Buyers return but Dubai real estate faces long road to recovery

Buyers return but Dubai real estate faces long road to recovery
A general view of residential skyscrapers and a beach in Dubai. (Reuters)
Short Url
Updated 15 March 2021

Buyers return but Dubai real estate faces long road to recovery

Buyers return but Dubai real estate faces long road to recovery
  • Shift in demand from off-plan to completed
  • Brokers see pick up in sales and leasing activity

DUBAI: Fancy working from home in a poolside villa, bathed in year-round sun?
Prime Dubai properties have been snapped up in the past few months by buyers taking advantage of decade-low prices, easy financing and an economy open for business despite the pandemic.
Sales of luxury villas, sea-view apartments and second-hand family houses have jumped, re-energizing a property market that saw a sharp fall in activity at the height of the pandemic and had been in a five-year slump prior to that. But with rents still falling and oversupply weighing, the road to recovery will be long for one of the emirate’s main economic engines.
Dubai’s economy — reliant on trade, tourism and its international reputation as a regional hub for business services — was hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic last year as firms slashed jobs. Many foreign workers, needed to support demand in a real estate sector that contributed 7.2 percent of GDP in 2019, left.
Yet market activity has picked up in the last six months, after lockdowns and curfews were lifted, estate agents say, helping to stabilize prices for family villas and high-end beach and golf course properties.
Realtor Matthew Bate, whose agency Nest deals mainly in high-end villas, says business has become much busier in the past few months as nationals, residents and foreign visitors took the opportunity to buy.
“We did have some distressed assets coming out of the COVID-19 lockdown. Now I would say we are back up into early 2020, 2019 prices,” he said.
While much of the world re-imposed coronavirus restrictions this winter tourist season, Dubai welcomed visitors and the UAE started one of the world’s fastest vaccination campaigns.
“We had a huge influx of tourists ... it exposed a lot of people to Dubai ... The last 2-3 clients we had, dealing with properties over 15 million AED ($4.08 million), they have properties in New York, London and they are now looking at Dubai,” he said.
Still, while prices of high-end villas have stabilized, apartment prices as a whole in the emirate were mostly still falling in February, a price index by ValuStrat shows.
S&P credit analyst Sapna Jagtiani does not expect Dubai’s real estate market to recover to pre-pandemic levels until some time next year.
“Prices are down by 40-50 percent from the last peak (2014) ... this is why we think a recovery in prices to similar levels will be slow and long,” she said.
Rents at the end of 2020 were about 5-10 percent lower than the market’s last trough a decade ago, Jagtiani said.
Even before the pandemic, the long-term economic trend in the United Arab Emirates had been sluggish since the 2014-2015 oil price crash, said Christopher Payne, chief economist at Peninsula Real Estate, a UAE-based investment and research company.
“Lower oil prices are also feeding through to population numbers; you have to cut costs, people get laid off and people leave the country,” he said.
Low prices, relaxed mortgage conditions and a desire for more spacious properties as the pandemic jump-started working from home, have driven secondary market sales transactions in Dubai to record highs every month since September, said Lynette Abad of Property Finder Group, a real estate search portal.
The dominance of secondary transactions marks a fundamental market shift for Dubai. Off-plan sales from new projects used to dominate, but several developers slowed or halted new projects last year. They included Emaar Properties’ Dubai Creek Harbor, a luxury development of waterfront apartments designed to house 200,000 people, sources told Reuters last April.
Dubai’s hosting of the Expo 2020 world fair, due to take place in October after being postponed because of the pandemic, as well as a recent series of measures to relax long-term visa and citizenship rules, should boost market sentiment in the medium- to long-term, analysts say. The recent normalization of the UAE’s ties with Israel and a thawing of relations with Qatar are also seen as positives that could boost investment in Dubai and its property market, they say.
But despite optimism over rising demand for certain sectors of the market, oversupply remains a key problem.
For years supply has outpaced demand for new houses and apartments in a market where most of the population are foreigners.
“The supply-demand imbalance is likely to worsen over the course of 2021. This will result from rising levels of supply, particularly over the next 12-18 months, and increasingly curtailed demand as businesses and employees navigate through downsizing and ultimately repatriation of unemployed workers,” Asteco, a real estate services company, said in a report.
New supply forecasts for 2021 vary. Real estate consultancy Knight Frank sees “historic levels” of new supply coming online this year, at around 83,000 residential units in Dubai, up from 35,808 last year, while Asteco expects around 41,500 this year, up from its estimate of around 34,050 in 2020.
“Some market indicators will look better in 2021 ... (like) growth in mortgage buying in Dubai, etc. ... But will it trigger recovery? Maybe not by itself. We think the main aspect that would trigger recovery is cutback on supply,” Jagtiani said.
Cutbacks to new projects have hurt developers’ bottom lines. Emaar, Dubai’s largest listed developer, reported a 58 percent fall in net profit last year and rival DAMAC Properties made a net loss of 1.04 billion dirhams ($283.16 million).
“There are multiple stresses on developers, mainly to manage liquidity and cash flow while making timely deliveries, additionally pre-sales may not be very encouraging in 2021 and mostly you’ll see reduced profit and higher leverage,” Jagtiani said.
A wave of restructurings swept the industry and some developers went bust in the years following the 2008 financial crisis.
Signs of further restructuring and consolidation are emerging, including Emaar planning a takeover and delisting of its malls unit, and state-linked Meraas Holding being brought under the investment vehicle of the emirate’s ruler, Dubai Holding.
Bigger players with links to the emirate or its rulers will likely be able to weather the storm, with access to cheap land and prime locations.
“Developers with stronger balance sheets will have higher chances of survival than smaller ones as market share will shift to developers offering the most flexible payment plans. It is difficult for small developers to address affordability concerns,” Mohamad Haidar of Arqaam Capital said.


Dubai’s DIFC regulator issues first part of digital assets framework

Dubai’s DIFC regulator issues first part of digital assets framework
Updated 5 sec ago

Dubai’s DIFC regulator issues first part of digital assets framework

Dubai’s DIFC regulator issues first part of digital assets framework

DUBAI: The regulator for DIFC, Dubai’s state-owned financial free zone and the Middle East’s major finance center, has released the first part of a regulatory framework for digital tokens aimed at opening up trading of the fast-growing asset class.

The move by the Dubai Financial Services Authority comes as Gulf countries start to look at how to regulate digital assets to attract new forms of business as regional economic competition heats up.

The framework initially covers security and derivative tokens it refers to as investment tokens — digital representations of rights and obligations equivalent to those conferred by assets such as shares or futures contracts, issued, transferred and stored using distributed ledger technology such as blockchain.

It expects to issue another consultation this year for tokens not yet covered by the regulation, including exchange tokens — also known as cryptocurrencies — utility tokens and some asset-backed tokens known as stablecoins.

Last month, the UAE’s Securities and Commodities Authority and the Dubai World Trade Centre Authority agreed a framework that allows DWTCA to approve and license financial activities relating to crypto assets.

 Bahrain in 2019 released rules regulating crypto assets. 


Customer demand for quick delivery is huge challenge for retailers, warns CEOs

Customer demand for quick delivery is huge challenge for retailers, warns CEOs
Updated 24 min 32 sec ago

Customer demand for quick delivery is huge challenge for retailers, warns CEOs

Customer demand for quick delivery is huge challenge for retailers, warns CEOs

Customer demand for fast delivery of products is one of the biggest challenges facing companies today, according to retail group leaders.

Speaking at the Future Investment Initiative Forum in Riyadh, heads of major firms set out how pandemic-caused changes in shopping behavior, together with developments in technology, has shifted expectations from consumers.

Yusuf Ali, chairman of Abu Dhabi-based Lulu Group International, told delegates that e-commerce was not growing in the Gulf region before Covid-19 swept the globe, but now the picture is different and his company “will increase e-commerce platforms”. 

John Hadden, CEO of Alshaya Group, headquartered in Kuwait, highlighted food and beverage deliveries as an area changed by the pandemic.

“The new challenge is how to get the right products to the consumers as quickly as possible,” he said.

The head of online marketplace Noon.com warned that customers now expect small grocery deliveries within 20 minutes, adding: “Buyers’ desire to get orders quickly is increasing and this is the challenge for companies.”


Winning technical advice bidder for Saudi nuclear power program to be named soon: CNBC Arabia

Winning technical advice bidder for Saudi nuclear power program to be named soon: CNBC Arabia
Nuclear power plant Baden-Wuerttemberg, Germany. Getty Images
Updated 49 min 4 sec ago

Winning technical advice bidder for Saudi nuclear power program to be named soon: CNBC Arabia

Winning technical advice bidder for Saudi nuclear power program to be named soon: CNBC Arabia
  • EY may be the closest to winning the deal after offering the lowest price among advanced companies

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is about to determine the winner of the presentation of the technical advice bid for its first nuclear power program, Banking sources told CNBC Arabia.

King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy, the government agency responsible for implementing the Saudi nuclear program, has been studying the offers from four bidders, Deloitte, EY, HSBC, and PwC.

EY may be the closest to winning the deal after offering the lowest price among advanced companies, sources added.

Saudi Arabia intends to become a leader in renewable energy by building 16 nuclear reactors by 2030, estimated to cost more than $100 billion with a combined capacity of 22GW.


FII: MISA says investment in jobs and supply chains secure pandemic growth

FII: MISA says investment in jobs and supply chains secure pandemic growth
Getty Images
Updated 26 October 2021

FII: MISA says investment in jobs and supply chains secure pandemic growth

FII: MISA says investment in jobs and supply chains secure pandemic growth
  • Last month, the Kingdom forecast economic growth of 2.6% this year and 7.5% in 2022


RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Investment Khalid Al-Falih said the Kingdom put maintaining jobs and securing supply chains as one of its top priorities during the height of the pandemic, reported Argaam.

Speaking at the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh he added that the Kingdom’s economy was able to remain flexible and grow as the health crisis eased.

The Minister said: “The pandemic came as a shock to the business enterprise sector; it taught us different lessons in various fields.”

Last month, the Kingdom forecast economic growth of 2.6% this year and 7.5% in 2022, in a pre-Budget statement, after a 4.1% contraction in 2020.


UPS Q3 earnings beat estimates as revenue grows 9%

UPS Q3 earnings beat estimates as revenue grows 9%
Getty Images
Updated 26 October 2021

UPS Q3 earnings beat estimates as revenue grows 9%

UPS Q3 earnings beat estimates as revenue grows 9%
  • The results exceeded Wall Street expectations

United Parcel Service Inc. on Tuesday reported third-quarter profit of $2.33 billion.


On a per-share basis, the Atlanta-based company said it had profit of $2.65. Earnings, adjusted for non-recurring costs, were $2.71 per share.


The results exceeded Wall Street expectations. The average estimate of eight analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was for earnings of $2.52 per share.


The package delivery service posted revenue of $23.18 billion in the period, which also beat Street forecasts. Five analysts surveyed by Zacks expected $22.61 billion.