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      source Human Rights Watch www.hrw.org (Beirut) - The United Arab Emirates attorney general should immediately drop all charges against five pro-democracy activists to halt their trial, Human Rights Watch said today. The charges of "humiliating" top officials relate solely to the defendants' peaceful use of speech to criticize the UAE governmen […]
    • Nakheel Dubai Sunland Case
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    • Dubai Nakheel CEO decided to leave the company
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    • Dubai Palm Jumeriah - Investors plan to take legal action
      Investors in Dubai Palm Jumeirah’s Golden Mile complex will this week serve the developer behind the project with a legal ultimatum to hand over their units or issue them with a refund.Up to ten investors in the luxury complex plan to issue Souq Residences with legal notice in a bid to force a resolution to a dispute that has been ongoing for more than a yea […]
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Archive for February 2nd, 2009

U.A.E. Property Prices ‘Fell Off a Cliff’ on Crisis

Posted by 7starsdubai on February 2, 2009


http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=a9mDQeZmhgr0

Feb. 2 (Bloomberg) —

Property prices in the United Arab Emirates “fell off a cliff” after banks reduced lending and speculators withdrew from the market because of the global economic crisis, Morgan Stanley said in a note to investors.

In Dubai, prices have slumped 25 percent from the market’s peak in September, while Abu Dhabi prices have declined 20 percent, according to the U.S. investment bank. There were “sharp” falls in the number of transactions during the fourth quarter, the bank said.

Deteriorating economic conditions, job cuts and the unavailability of mortgages have “resulted in a worse than expected performance in the U.A.E. property market, especially in Dubai,” Mai Attia, an analyst based in the sheikdom, said in the note dated Jan. 30.

Dubai opened its property market to foreign investors in 2002, while Abu Dhabi allowed foreign ownership three years later, fueling a boom that was boosted by low interest rates. Banks including HSBC Holdings Plc and Lloyds TSB Group Plc clamped down on mortgages in the last quarter as the global recession started to affect the region, forcing construction companies to scale back projects and cut jobs.

Tallest Building

Emaar Properties PJSC, the country’s biggest publicly traded developer, will be affected most by the drop in prices because two of its projects, Burj Dubai and Old Town, have “taken the biggest hit since the peak,” the report said. Burj Dubai overtook Taipei 101 as the world’s tallest building, Emporis Buildings in Darmstadt, Germany, said in a report today.

In Abu Dhabi, Aldar Properties PJSC’s Raha Beach development was most affected, the report said. The emirate’s housing shortage hasn’t helped sustain prices as speculators exited the market and financing became scares.

Emaar’s shares dropped 84 percent in the past 12 months, while Abu Dhabi’s two largest developers Aldar and Sorouh Real Estate Co. slid 77 percent and 69 percent respectively.

Construction projects totaling $75 billion have been either delayed or canceled in the U.A.E., HSBC Bank Middle East Ltd. said in a note Jan 22. The majority of projects affected are high-end residential and commercial developments. The U.A.E. government doesn’t release official data on property prices in the country or the number of completed transactions.

Rents

Emaar runs a “high risk” of customers canceling purchases or defaulting, Morgan Stanley said. Any new projects undertaken by the Dubai-based company in the next two years may sell at a “significant ‘sensible’ discount” compared with prices in the past year.

The developer is among six government-owned companies in Dubai whose credit ratings are under review at Moody’s Investors Service for possible downgrades as the economy slows, the ratings company said today.

Rental rates “started to ease in Dubai in December, where we expect the average rents have fallen by 7 percent” since the summer, Attia wrote in the report. “Abu Dhabi seems more resilient so far, given its different demand supply fundamentals.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Zainab Fattah in Dubai at zfattah@bloomberg.net

Last Updated: February 2, 2009 10:52 EST

Posted in Dubai | Comments Off on U.A.E. Property Prices ‘Fell Off a Cliff’ on Crisis

Respect is not a one-way boulevard but a two-way street.

Posted by 7starsdubai on February 2, 2009


http://blogs.zawya.com/sultan/090127070812/

The biggest talking point in the past few days among the citizens of the Gulf countries wasn’t the inauguration of President Barack Obama. In fact, it was something that at face value seems insignificant, yet carries deep meaning.

Mobile audio messages, e-mails and internet postings carried recordings across the region of a now notorious five-minute phone call made to the official Saudi state sports TV channel. The phone call came from Muscat, in the sultanate of Oman, host city of the 19th Gulf Football Cup. Briefly, the humiliating tirade went like this:

The caller talks about one of the football commentators in the studio. “Jassim,” he says, “is speaking from ignorance, he has no idea what he’s talking about. You are all discussing something that you don’t know. Respect yourself. You and those like you want to evaluate players? You have to stay quiet or speak the truth. How can you talk like you are the saviour? You took more than what is allowed. You have to be polite. If you haven’t been brought up properly we will know how to bring you up.” The caller hangs up abruptly. The presenter thanks him.

The caller was in fact Prince Sultan bin Fahd, son of the late King Fahd, and the current president of the Saudi Arabia Football Federation. A video recording of his tirade has been posted numerous times on YouTube, and as I write this it has been viewed more than 600,000 times.

There are two aspects to this story. First, even considering the caller’s history of emotional outbursts, such harsh criticism by a senior member of the royal family on live TV was a surprise to many in the Gulf, who have been accustomed to at least a facade of mutual respect between the rulers and their subjects, as dictated by the Bedouin and Arab customs of the region.

Second, the repercussions of such public scolding could compel commentators to hold back on criticism – not only regarding sports analysis, but on issues extending beyond trivialities. These live talk programmes that emulate western debate shows after major football games draw many journalists and commentators, and such criticism will surely lead to self-censorship. Subsequently, The Observers forum on the website of the international news and current affairs TV channel France 24 carried a translation of a cartoon in which a Saudi man drags a compatriot to the entrance of a TV studio. “Come on, don’t be scared,” the first man is saying. “No, no, I don’t want to, I don’t want to,” replies the other.

The Arabic news networks Elaph and Al Arabiya, both of which are closely affiliated with the family of the caller, went as far as allowing their readers to post scores of critical comments about the caller’s remarks. “Abu Tamim” wrote: “There is no doubt that the pundits made some mistakes, but the powerful man’s mistakes were bigger and he should apologise.” “Hugo” wrote: “These men are from respected families and such language should not be used even against criminals.” “Saudi1123” wrote: “What happened live on air went beyond the acceptable.” Clearly, such comments concerning a public figure are something that we are not used to reading in the Gulf very often – until now, that is, largely thanks to the internet.

The truth is that had the tirade come from an anonymous caller the TV station would have cut the call without hesitation. However, many believe that it is precisely because the caller is a known figure and represents the ruling family that he should have not let his emotions get the better of him, and should have kept in mind that respect isn’t a one-way relationship.

By coincidence, on the very same day that those football commentators were verbally abused by a member of the Saudi royal family, the Federal National Council in the UAE sanctioned proposed new legislation to regulate the media, which would increase significantly the fines imposed on journalists who criticise the ruling families and “harm the economy”. The two events are connected because they go to the heart of the relationship between the general public and those who govern them. In a well ordered society it is the duty of a responsible press and media to represent the public interest. They cannot do that if they have to operate under a perpetual cloud of threatened legal action from a vague and unclear law. The parliamentarians could have taken a page out of Saudi Arabia’s book regarding the polite and respectful criticism of a senior ruler published on government-sanctioned websites.

It is imperative that the UAE remain a country of equality, rather than one that tolerates elitism under any guise. The decision by the Prime Minister, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid, to prohibit the jailing of journalists was a welcome step. However, enacting a law that effectively instils a separation in the minds of people between themselves and the Government will surely lead to resentment.

Also, the proposed new law assumes that it is only one category of society that deserves protection. It is unacceptable in the Arab Gulf states that some members of society are given ample time live on TV to freely criticise, while others would be fined for doing the same.

After all, respect is not a one-way boulevard but a two-way street.

Sultan Al Qassemi is a Sharjah-based businessman and graduate of the American University of Paris. He is the founder of Barjeel Securities in Dubai

This article first appeared in The National newspaper on Tuesday January 27 2009

http://blogs.zawya.com/sultan/090127070812/

 

Posted in Dubai | Comments Off on Respect is not a one-way boulevard but a two-way street.

Decline in Abu Dhabi property prices drives speculators out

Posted by 7starsdubai on February 2, 2009


we have started to compensate the clients who bought our property on the map when prices were very high and prices of cement, wood, steel and other building materials were at their peak… when there was a decline in the fourth quarter, we refunded them… we did so as a moral commitment as we are not bound by the law to do this… I hope other companies in the market will follow suit.”

 

http://www.business24-7.ae/Articles/2009/2/Pages/02022009_006c51b414d0406bbc4f0df65e16b2ff.aspx

A decline in property prices in Abu Dhabi after two years of rapid increase is forcing out short-term speculators and this will help stabilise the real estate market this year, a property company chief said yesterday.

Wael Al Taweel, CEO of Bani Yas for Investment and Development, said Abu Dhabi’s property market has remained strong despite the decline but added that it has entered a “wait-and-see” stage because of the global financial stress.

In an interview with Emirates Business, Taweel said the decline in property prices had prompted his Abu Dhabi-based company to refund some customers and urged other property developers to follow suit.

He said the real estate market in the emirate, which has one of the highest GDP per capita incomes in the world, had been controlled by three main players – the real investor, organised speculators and unorganised speculators.

“The difference is that the organised speculators are involved in healthy activity… they have strong financial adequacy and the capability to engage in large investments… the unorganised speculators lack sufficient adequacy and are interested only in making quick profits, which is not a healthy practice and was one of the main factors for the surge in property prices last year,” he said.

“Those unorganised speculators are exiting the market following the decline in prices and this is one of the main reasons that make me believe the real estate market in Abu Dhabi will record relative stability this year… but I think some companies that were involved in malpractices will suffer a fall in their prices.”

According to Taweel, the sharp rise in property prices during 2007 and 2008 did not reflect the real demand-supply balance and was mainly caused by speculation. He said a drop of nearly 20 per cent in prices in the last quarter was caused by lower construction costs and global commodity prices.

“Another reason of the decline in prices in the last quarter is that there has been exaggeration property estimation and over-pricing by some companies and investors,” he said.

“As for our company, we set a price of Dh850 per square feet in mid-2008, when we launched operations… our prices followed the general trend and increased to Dh1,150 later… today, we are selling at Dh950 but, of course, we have started to compensate the clients who bought our property on the map when prices were very high and prices of cement, wood, steel and other building materials were at their peak… when there was a decline in the fourth quarter, we refunded them… we did so as a moral commitment as we are not bound by the law to do this… I hope other companies in the market will follow suit.”

Taweel shrugged off recent comments by real estate experts the property market in Abu Dhabi is weakening because of the global crisis.

“I don’t think the market is weakening. On the contrary it is still very strong and the decline in prices is making it more tempting for investors… despite the crisis, I believe there is a lot of liquidity in the market and those who believe prices are now suitable will enter the market.”

Posted in Dubai | Comments Off on Decline in Abu Dhabi property prices drives speculators out

Dubai’s Palm Jumeirah Prices Plummet as Crunch Sets In

Posted by 7starsdubai on February 2, 2009


http://www.zawya.com/story.cfm/sidZAWYA20090202093041

Dubai, February 2, 2009: Property prices on the Palm Jumeirah, the island dubbed the ‘eighth wonder of the world’, have fallen by over 50 per cent since September 2008 amid fears the global credit crisis is stalling the emirate’s economy.

 

 Four-bedroom garden homes on the Palm are now selling as low as Dh6.5 million, down from Dh14 million in September 2008 according to sales agents PowerHouse Properties.

 

 Ian Hainey, Palm sales specialist for Dubai brokerage, PowerHouse Properties, said: “We’ve seen a steady stream of bargain hunters in the market shopping for these prestigious addresses, with many motivated primarily by price. Many end-users who previously could not afford to live on Palm Jumeirah are also now turning their attention to the bargains currently on offer.

 Palm signature villa prices have also fallen, with even the most popular styles that were selling for over Dh30 million six months ago now appearing on the market for under Dh15 million.

 

 However, there has been a noticeable increase in Palm Jumeirah buying activity during the month of January.

Sales are still being made on the island, with an upsurge in those buying to rent, taking advantage of the bargain prices while still capitalising upon the high rental yields. Garden homes are renting at over Dh400,000 and furnished signature villas still commanding rents up to Dh1 million.”

 

 Reports show property prices in Dubai dropped 8 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2008, the first quarterly decline since foreign ownership became legal in 2002. The report stated sales volume also dropped by 45 per cent in the last quarter, providing fresh evidence of the global credit crunch hitting the emirate.

 

 When work started on the Palm in 2001, the villas were quickly snapped up at prices from Dh2.8 million each, with celebrity buyers including David Beckham and Michael Schumacher. The Palm Jumeirah quickly became one of Dubai’s most desired locations and prices rocketed as the hype surrounding the island grew.

As 2008 drew to a close, the decision to halt work on Palm Jumeirah’s Dh2.9 billion Trump International Tower is one of the more notable effects of the economic downturn. Nakheel  has already announced delays on some of its other projects, such as aspects of the Palm Jebel Ali. There is a connection between the lack of finance available, slowdown in projects and the intense downward pressure on property prices.

Dubai-based mortgage advisor Jack Czechowski from propertyfinancelink.com explained: “There has been a marked reduction in people seeking to buy properties on the Palm Jumeirah, and therefore obtain finance, but this is true in developments throughout Dubai

 

 “Those who are still looking to buy are finding it very challenging to obtain finance at the moment. Banks have tightened their policies, reduced lending ratios and increased interest rates. Most lenders have reduced their maximum borrowing ratios from 90 per cent to less than 80 per cent.

 

 

 Interest rates have increased from approximately 6.5 per cent to 8.5 per cent and banks will generally no longer lend to non-residents or people employed in the real estate sector. Unfortunately this is preventing many potential buyers from being able to purchase.

 It is difficult to make an accurate prediction on the immediate future, as Dubai has never faced this problem, but it is quite possible banks will review their policies early in the year.”

 Middle East construction and development in Dubai has slowed down over the past few months. Reduced lending from banks and falling confidence about the future of the market have combined to slow down both the primary and secondary property market.

 The Palm Jumeirah was built as the flagship part of Dubai’s ambitious ‘Universe’ development, which planned to extend Dubai’s coastline to around 625 miles, around 15 times its natural size.

PowerHouse Properties currently specialises in end-user properties such as Emirates Hills, Greens, Views, Palm Jumeirah, Springs and Meadows. Based in Al Barsha, PowerHouse has 13 sales professionals from Europe, USA and Australia.

Official figures published recently by HSBC showed the first signs of downward pressure in property prices, falling estimates that property prices fell four per cent between September and October. This is the first fall in the six years during which the market has been open to foreigners.

Posted in Dubai | Comments Off on Dubai’s Palm Jumeirah Prices Plummet as Crunch Sets In

Investors in a dilemma – Aspire Real Estate is handing over his company`s project Jehaan to a third party

Posted by 7starsdubai on February 2, 2009


http://www.zawya.com/story.cfm/sidGN_31012009_10280558/UAE%3A%20Investors%20In%20Dilemma%20As%20Jehaan%20Project%20Changes%20Hands

Saturday, Jan 31, 2009

Gulf News

 

Dubai: Owner and chairman of property developer Aspire Real Estate , Harry Kantaria, is handing over his company’s Dh530 million Jehaan project to a third party.

Kantaria told investors that he has sold the Jehaan project, which has been beset with problems.

He owes an undisclosed sum to investors in refunds, according to people who bought units in the project.

“One investor heard that Harry has sold the project to a third party investor. So I texted Harry and he confirmed the same to me,” one investor told Gulf News. Kantaria later confirmed this to Gulf News on Thursday.

“The project is in the process of being handed over to another party who has shown keen interest and has also met the land department regarding the same,” Kantaria said in an email.

While the details have yet to be ironed out, the handover will hopefully spell good news for the project’s patient investors who have been battling with Kantaria for months over promised refunds.

They have been requesting refunds for Jehaan in Jumeirah Village South which was supposed to be ready by January 2009 but construction hasn’t even started. Some investors have even paid in full and yet received no contract. And genuine refunds have been scarce, investors said.

However, those who did receive their money back found that the cheques bounced and one investor said she was informed by Kantaria’s bank that there is no money in his account.

“The man at the bank told me that his account exists but there is no money,” the investor said.

Kantaria told Gulf News back in December that the project’s escrow account was set to be in place by January.

Calls made to the Aspire  offices went unanswered.

original published GulfNews

Posted in Dubai | Comments Off on Investors in a dilemma – Aspire Real Estate is handing over his company`s project Jehaan to a third party

Dubai Allows Villa Sharing

Posted by 7starsdubai on February 2, 2009


02 February 2009
DUBAI – More than one family will be allowed to share a villa as long as the property is not overcrowded, the head of the Dubai MunicipalityDubai said on Sunday.

The statement, from Director-General Hussain Nasser Lootah, comes as an important revision of the original terms of the ‘One Villa, One Family’ campaign.

The policy saw thousands of people living in low-income areas of Dubai having water and electricity supplies cut. The cuts were made to villas where inspectors found several families living together in crowded conditions.
“In some places we see 20 people living in a five- or eight-bedroom villa. These houses simply weren’t designed for so many people to live,” he said.

“It causes problems with the Internet, Dewa (Dubai Electricity and Water Authority)UAE | Power and Utilities and sewage facilities in the area. I have been having complaints from various departments over this issue.”
However, Lootah told Khaleej Times that more than one family could occupy a villa if it was not overcrowded.
“The main issue is overcrowding. As long as they are within the building regulations, we don’t mind for more than one family to share a villa.”
He did not elaborate on what constituted overcrowding.

Thousands of people have been made homeless due to the ‘One Villa, One Family’ campaign and many have complained of a lack of affordable accommodation.

Lootah said families living in a villa who have their utilities disconnected because of the campaign can negotiate with the municipality if they feel they have been unfairly impacted.

He confirmed that the municipality had supplied land to private and government developers to create low-income accommodation in the Al Quoz and Al Qusais areas of Dubai.

“Construction is almost complete and the accommodation will be for low-income workers,” he said.

Up to 4,200 villas in areas ranging from Al Rashidiya to Al Wasl were identified as early as in October 2008 as violating building regulations.

Omar Abdul Rahman, head of the municipality’s Building Inspection Section, who is in charge of the campaign, previously said that his team was cutting utilities to as many as 200 villas a week.

On Sunday, he confirmed that there were fewer cases of utilities being turned off, but was unable to give exact figures.

One resident, who had utilities cut to her property, told Khaleej Times on condition of anonymity that she had moved to a similarly overcrowded villa in the same area. “I am looking for a flat, but rents are very high,” she said. “I have moved now to a different villa, although we are still worried that the Dewa will be cut again.”

No Overcrowding in some places 20 people live in a five- or eight-bedroom villa it causes problems with the Internet, Dewa and sewage facilities in the area land given to developers to create low-income accommodation
By Martin Croucher

© Khaleej Times 2009

Posted in Dubai | Comments Off on Dubai Allows Villa Sharing

Dubai hotel tests for Legionnaires’ after guest dies

Posted by 7starsdubai on February 2, 2009


DUBAI, Feb 02, 2009 (AFP) – A five-star hotel in the Gulf business and tourist hub of Dubai said on Monday it is running tests for Legionnaires’ disease after a guest reportedly died from the illness.

The Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi said it is conducting the tests in coordination with the Dubai health authorities after the death on Friday of British cricket commentator Bill Frindall.

“No evidence of legionella has been found to date at the hotel based on initial testing,” the hotel said in a statement. “Hotel management is continuing to monitor the situation.”

The hotel said two other guests had been reportedly diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease, a form of pneumonia caused by potentially lethal airborne bacteria.

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