity company. The company, that specialises in healthcare and education sector investments, plans to further invest in developing its portfolio of companies by either owning the underlying real estate assets or investing in technology.

Although still in the “early stages”, discussions have started that could result in Dubai-listed courier Aramex acquiring Turkish transportation company MNG Kargo. Its final decision is dependent “to satisfactory findings of the due diligence process” and “the company’s senior management and board of directors’ approval.” Although “the total value of this transaction has not yet been determined or agreed upon at this early stage,” the deal may top US$ 500 million.

This Sunday, 19 September, the DFM will introduce three new equity futures contracts, bringing the total on the bourse to 33 on individual stocks of eleven listed companies, with tenures of up to three months. First launched in October 2020, the total value of trading on contracts has topped US$ 32 million. The public is able to trade DFM equity futures through eight local brokerage firms.

The DFM opened on Sunday 12 September, 4 points (0.1%) lower the previous week, shed a further 7 points (0.2%) to close the week on 2,901. Emaar Properties, US$ 0.01 lower the previous week, lost a further US$ 0.05 to close on US$ 1.09. Emirates NBD and Damac started the previous week on US$ 3.81 and US$ 0.34 and closed on US$ 3.88 and US$ 0.34. On Thursday, 16 September, 192 million shares changed hands, with a value of US$ 127 million, compared to 148 million shares, with a value of US$ 55 million, on 09 September.

By Thursday, 16 September, Brent, US$ 0.90 (1.2%) higher the previous week, gained a further US$ 4.28 (5.9%), to close on US$ 75.68. Gold, US$ 16 (0.9%) higher the previous week, lost US$ 42 (2.3%) to close Thursday 16 September on US$ 1,752.   

Late last week, the US Energy Information Administration revised downwards its Brent 2021-2022 price outlook by US$ 0.10 to US$ 66.04 this year but maintained its 2022 forecast at US$ 66.04.  This year, it expects a 5.0 million bpd increase in supply, and 3.6 million bpd in 2022, resulting in a daily 101 million bpd and this despite lower-than-expected demand. It expects “growth in production from Opec+. US tight oil, and other non-Opec countries will outpace slowing growth in global oil consumption and contribute to” oil price declines in 2022. Next year, the agency sees Opec adding 1.4 million bpd, to reach a daily total of 28.34 million bpd, but that Brent prices will remain around the US$ 71 level in Q4.

The International Energy Agency confirmed that the recent Hurricane Ida shut out an estimated 1.7 million bpd, along the US Gulf coast, (equating to 44% of the area’s oil supply), with total losses in the region of thirty million bpd; this is expected to erase the additional supply that is being added to the market, following Opec+’s latest initiative. Last month, global supply dipped by 540k bpd to reach 96.1 million bpd, with this figure to remain basically the same this month and nudging higher in October, as the oil cartel continues unwinding cuts, resolving outages and increasing production. At their planned 01 October meeting, Opec+, will probably sanction a further 400k bpd, rising to two million bpd by year-end. The energy agency expects oil demand to grow by 5.2 million bpd in 2021 and 3.2 million bpd in 2022.

A study studied a plethora of fine dining restaurants, high-end designer shops and elegant 5-star hotels, to rank the world’s most luxurious cities. The top five cities in the study were Paris, London, Tokyo, New York and Seoul, with five Asian destinations – Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore, Bangkok and Beijing – making the top ten. Dubai was ranked 16th in front of the likes of LA and Madrid. Dubai scored well in several sector including having the most five-star hotels, (112), compared to say the Paris number of 95. However, the French capital with 108 luxury stores, (with more Cartier stores than any other city in the world) outscored Dubai’s 76. Rather surprisingly, the emirate does not have any Michelin-star restaurants whereas Paris has 427 of them, followed by London’s 156.

First applied by Toyota in the early 1970s, Just in Time is a Japanese inventory management philosophy which was first developed as a way of meeting consumer demand, with minimum delays. The main thrust of the system is to ensure that goods are received from suppliers only as they areneeded, with the main objectivesbeing to reduce inventory holding costs and increasing inventory turnover. The system, which requires careful planning over the whole supply chain, increases efficiency and increases profitability, and among its benefits are reducing inventory wastage and decreasing warehouse holding costs. Other advantages are that, as essential and stocks are required, less working capital is required, and the manufacturer has complete control over the manufacturing process which works on the demand-pull basis. It also gives manufacturers 100% control over the manufacturing process which allows them to quicken production for an in-demand product and, at the other end, reduce production for slower-moving items.

Supposedly the panacea for all manufacturing inventory problems, many companies failed to read the small print.  Its two main drawbacks are that in case of disruptions, there is no excess of stock to fall back on and the other is the environmental impact of the model requiring a lot of transporting between supplier, manufacturer and customer, with the resultant over-use of fossil fuel and packaging. Covid has probably rung the death bell for JIT, with the problem further exacerbated in the UK by Brexit, which has seen 100k HGV drivers returning to their respective European countries. The UK’s farm-to-fork supply chain is currently missing around half a million of the four million people who usually work in the sector – again mainly attributable to the ‘Brexit exit’. The end result is that many companies, including the likes of MacDonald’s, KFC Heineken, Hardy’s wine, Iceland, Nissan and Boots, have experienced supply chain difficulties that have seen empty shelves and restaurants having to cut back on their menu items. What is apparent is that the labour shortage has probably put the final nail in the coffin of JIT, as the system is no longer working and highly likely not to recover.

On Tuesday, Apple released its latest updated iPhone 13 and its success will ensure the tech giant will become the world’s first three-trillion-dollar company sometime in 2022; currently, its market value hovers just under US$ 2.5 trillion, having climbed 12% YTD, having only reached the US$ 2 trillion mark in August 2020. Apple did take a hit last week when a US court ruled that it must not block app developers from guiding users towards making payments outside the Apple app system – a blow to one of its most profitable services. Apple’s service division, which includes the app store, accounted for 20% of the company’s US$ 275 billion turnover, with the iPhone driving 50% of its revenue stream. The new iPhone does not differ that much from its predecessor, although its camera lenses and battery capacity are much improved. Two drivers will push sales in an already saturated marketplace – the global rollout of super-fast 5G networks, and the fact that about 300 million iPhone owners have not upgraded their phone in three and a half years. How long Apple can rely on its iPhone – of which over one billion have been sold – as its principal revenue driver remains to be seen.

In an antitrust case, a Californian district judge has ruled against Epic Games confirming that the Apple 30% App store commission for subscriptions and downloads does not violate state or federal law. The judge summarised that “the court cannot ultimately conclude that Apple is a monopolist under either federal or state antitrust laws”. The long-standing argument saw Apple claiming the App Store’s fee system was an essential operating charge, with Epic calling it a monopolistic tax. The spat came to a head in August 2020, with Epic introducing a replacement payment system in its popular game Fortnite to go round the App Store’s transaction fees, following which Apple retaliated by deleting it from its app gallery. The court found this action to be a breach of contract and ordered Epic to reimburse Apple 30% of all revenue it collected through direct payments, thought to be over US$ 3 million. The judge also noted that “while the court finds that Apple enjoys considerable market share of over 55% and extraordinarily high profit margins, these factors alone do not show antitrust conduct. Success is not illegal.” In her summing up, the judge said that “the court concludes that Apple’s anti-steering provisions hide critical information from consumers and illegally stifle consumer choice.”

The Commonwealth Bank of Australia will plead guilty to charges that it sold junk insurance to 165 customers, as the Australian Securities and Investments Commission brought charges relating to the sale of CreditCard Plus and Loan Protection insurance as add-on products from 2011 to 2015. The allegations surround claims that the bank misled customers in branches, online and on the phone into believing the policies had uses or benefits when they did not.  The bank has apologised for their “unacceptable conduct” and will get the proverbial slap on the wrist, with no individuals facing prosecution; the bank will pay the penalty and its current customer base will pay the tab. It is also reported that the watchdog is chasing Westpac for selling junk consumer credit insurance, and ME Bank for making dodgy representations to its customers.  Old leopards never change their spots!

Having just raised a further US$ 200 million in a fresh round of private equity investment, Canva is now valued at US$ 40.0 billion, becoming one of the world’s biggest privately-owned companies and the fifth most valuable global start-up behind ByteDance, which owns TikTok, payment platform Stripe, SpaceX and Swedish financial technology firm Klarna. Having doubled in value over the past five months, the Australian graphic design business, founded in 2013 by Melanie Perkins and Cliff Obrecht, who now own a 36% stake in the company, have announced that “the vast majority” of their stake would be used “to do good in the world” through a foundation.  The Sydney-based allows customers to design everything from T-shirts to business cards and is becoming more popular with large companies to use as a tool to run collaborative design projects. Around 130k non-profit organisations are said to get the premium version of Canva for free.

In the UK, the Johnson government has set out plans to invest US$ 900 billion in public and private infrastructure over the next decade. Launched on Monday, it is expected that the investment would support an extra 425k jobs over the next four years, creating new opportunities for thousands of apprentices, technicians, graduates and skilled workers. It is estimated that US$ 123 billion would be spent on social infrastructure to help communities, including US$ 3.5 billion on 165 major rebuilding education projects, as well as US$ 41.5 billion of planned procurements over the next twelve months in social and economic infrastructure. The PM also noted that the furlough scheme had so far cost US$ 94.8 billion and had helped 11.6 million people, including protecting 910k jobs in Scotland, 470k jobs in Wales, and nearly 290k jobs in Northern Ireland.

One of the anomalies in the UK labour figures is that although its unemployment figures dipped 0.1% to 4.6%, in the quarter to July, and August payrolls rose by 241k to 29.1 million, job vacancies hit a record high at over one million. The Office for National Statistics confirmed that numbers were back at pre-Covid levels in August, but despite this, there remains high demand for more staff. There were labour shortages in certain sectors, which will inevitably dampen growth, as well as the impact on firms’ ability to fulfil orders and meet customer demand. Figures may be skewed because it is estimated that one million people are still on furlough which comes to an end on 30 September. The number of vacancies in the six sectors with the highest numbers were social work, hospitality, technical professions, retail, manufacturing and administration services with 167k, 134k, 98k, 83k, 75k and 75k. 

Driven by higher prices in its various eateries, August UK inflation has risen to 3.2% – its highest level in more than nine years – with prices moving higher, following last summer’s discounts under the government’s ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme that lasted throughout August 2020. With a record monthly 1.2% hike, from July’s 2.0% rate, the inflation figures were skewed by the US$ 14 discount offered by the government to help out the hospitality sector.  There were also price rises in computer games and fuel, (now at US$ 1.86 per litre), but restaurant prices represented more than half of the 1.2% rise in headline inflation. The higher than expected inflation rate hike may see the BoE considering phasing out the stimulus package, first introduced at the onset of Covid in March 2020, and/or even nudging interest rates marginally higher.  Some analysts will let you believe that this inflationary surge is just a temporary blip, but with the global supply chain in disarray, Brexit bureaucracy, higher energy prices and higher food costs all combine that point to inflation rates continuing to head north to reach at least 4.0% by year end.

According to the UN Conference on Trade and Development, the global economy is expected to expand, this year, at a quicker rate – 5.3% – than initially expected, followed by 3.6% in 2022; this follows the worldwide 3.5% contraction reported last year. (Globally, international trade is forecast to grow by 9.5% in 2021, after dropping by 5.6% in 2020). The usual caveat applies – that the overall global economic recovery will be uneven across geographies, income levels and sectors. The report highlighted that “these widening gaps, both domestic and international, are a reminder that underlying conditions, if left in place, will make resilience and growth luxuries enjoyed by fewer and fewer privileged people.” Many developing economies are being held back by very limited access to vaccines and constraints on fiscal measures, with the resultant economic damage being more felt in Africa and South Asia. It is estimated that, within four years, developing countries will be US$ 12 trillion poorer owing to the pandemic.

The Institute of International Finance estimates that, in Q2, US$ 4.8 trillion was added to global debt increasing the total balance to a massive – and unacceptable – level of US$ 296 trillion. Having moved lower in Q1, the latest balance came in US$ 36 trillion higher, compared to its pre-pandemic level. To the observer, it seems that governments, corporates and households continue to borrow almost unabated, as the pandemic keeps reappearing under different guises. 

Emma Radacanu was not the only tennis player in New York to have a big win this week when she won the US Open, without losing a set in her seven matches, to become the first ever qualifier to win a major. The other winner was not on the tennis court but Roger Federer-backed running shoe company, On Holding, jumping 46% on their New York debut yesterday, 15 September; by the end of trading, the Swiss firm, founded in 2010, had a market value of US$ 11.0 billion, after selling 31.1 million shares in its IPO raising US$ 746 million. The company, which teamed up with Federer to develop the Roger Pro tennis shoe, (which retails at US$ 200 a pair), also makes a 100% recyclable brand of running shoes, called Cyclon, made from castor beans.

For the twelve months to August, the Swiss tennis ace made only US$ 1 million from his sport but netted US$ 91 million, ensuring his position as the highest-earning tennis player in the world, with most of his income from endorsements. The trend continues when the top ten tennis earners are assessed with a collective total of US$ 320 million, 6.0% lower on the year, of which US$ 281 million, (87.8% of the total) originates from endorsements.  It can only be a matter of time before big hitter Emma Radacanu joins the big earners, having just won US$ 2.5 million for her victory in the last major of the season. With the top nine global female sportswomen all being tennis players, there is no doubt that the Canadian-born teenager has all the right credentials to become the highest ever paid female athlete – with the usual caveat that she has to keep winning.  Her current business manager is IMG’s Max Eisenbud, who formerly managed world number one, Maria Sharapova, who was the world’s highest-paid female athlete for 11 years running. Radacanu already has a shoe and clothing sponsorship contract with Nike, a racquet sponsorship with Wilson and is on the front cover of October’s Vogue. There will be major brands falling over each other to try and get her signed up with lucrative deals – for Emma Radacanu, It’s Only Just Begun!

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