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    • UAE: Human Rights Blogger, Sorbonne Lecturer Charged With ‘Humiliating' Officials
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    • Nakheel Dubai Sunland Case
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    • Dubai Nakheel CEO decided to leave the company
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    • Owner of Dubai Developer Damac Hussain Sajwani files case against Egypt corruption ruling
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    • Dubai Palm Jumeriah - Investors plan to take legal action
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Archive for November 24th, 2008

Property investors rally to the cause. – The National Newspaper

Posted by 7starsdubai on November 24, 2008


Property investors rally to the cause. – The National Newspaper

An amendment to a property law in Dubai has brought together a group of angry off-plan buyers who are fearful of losing a third of their investment to developers they believe may not even proceed with construction. According to the new amendment, off-plan buyers wishing to halt their payments have to cancel their contract and forfeit 30 per cent of the total value of the property, instead of only 30 per cent of the money they have paid.

The investors, who formed their group after an online forum on the issue, have yet to see evidence of construction on their projects and fear losing more of their money to developers in the current global slowdown if they continue their payments – but under the new amendment they could lose a third of their properties’ value if they do not. The new administrative circular was issued by the Dubai Land Department on Nov 10 concerning amended Law 13 on the pre-registration of off-plan properties, which was issued in August.

“Many investors have already paid 20 per cent to 50 per cent in projects which haven’t even started, hence they stopped payments in order to avoid further losses caused by possible bankruptcy of the developer,” said Tommy Carlsson, one of the organisers of the Dubai Property Investors group.

“Developers are misusing this interpretation of the law to terminate as many contracts as possible and forfeit our funds instead of finding solutions together with investors.”

Investors fear that developers who already know they cannot proceed with a project will keep the 30 per cent and then later on cancel the project without needing to refund buyers.

The group, which met for the second time on Sunday and is planning to hire a lawyer to represent them, is asking for two things. It suggests that before allowing a developer to cancel contracts, the developer must first submit the audit of its escrow to the Land Department. According to Law 8, developers must audit their accounts, but many of them have not done this yet. “We want developers to prove they have the ability to build,” said Nigel Knight, a co-founder of the group.

Second, contract cancellations should be put on hold if the client has already paid 20 per cent and construction has not started, with the payment plan proceeding only when construction actually starts.“We see that as the responsibility of the Government to make investigations about the developers and find out whom we can trust and who is not OK. We only ask the Government to protect us,” Mr Mohammed said. “We got e-mails from a developer saying we were not allowed to form a group. Somebody even tried to hack [into] our e-mail account.”

Among the developers that investors are concerned about is Schön Properties.

“Some people paid over 60 per cent of [Schön’s] Dubai Lagoon,” said Mr Mohammed, the co-founder of the investors group who did not wish to give his family name. “People ask why they should continue to pay. The developer hasn’t even started construction of their units. The developer is saying that if they don’t continue [to pay] they will cancel the contract and forfeit their money.”

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Amlak and Tamweel to sign on the dotted line – The National Newspaper

Posted by 7starsdubai on November 24, 2008


Amlak and Tamweel to sign on the dotted line – The National Newspaper

Back-door nationalisation.

A sign of distress in the banking sector. A prop to spur further lending for home buyers.

These are just some of the varied reactions to the news that the country’s two largest home finance providers will merge under the umbrella of a federal bank. Analysts are also saying that this is the first major government intervention to prevent the worsening property economy from sliding further as a result of the global credit crisis – and a welcome move at that.

“The whole landscape is changing,” said Chris Dommett, the chief executive at the regional office of mortgage advisory John Charcol. “This makes a lot of sense right now. It shows the emirates are thinking on a countrywide level.”

Amlak Finance and Tamweel, two companies with roughly Dh25 billion (US$6.8bn) in assets between them, will merge and become part of Real Estate Bank, a relatively unknown entity with offices in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, wholly owned by the Ministry of Finance and Industry, the state news agency WAM reported on Saturday.

The result would be a new home finance provider that would “serve as the cornerstone of the mortgage market”, said one government official, according to WAM. However, one senior international Dubai-based banker said it was still not clear whether the two institutions’ main problems had been addressed. “In theory, it is a good idea. But how do you turn two institutions that are in a mess into one combined entity that works well? You just end up with one giant mess.

Both Amlak and Tamweel need to merge with a major bank because what they lack is funds, and banks have that from their depositors.

However, hardly anybody had heard of the Real Estate Bank until now. Is it well capitalised?

Nobody seems to know.”

Some observers credit the authorities with trying to do something, even if the outcome may still be uncertain. The move comes as the credit pressures on property developers and home finance companies have become especially acute.

Amlak announced last week it would stop issuing new home loans as it reviewed its credit policy. Prices have begun softening across the country and once vibrant salesrooms for new towers are patronised by only a trickle of would-be buyers. This has led to a first round of layoffs at property developers and delays of projects that have yet to begin construction.While speculators have been busy trying to get out of the market because price growth has slowed, many regular end-users are still out to buy a home. But without access to affordable loans, they too have been frozen out of the market.

“The business model of Amlak and Tamweel has collapsed,” said Mohieddine Kronfol, the managing director of asset management at Algebra Capital. “As mortgage companies, their business models relied on wholesale funding, interbank borrowing and syndicated loans. All those channels of funding have been compromised by the credit crunch.”Mr Kronfol said the new national home finance provider could begin offering more attractive home loans because it would probably have access to government funds.

The new entity might also have the ability to collect deposits, allowing it another way to keep financing going during down cycles. Amlak and Tamweel are not licensed to collect deposits.

The announcement will push the relatively unknown Real Estate Bank into the spotlight as a leading financial institution in the property industry.
The bank was set up in 1981 and made operational in 1999 to provide loans to Emiratis and government-controlled companies. According to its website, it has only 7,000 customers and was started with Dh2bn in capital. Amlak and Tamweel, meanwhile, have combined assets of Dh25bn and tens of thousands of customers. Combined, they promise to be the largest property finance firm in the Middle East. The problem is neither of them have any money to lend to home buyers.

Mahmood al Mahmood, the chief executive of Al Qudra Holding, hinted last week that Real Estate Bank could take an even larger role in the property economy by also lending to distressed property developers.“We have had this entity for years, but it has not taken a large role,” Mr Mahmood said. “Today, we have an urgent need for it… There are discussions to bring it on track to take part in financing some of the mortgage companies and real estate developers. It would extend facilities whenever needed.”

Still, the announcement appeared to raise as many questions as it answered. No details were given about the structure of the new-look Real Estate Bank or what would happen to Amlak and Tamweel during the merger.Raj Madha, an analyst at EFG Hermes, said the announcement was “extremely positive” for improving the operations of the two companies, but “the main question is what will happen to shareholders”. Like many such mergers, the devil will be in the detail.
Eric Milne, the head of banking and finance for the region at Simmons and Simmons Dubai, said “there isn’t much precedent” for this type of merger. He suspected the merger would need majority shareholder approval.The two main possibilities for shareholders is that they will either be bought out by the Government and the shares will be delisted from the stock exchange, or the shares will be converted into shares in the new company. Either way, the Government is likely to take a controlling interest.

The companies involved provided no further details of the merger. Wasif Saifi, the chief executive of Tamweel, said the company “had been given the details” of the merger under Real Estate Bank and “are just looking at all the aspects of it”.The merger marks the beginning of what is likely to be a series of consolidations in the property industry, analysts said.“We are still on the cusp of a downturn in the UAE,” said John McGaw, the chief executive of the regional office of Killik & Co. “This merger will create a stronger entity. It’s something that needed to be done.”
His optimism will be greeted with relief by government officials, but last night home buyers were demanding the answer to one question: when will the home finance market resume? “This is the one million dollar question,” said the governor of the Central Bank, Sultan Nasser al Suwaidi, said over the weekend.bhope@thenational.aetpantin@thenational.ae

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