Donald Trump tweets on OPEC for first time in 2019

When President Donald Trump began tweeting about OPEC in March 2018, Brent crude was priced between $75 to $85 per barrel. (Reuters)
Updated 03 March 2019
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Donald Trump tweets on OPEC for first time in 2019

RIYADH: Brent crude fell to $65.07 per barrel and WTI dropped to $55.80 at the close of the week, due to a third consecutive month of weak Chinese exports, and US crude imports reaching their lowest levels in 23 years.
US plans to sell up to 6 million barrels of crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in April and May exacerbated bearish sentiments, but OPEC output cuts have, to now, kept the market stagnant.
This prompted US President Donald Trump to address the group for the first time this year on Twitter, saying: “Oil prices getting too high. OPEC, please relax and take it easy. World cannot take a price hike — fragile!”
For context, when the president began tweeting about OPEC in March 2018, Brent crude was priced between $75 to $85 per barrel. Now, having started 2019 at below $55, the price is hovering in the mid 60s, more than $20 under last year’s high point.
The cause of fluctuations in the price of Brent crude, however, has little to do with OPEC and more to do with the waiving of oil sanctions placed by the US on Iran.
Brent reached its highest level, $86 per barrel, in October 2018, days before waivers were granted to Iran’s largest crude oil importers, leading to prices plummeting to $55 and remaining in a narrow range throughout 2019. This has only been accentuated by US production ever since.
In fact, OPEC’s influence in the price movement has been negligible. Efforts to inflate prices have had little effect, but Saudi Arabia, Russia and other members continue to drive OPEC output cuts to counter the wave of supplies from the US shale gas and crude industries.
Output for the latter hit a record high of over 12 million barrels per day (bpd) last month, pushing exports to an unprecedented 3.6 million bpd for February.


Dubai property developer Damac on hunt for land in Saudi Arabia

Hussain Sajwani
Updated 18 March 2019
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Dubai property developer Damac on hunt for land in Saudi Arabia

  • Brexit a “concern” for UK property market says Sajwani
  • Developer mulls investing “up to £500 million” on London project

LONDON: The Dubai-listed developer Damac says it is scouting for additional plots of land in Saudi Arabia, both in established cities and the Kingdom’s emerging giga-projects such as Neom.
Hussain Sajwani, chairman of Damac Properties, also said the company would look to invest up to £500 million ($660 million) on a second development in the UK, and that it is on track to deliver a record 7,000 or more units this year.
Amid a slowing property market in Dubai, Damac’s base, the developer is eying Saudi Arabia as a potential ground for expansion for its high-spec residential projects.
Damac has one development in Jeddah, and a twin-tower project in Riyadh — and Sajwani said it is looking for additional plots in the Kingdom.
“It’s a big market. It is changing, it is opening up, so we see a potential there … We are looking,” he said.
“In the Middle East, Saudi Arabia is the biggest economy … They have some very ambitious projects, like the Neom city and other large projects. We’re watching those and studying them very carefully.”
The $500 billion Neom project, which was announced in 2017, is set to be a huge economic zone with residential, commercial and tourist facilities on the Red Sea coast.
Sajwani said doing business in Saudi Arabia was “a bit more difficult or complicated” that the UAE, but said the country is opening up, citing moves to allow women to drive and reopen cinemas.
He was speaking to Arab News in Damac’s London sales office, opposite the Harrods department store in Knightsbridge. The office, kitted out in plush Versace furnishings, is selling units at Damac’s first development in the UK, the Damac Tower Nine Elms London.
The 50-storey development is in a new urban district south of the River Thames, which is also home to the US Embassy and the famous Battersea Power Station, which is being redeveloped as a residential and commercial property.
Work on Damac's tower is underway and is due to complete in late 2020 or early 2021, Sajwani said.
“We have sold more than 60 percent of the project,” he said. “It’s very mixed, we have (buyers) from the UK, from Asia, the Middle East.”
Damac’s first London project was launched in 2015, the year before the referendum on the UK exiting the EU — the result of which has had a knock-on effect on the London property market.
“Definitely Brexit has cause a lot of concern, people are not clear where the situation will go. Overall, the market has suffered because of Brexit,” Sajwani said.
“It’s going to be difficult for the coming two years at least … unless (the UK decides) to stay in the EU.”
Despite the ongoing uncertainty over Brexit, Sajwani said Damac was looking for additional plots of land in London, both in the “golden triangle” — the pricey areas of Mayfair, Belgravia and Knightsbridge, which are popular with Gulf investors — and new residential districts like Nine Elms.
Sajwani is considering an investment of “up to £500 million” on a new project in the UK capital.
“We are looking aggressively, and spending a lot of time … finding other opportunities,” he said. “Our appetite for London is there.”
Damac is also considering other international property markets for expansion, including parts of Europe and North American cities like Toronto, Boston, New York and Miami, Sajwani said.
The international drive by Damac comes, however, amid a tough property market in the developer’s home market of Dubai.
Damac in February reported that its 2018 profits fell by nearly 60 percent, with its fourth-quarter profit tumbling by 87 percent, according to Reuters calculations.
Sajwani — whose company attracted headlines for its partnership with the Trump Organization for two golf courses in Dubai — does not see any immediate recovery in the emirate’s property market, or Damac’s financial results.
“(With) the market being soft, prices being under pressure, we are part of the market — we are not going to do better than last year,” he said. “This year and next year are going to be difficult years. But it’s a great opportunity for the buyers.”
But the developer said Dubai was “very strong fundamentally,” citing factors like its advanced infrastructure, safety and security, and low taxes.
In 2018, Damac delivered over 4,100 units — a record for the company — and this year, despite the difficult market, it plans to hand over even more.
“We’re expecting north of 7,000,” Sajwani said. “This year will be another record.”