Lebanon’s property market ‘on the brink of collapse’

An unfinished building under construction with cranes in the Lebanese capital Beirut. AFP
Updated 10 December 2018
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Lebanon’s property market ‘on the brink of collapse’

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s once soaring property market is on the brink of collapse amid plunging prices and a construction standstill.
A boom that began in 2008 fueled by sales to Gulf state citizens and Lebanese expatriates was halted by war in Syria in 2011 and the oil-price slump in 2014, and has since gone into reverse.
Property prices outside Beirut have fallen by nearly 20 percent. In the capital, buyers are few and high-profile construction projects have ground to a halt.
“Some 3,600 unsold apartments exist today in Beirut alone,” says Guillaume Boudisseau of the property consultants Ramco.
Bank and property companies launched a $250 million scheme in October to buy more than 200 flats and sell them to Lebanese expatriates. But Jihad Hokayem, a property investment expert at the Lebanese American University, said such initiatives were temporary fixes.
“These measures only cover up existing or potential bankruptcies. It’s the beginning of a total collapse,” he said.
Economic expert Louis Hobeika told Arab News apartments in Beirut still commanded prices above $700,000, and what was happening was a correction.
“There is no demand,” he said. “Those who want to buy are going after real estate outside Lebanon, with incentives such as residency. The Lebanese are starting to buy in Cyprus, Portugal and Malta.”
Another economist, Essam Al-Jardi, said: “Developers invested billions of dollars in luxury buildings during the boom, but the economy has declined and growth is only 1 percent.
“I am afraid of any mistake that may push the country into the unknown.”


US-China trade deal hopes grow as oil prices decline

Updated 19 June 2019
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US-China trade deal hopes grow as oil prices decline

  • Data suggested a smaller-than-expected fall in American crude inventories
  • Preparations underway for Donald Trump to meet Xi Jinping next week at the G20 summit in Osaka

LONDON: Oil prices declined on Wednesday as data suggested a smaller-than-expected fall in American crude inventories, as hopes for a US-China trade deal continue to grow.
Brent crude futures were down 51 cents at $61.72 a barrel.
US West Texas Intermediate crude fell 25 cents to $53.65 a barrel. On Tuesday, it had recorded its biggest daily rise since early January.
After weeks of swelling, US crude stocks fell by 812,000 barrels last week to 482 million, the American Petroleum Institute said on Tuesday, a smaller fall than the 1.1-million-barrel drop analysts had expected.
Official estimates on US crude stockpiles from the US government’s Energy Information Administration are due during afternoon trading.
US President Donald Trump offered some support, saying preparations were underway for him to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping next week at the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan, amid hopes a trade deal could be thrashed out between the two powers. Trump has repeatedly threatened China with tariffs since winning office in 2016.
European Central Bank President Mario Draghi also offered a boost, saying on Tuesday that he would ease policy again if inflation failed to accelerate.
Tensions remain high in the Middle East after last week’s tanker attacks. Fears of a confrontation between Iran and the US have mounted, with Washington blaming Tehran, which has denied any role.
Trump said he was prepared to take military action to stop Iran having a nuclear bomb but left open whether he would approve the use of force to protect Gulf oil supplies.
On Wednesday, oil markets shrugged off a rocket attack on a site in southern Iraq used by foreign oil companies.
“It is interesting to note that the crude oil futures market could not rally on hawks planting bombs in the Strait of Hormuz but could rally on doves planting quantitative easing,” Petromatrix’s Olivier Jakob said in a note.
“This is an oil market that doesn’t know how to react when an oil tanker blows up but knows how to react when the head of a central bank makes some noise.”
Members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries have agreed to meet on July 1, followed by a meeting with non-OPEC allies on July 2, after weeks of wrangling over dates.
OPEC and its allies will discuss whether to extend a deal on cutting 1.2 million barrels per day of production that runs out this month.