Dubai property on red alert
Posted by 7starsdubai on October 9, 2008
Dubai property on red alert: “Dubai property on red alert”
The Dubai government likes to use the annual Cityscape real estate exhibition to build confidence in the emirate and build interest in its property market. Massive schemes are announced and ever-more ambitious plans are hatched.
But this year’s exhibition has come amid falling local stock markets – Saudi Arabia fell 10 per cent on Monday – and growing concerns that the international financial crisis will bring about a correction to what is widely viewed as a frothy market.
True to form, NakheelNakheel, which is owned by the government of Dubai, at the weekend launched a Dh140bn ($38bn) project to build the world’s tallest tower and inland harbour. On Monday another government company, Meraas Development, said it would redevelop a swath of the city over 12 years in a Dh350bn project to be called Jumeira Gardens. The intention is that this scheme too should include another of the world’s tallest towers and reclaimed islands off the coast.
“Dubai has always reinvented itself and maintained growth,” Sina al Kazim, chief executive of Meraas, said.
Whereas in years gone by retail investors have tried to gain access to what is supposed to be a business to business event, this year the organisers had no trouble in keeping the public out.
One locally-based real estate broker admitted that there was “a good deal of nervousness” among exhibitors as to whether Dubai’s growth story of the past six years was coming to an end.
Dubai is the most exposed of the local economies because its local real estate market is supported by foreign investment and because, as an emirate, it has little in the way of natural resources. A home-grown credit squeeze caused by excess lending and insufficient deposit taking has added to the disquiet.
On Monday, as the real estate announcements came, property stocks led falls in the UAE’s two main stock markets. EmaarEmaar, Dubai’s main developer, fell 10.7 per cent, while TamweelTamweel, a mortgage lender that is to be merged with AmlakAmlak, was down 10.5 per cent. In Abu Dhabi, AldarAldar, the emirate’s leading developer, fell more than 9 per cent.
One banker described the situation as “belated panic”.
Credit default spreads on Dubai debt, especially real estate linked borrowing, have ballooned as institutions bet that the pace of growth in the property market will not be maintained.
But Dubai developers sought to assuage concerns.
Mr Kazim said he had a positive reaction in initial talks with local institutions about funding his development, which has caused controversy as it is forcing out local families and expatriate labourers from villas in Satwa and Jumeirah, some of the most established parts of the fast changing city.
Dubai Properties, a developer owned by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Dubai ruler, also said publicly that its credit lines were secure. Jade al Khalil, marketing manager, said he believed confidence in the Dubai market could be sustained.
TamweelTamweel, the troubled Islamic mortgage lender that has been at the centre of corruption investigations, which have done so much to harm Dubai’s reputation, said that it was joining other lenders in raising the deposit that investors must put down in order to secure financing.
Analysts said that the government linked property developers are fundamentally sound and will be backed by state funds if they get into trouble. They added that UAE authorities could intervene if they felt the market was in danger of crashing.
Some economists predicted a controlled slowing down rather than a sharp correction, which would be healthy given the steep increase in prices this year, as well as speculative trading.
“I don’t think it’s going to jeopardise or derail the economy,” Marios Maratheftis, head of research at Standard Chartered, said.
“I think we could have a couple of years of slow growth, a couple of years of underperforming markets as well, but I don’t think it will derail what will happen here in the future,” he said. “Having a mild correction will probably be beneficial for the economy and if the market is going to price in some risk in the decision making, especially in real estate, that will be beneficial.”
Others, however, were anticipating a sharper correction and greater consolidation in the real estatesector.
“I think that some kind of sharp correction has to happen because of the way prices have gone up and the fact that global credit conditions are very tight. The big issue is how fast the recovery comes,” said another banker, who asked not to be named. “The stock markets are a barometer of the real estate market – it’s telling you investors are very concerned right now.”
He said that there would have to be consolidation because “some of the more aggressive developers don’t have the cash flow to build what they have sold”.
Another banker said real estate companies in the UAE have been seeking advice from banks about potential merger and acquisitions.
By Simeon Kerr in Dubai and Andrew England in Abu Dhabi
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