What does the global financial crisis mean for Dubai real estate?
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What does the global financial crisis mean for Dubai real estate?

What does the global financial crisis mean for Dubai real estate?

Last week at Cityscape Dubai the rush to buy off-plan property in the emirate was clearly over, or at least resting while the worst global economic crisis since the 1930s raged and global and local share prices plummeted.

    Visitor numbers at the show exceeded previous records at some 70,000 but these were mainly made up of sightseers rather than buyers.

    Fewer real estate projects were launched than had been anticipated, although these included the unveiling of the $95bn Jumeirah Gardens development, Nakheel's 1km tower and Tameer's 120-storey 'green' tower.

    The only major investment announcement however was the DIFC buy into the Dubai Pearl project, worth approximately Dhs3bn.

    However, if we step back and look at the bigger picture the events of last week could actually be the salvation of the Dubai property market, that had been widely forecast as heading for an imminent correction.

    Repatriation of capital

    Though the market is undeniably slowing, witnessed by the falling trend amongst speculators looking to flip off plan properties, there has been no sign of a halt in buying by end users.

    If recent past precedent is any guide then Dubai will be a winner from the current global financial crisis. And remember, in big financial shakeouts there are always winners and losers.

    After 9/11 – which at the time looked an absolute disaster for inward investment into the Middle East – Arab investors brought an estimated $1 trillion back to the region from America where it was under threat of seizure. It was this money that first powered up the Dubai property boom.

    Similarly the invasion of Iraq in 2003 hardly appeared good for regional confidence at the time. But Dubai gained in the aftermath as a safe haven in a troubled region and from the war's impact on oil prices that fuelled its trading and service economy.

    What next for Dubai real estate?

    So what happens after the Wall Street crash and near global financial meltdown of last week?

    First, we should note the proactive response of the UAE government. A massive $33bn has been pumped into the local banking sector to boost local liquidity and all deposits in local and international banks now have a government guarantee.

    Secondly, we should remember that the US, UK and Europe are debtor nations in a banking crisis. The UAE, and GCC for that matter, is a creditor. Indeed, some 40% of global foreign currency reserves are held by the Middle East.

    Now the recessions in the rest of the world are just starting, so stock prices are likely to drift lower, and bond prices look stretched to the limit with inflation about to take off due to governments borrowing $3 trillion to bailout the banks.

    If you were a seriously rich Arab investor would it not make sense to exit the Western markets and bring your money home. In the UAE your deposit will have a state guarantee, and for higher returns the local stock and real estate markets should offer good returns.

    Capital flight

    This will be a flight of capital to safety and quality. It could well mean that Dubai property prices have another up leg to come, and that the crisis today is no more than a slowdown in the bull market.

    In the meantime, if a fall off in cash flow to under-capitalized developers results in a consolidation of the sector, that will be healthy in the long run.

    The losers will be the people who cannot afford their installment payments and who were relying on flipping to cash out before payments became due. Over-stretched speculators both among buyers and sellers will go through a painful consolidation period, unless new capital arrives from overseas very quickly.

    Given that their financial distress may be very immediate this is where a shakeout is most likely. However, the market for completed property in many locations is severely undersupplied and will not suffer much – prices for villas are still going up, and even in the middle of last week's crisis, completed properties were selling in Dubai, although at a slower pace than previously.

    See also:
    Dubai average price index - prices show continual increases
    Complete coverage of the news and events at Cityscape Dubai
    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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