Reuters blog archive
By Una Galani
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.
Dubai has rediscovered its appetite for grand designs. A replica Taj Mahal four times bigger than the original, the world's biggest Ferris wheel, several new mega-malls, and over 100 new hotels are amongst a raft of extravagant projects aiming to boost tourism in the emirate. But lingering debt woes from its last boom-and-bust cycle should hopefully reduce the risk of runaway spending.
The strategy isn't quite a repeat of the one that led the emirate to the verge of bankruptcy in 2009, when Dubai was left hanging by a debt-fuelled real estate bubble and a series of high-profile overseas acquisitions at aggressive valuations. The economic fundamentals have improved. While residential and commercial real-estate prices remain well below their peak, there is room for new investment in retail and tourism. Hotel occupancy rates were at 90 percent last year, says Ernst and Young. Shopping malls in central areas are packed. New Bollywood theme parks and an expansion of giant Chinese malls will support the emirate's push to woo more visitors from Asia and further align its economy to fast growth markets to the east.
Dubai is drawing on its relative strength in infrastructure and as a regional safe-haven. The city-state currently enjoys almost 10 million foreign visitors in a year, five times its population. Tourist numbers could grow substantially if Dubai can convince a larger chunk of the 58 million passengers that landed in Dubai International last year to turn their transit into a short break.
from Global Investing:
Global Investing has discussed in the past what a golden opportunity the Iranian crisis has proved for Turkey. Between January and July 2012 it ratcheted up gold exports to Iran ten-fold compared to 2011 as inflation-hit Iranians clamoured for the precious metal. Since August exports appear to have been routed via the UAE, possibly to circumvent U.S. sanctions on trade with Teheran.
The trade has been a handy little earner. Evidence of that has shown up in Turkey's data all year as its massive current account deficit has steadily shrunk. On Friday, official data showed the Turkish trade gap falling by a third in October from year-ago levels. And yes, precious metal exports (read gold) came in at $1.5 billion compared to $322.4 million last October. In short, a jump of 370 percent.
from The Great Debate:
Londoners are greeting the Olympics with all the enthusiasm of a child awaiting a root canal. The government has warned those unable to book coinciding holidays not to travel anywhere beyond walking distance of home as Communist-style “Olympic lanes” whisk dignitaries past the interminable traffic the Games cause. During the Olympics, London will be run under a curious kind of corporate martial law. Thousands of troops will handle security to make up for private contractor G4S’s staffing “shambles”; missiles have been placed atop public housing; an Orwellian "brand police" is sweeping the city to ensure no businesses other than 11 official sponsors use words like “gold,” “silver,” “bronze” and even “London.”
Putting up with this misery is supposedly justified by the commercial windfall, tourist bonanza and enhanced prestige the Olympics create. One Tube station poster depicts a man who, having identified alternative transport routes, is jauntily reading a newspaper as he whizzes past an escalator logjammed with athletes: The headline is “London 2012 Games a huge success, save British economy.”
from Global Investing:
Bahrain's civil unrest -- which had a one-year anniversary this week -- has taken a toll on the local economy and left a deep scar on the Gulf state's aspiration to become an international financial hub.
A new paper from the Sovereign Wealth Fund Initiative, a research programme at Center for Emerging Market Enterprises (CEME) at the Fletcher School at Tufts University, examines how the political instability of 2011 is threatening Bahrain's efforts in the past 30 years to diversify its economy and develop the financial centre.
from Business Traveller:
Travel writer and newspaper columnist A.A. Gill told listeners of BBC Radio 4’s Excess Baggage programme last week that he doesn’t do research, doesn’t take notes and considers himself a rather superficial traveller, a tripper.
Whatever his methods, not many writers can so succinctly drill down into a destination simply using well-honed observational skills. Gill seems to know by osmosis who best to chat with while dashing around a destination – and somehow plans his visit at a particularly prescient moment in time.
from The Great Debate:
On Monday I went to Bloomingdales, the Gap and Starbucks but passed on a visit to Magnolia Bakery. Instead I stopped by the St. Moritz bakery where you can order hot chocolate and sit by a video of a cozy winter fire that overlooks the indoor ski slope and is just around the corner from the largest candy store in the world, which happens to face an aquarium that occupies an entire wall on one side of the world’s largest shopping malls. This by the way is opposite of what claims to be the world’s largest candystore whose mission statement is to make every day “happier’. Earlier, while exploring the watery depths of the bright Pink Atlantis Hotel (one of the white elephants of the property crash of 2007) I knew it was really the last kingdom because the fish swam around two cracked thrones and other kitschy stone artifacts.
Dubai is utterly overwhelming, the kind of dystopia that blogger Evgeny Morozov sees in Huxley, a consumeristic paradise where mind-numbing shopping replaces real thought. Most of the I had no idea where I was except that my passport had been stamped Dubai and many of the mall-going women were shrouded in black. After a few hours I sank into a state of ennuie. Given boatloads of oil money in the 1970s and the chance to build a whole new city, who on earth would decide to build a series of shopping malls?
(Photos: One of Dubai Islamic Bank's women-only branches in Deira, October 26, 2010./Jumana El-Heloueh)
Emirati housewife Sarah Alzarouni brushed past a group of women clad in floor-length black robes, some with only their eyes showing, to enter through the frosted doors of one of Dubai Islamic Bank's women-only branches. Clutching a Louis Vuitton bag to match her designer head scarf, Alzarouni greeted the female tellers and bank manager with three kisses on the cheek and sat down to do business.
"I am much more comfortable working with ladies than in a mixed environment," Alzarouni, 27, said. "When I come here, I feel like one of them. They understand my needs and I can move freely, not having to always think where I am and whether my (scarf) has moved. As a Muslim, it is really important for me to deal with an Islamic bank. "
from Summit Notebook:
Just to be clear, Arabtec is not considering a convertible bond issue.
The builder has no need for funds and has adequate access to capital if needed. But nonetheless its chief financial officer Ziad Makhzoumi is watching the region's increasing capital raising activities with interest.
"I don't think we need any funding whatsoever... As a CFO I have to look at all the options all the time," he told the Reuters Middle East Investment Summit in Dubai on Monday.
from Summit Notebook:
A recovery in the Middle East and the prospects for investment are on the agenda at the Reuters Middle East and Investment Summit, taking place in Dubai, Riyadh, Cairo, Kuwait, Beirut, Bagdad, Abu Dhabi and London.
In the wake of Dubai’s debt crisis, which rocked financial markets globally and dented confidence in the region, top executives and officials will discuss whether the investment climate in the region is improving and confidence returning. 2011 will be a year of more restructurings, but the region’s capital needs will lead to a surge in debt issues and even a possible revival of the IPO market.
Thursday evening at a luxury, Pharaonic-themed spa in Dubai. Emirati women, colorful eye makeup contrasting with their black robes, wait by a bronze statue of a smiling Cleopatra for their weekend beauty treat.
The mineral-based skincare range used at the spa is free of pork and alcohol derivatives. Supplier Charlotte Proudman hopes to register it as compliant with sharia, or Islamic law, tapping into a growing trend for "halal cosmetics" in the mostly-Muslim Middle East and among the world's estimated 1.6 billion Muslims.