Dubai’s Real Estate Section Looks Like The Obits


Has the Dubai bubble burst? It sure looks like it. Just a few weeks ago New York magazine had a piece about how everyone, particularly hot girls from Texas, were flocking to the go-go city to make a quick buck. Lawyers were ordered there by their firms. Then there was that lavish opening party at The Atlantis hotel there, with all the celebrities.

That was then.

Bloomberg: A Turkish investor, who identified himself as Sebat, took out 10 bright yellow ads in the Nov. 25 edition of Gulf News, the United Arab Emirates’ biggest newspaper, with the headline: “DIRECT FROM OWNER DISTRESS SALE!!!” Sebat said he used to be able to buy four or five properties at a time and sell them the next day for a profit of as much as 5 per cent.

“There is panic in the market,” said Sebat, 52, who wouldn’t give his full name because he’s juggling 60 properties.

The property bubble in the desert emirate, home to the world’s tallest building, most expensive hotel suite and largest manmade islands, is bursting as scarce credit and slumping oil prices have international investors scurrying to dump assets. That may shatter Dubai’s goal of creating a sustainable economy by building the Persian Gulf hub for finance and tourism, forcing it to depend on oil-rich neighbour Abu Dhabi for financing.

Thank goodness there are even richer Arabs to bail them out.

“Dubai is more precarious than it has ever been,” said Christopher Davidson, author of “Dubai: The Vulnerability of Success” (2008, Columbia University Press). “If the property industry collapses in Dubai, it will be finished. Dubai’s relative autonomy will come to an abrupt end.”

The emirate’s push into luxury property developments and tourist attractions was diversification on “paper sand,” said Davidson, a professor of Middle Eastern affairs at Durham University in the U.K.

…Real-estate prices may drop 20 per cent or more, analysts at EFG-Hermes Holding SAE, the biggest publicly traded investment bank in Egypt, said in a report this week.

Nakheel PJSC, the Dubai state-owned developer of three palm-shaped islands in the Persian Gulf, said Nov. 30 that it is scaling back or delaying work on some of its $30 billion in projects, including the 62-story Trump International Hotel & Tower near the Mega Yacht Club on the trunk of Palm Jumeirah.

If things weren’t bad enough already for the Donald…

…The sheikhdom may need help from Abu Dhabi and the U.A.E. to service its debt, according to Moody’s Investors Service. Dubai borrowed $80 billion to finance its transformation and make up for a lack of natural resources. It has just 4 billion barrels of oil reserves, compared with Abu Dhabi’s 92.2 billion barrels.

Dubai seems to think it can weather the storm. But whether it can remains to be seen.