How will Dubai real estate perform in a global downturn?
Complex Made Simple

How will Dubai real estate perform in a global downturn?

How will Dubai real estate perform in a global downturn?

The global economic outlook for 2008 is darkening with the ongoing US sub-prime lending crisis and the credit crunch. For Dubai real estate the balance is between lower interest rates increasing the affordability of local property versus a business slowdown and an increasing supply of real estate.

    Perhaps the first point to make is that to find where you are going it is as well to consider where you are starting from.

    The UAE economy is running high on the back of a five-year boom which is still on a rising trajectory. This is not like the US economy where house prices have been dropping for 18 months, and the dollar has been devaluing to boost exports and support share prices.

    Oil is presently close to an all-time high and could well top $100-a-barrel in the New Year. So the UAE economy may not even have passed its cyclical peak just yet.

    Hong Kong parallel

    The best parallel might be Hong Kong in the early 1990s which continued to boom at a time when the US and UK economies were stuck in recessionary mode. Then local and foreign investors poured money into new investments like the Hong Kong airport project at a dismal time for many other economies.

    Does the accumulated oil wealth of the past five rosy years mean that the UAE can decouple from the global economy and carry on its hundreds of billions of dollars of investment projects during a global slowdown? As Hong Kong found in the early 1990s this has its advantages as construction prices are then lower and capacity is available.

    Hong Kong in the early 1990s also benefited from negative real interest rates thanks to its US dollar peg; and that is exactly the same economic force engaged in the UAE today which is causing high inflation and making buying property look a good deal.

    Many locals made a fortune from Hong Kong property in the early 1990s up until the handover from Britain to China in 1997. It could well be the same story in the UAE over the next few years.

    Hong Kong's slump

    Of course, nobody should forget that the Hong Kong party eventually ended in tears with a 70 per cent fall in property prices between 1998 and 2002. You do not ever want to be on the wrong side of a property collapse, but this just does not appear to be where the Dubai property market is right now.

    It could be that eventually the slowdown in Western economies becomes so deep that the oil price declines sharply. But even then the oil surpluses of the GCC countries are presently so large that they do not know what to do with the money.

    The likelihood is that domestic investment plans will therefore stay in place, and reserves drawn down if necessary, and it will be the big investments overseas that suffer a decline.

    Just to return to the Hong Kong example one more time: it was only when the major infrastructure building programs actually ended around 1997 that the real estate boom turned to bust - not when they were half built - and like the UAE, Hong Kong enjoyed the luxury of substantial financial reserves to complete its projects.

    See also:
    Special Report: Buying property in the UAE
    Buyers want more in Gulf property boom
    Islands reshaping the 'World' map of the UAE
    AMEinfo Staff

    AMEinfo staff members report business news and views from across the Middle East and North Africa region, and analyse global events impacting the region today.

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