Dubai has been hit by two financial crises in the last eight months, which have combined to bring the emirate’s real estate market to a crawl.
As well as the current global credit crisis, Dubai has suffered from its own run on liquidity based around the hype surrounding the dropping of the dollar peg.
Rumours of a possible revaluation caused a number of global investors to speculate on the pegs, bringing billions of dollars into the UAE and, in turn, creating an influx of liquidity and allowing banks to lend at very attractive rates, Ali Al Shihabi, CEO of Rasmala Investment Holdings told delegates at the monthly Dubai Property Society meeting.
When the central banks put an end to speculation by issuing repeated denials, these speculators pulled capital from the region. By July the market was suffering from a major lack of liquidity, causing tightening in lending criteria, and by August, the emirate was undergoing its own mini credit crisis.
The global crisis being felt by countries across the world, has further compounded the problem by causing local markets to plummet and regional investors to question local stock – especially the real estate shares that prop up Dubai’s economy.
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.
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.