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DIFC hold talks for enhanced cooperation with China

Officials at the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) recently met with delegates from China to discuss growing areas of collaboration between the two sides.

Essa Kazim, governor of DIFC, and Arif Amiri, chief executive officer of DIFC Authority, hosted a senior delegation from China, led by Qian Keming, vice minister of Commerce of People’s Republic of China. The meeting focused on the growing importance of DIFC’s longstanding relationship with Chinese institutions, and areas of collaboration that can support the One Belt, One Road initiative.

During the visit, DIFC also acknowledged the commitment from the many Chinese companies that continue to use the Centre as their preferred location to access growth opportunities in the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia (MEASA) region and across the South-South corridor.

“Dubai has always been a focal point for trade and investment flows across the South-South corridor, and we have always seen China as a very important part of this corridor. We pride ourselves on the strong ties we have built with China, and the Chinese financial community in particular. The level of interest we continue to see from Chinese institutions, together with the growth trajectory of Chinese companies operating from the Centre is testament to the growing role of DIFC as a gateway to growth,” said Essa Kazim.

The meeting commenced with a presentation relating to how DIFC has become the leading international hub for the MEASA region. DIFC’s recent roadshow to Beijing, as well as the growing representation of Chinese institutions in the centre and the growing interest of Chinese companies in DIFC’s FinTech ecosystem were also covered.

In 2017, DIFC continued to see growth from the registered Chinese financial institutions, which accounted for 22 per cent of total assets booked in the Centre as at the end of the third quarter of 2017. The total value of these assets reached $33.4 billion, a 30.5 per cent increase from $25.6 billion reported in year-end 2016. A recent survey also ranked the UAE as third in a global index of nations that stand to benefit most from the One Belt, One Road Initiative.

UAE, Lithuania set to boost trade, investment

The opening of Lithuania’s embassy in the UAE next year and the launch of direct flights between the 2 countries are key factors which would strengthen bilateral relations in the near future, according to Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis.

Speaking to a visiting UAE business delegation led by the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Vilnius, he said Lithuania plans to expand infrastructure at its airports and ports. “Lithuania is ripe with investment opportunities, especially within the country’s logistics and renewable energy sectors.”

Lithuania offers customised and flexible solutions for UAE businesses and investors, Skvernelis pointed out, adding that the country is witnessing stable economic growth.

In addition, the Prime Minister disclosed that he would lead a Lithuanian delegation to the UAE in the near future to further expand economic cooperation. Lithuania’s participation in Expo 2020 would help showcase the country’s potential at the mega event, he added.

The delegation visit to Vilnius was organised by the Dubai Chamber as part of its roadshow to the Baltic states which also covered Estonia and Latvia. Majid Saif Al Ghurair, chairman of Dubai Chamber, led the delegation, which also included Hamad Buamim, president and CEO of Dubai Chamber; Hisham Abdullah Al Shirawi, CEO of Oasis Enterprises; and several businessmen in the UAE.

A memorandum of understanding was signed between the Dubai Chamber and the Lithuania Confederation of Industrialists to facilitate the sharing of knowledge.

A business roundtable was organised by the Dubai Chamber in cooperation with the Lithuania Confederation of Industrialists and Enterprise Lithuania to examine business prospects for building sustainable partnerships between the UAE and Lithuania.

Sharjah’s Maryam Island releases homes to tap buyer appetite

Eagle Hills Sharjah has launched Sapphire Beach Residence, the second residential building in the flagship Maryam Island project in Sharjah. The move follows the launch of the first residential building, Azure Beach Residence, last month.

Sapphire Beach Residence features 190 units ranging from studios to 3-bedroom apartments, all of which are complemented by 20 retail and F&B units.

“We are delighted to have witnessed such a high level of interest in Azure Beach Residence from both domestic and foreign investors, particularly so soon after the launch of sales. This is a promising sign as it demonstrates that Maryam Island is achieving what we hoped it would – supporting Sharjah’s growing reputation as a premier lifestyle destination, setting new benchmarks for fully integrated communities in the emirate and attracting a new audience of investors. By releasing a fresh wave of units in Sapphire Beach Residence, we hope to sustain this momentum, thereby driving sustainable growth in Sharjah,” said Low Ping, CEO of Eagle Hills.

Eagle Hills Sharjah is a joint venture between the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq) and Eagle Hills, an Abu Dhabi-based private real estate investment and development company. Maryam Island residents will benefit from access to the development’s waterfront promenade and a souk.

The centrally located 458,000 square metre plot is within easy reach of the city’s residential and commercial hubs, and is also home to 5- and 4-star hotels that offer 600 keys.

Maryam Island is one of 3 major developments, alongside Kalba Waterfront and Palace Al Khan, which represent Eagle Hills’ first foray into Sharjah. The projects are being developed in partnership with Shurooq.

New project unveiled in Sharjah’s Al Zahia community

Sharjah Holding, a partnership between Majid Al Futtaim – Properties and Sharjah Asset Management, on Wednesday launched Uptown Al Zahia, the newest neighbourhood in Al Zahia.

The neighbourhood offers homes ranging from studios to 3-bedroom apartments, with direct access to City Centre Al Zahia.

Upon completion in 2022, Uptown Al Zahia will be home to more than 700 families. Uptown Al Zahia is located on University City Road, minutes away from University City, Sharjah International Airport and the Saif Zone.

“Uptown Al Zahia builds upon the emirate’s rich cultural and environmental heritage,” Walid Al Hashimi, CEO, Sharjah Holding, said.

Uptown Al Zahia will feature 2 clusters – ‘Woroud’ and ‘Zohour’. The first release features ‘Woroud 1’, 1 of 5 residential buildings within the cluster, offering studios and 1-bedroom apartments. The ‘Woroud 1’ release saw high demand from customers.

Upon completion in 2023, Al Zahia will be home to more than 12,000 residents in 2,270 villas, townhouses and apartments. Structured in the form of 8 neighbourhoods, Al Zahia features 6 themed community parks.


Saudi’s SABB and Alawwal agree $5 billion merger

Saudi British Bank (SABB) and Alawwal Bank have agreed a merger to create Saudi Arabia’s third-biggest lender, in a $5 billion deal that marks the first major banking tie-up in the kingdom in 2 decades.

The agreement, announced by the 2 banks on Wednesday but still non-binding, would create a lender with assets of around $77 billion, and is seen strengthening the banking system as Saudi Arabia embarks on a plan to transform its economy and cut its dependence on oil revenues.

SABB is 40 per cent owned by HSBC Holdings and Alawwal is 40 per cent owned by RBS Holdings NV, a consortium that includes Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), which has been trying to reduce its stake for some time. Selling a small stake in a larger merged entity could make it easier for RBS to find a buyer, sources close to the merger said.

If approved, the merger deal would see SABB acquire smaller peer Alawwal for 18.6 billion riyals ($4.96 billion). The boards of the 2 banks reached a non-binding agreement on the share exchange ratio, subject to several conditions, the banks said in joint statements to the Saudi Arabian bourse.

“A binding agreement is yet to be entered into between Alawwal Bank and SABB,” they said. “Any binding agreement to proceed with the merger will be subject to a number of conditions, including Sama [the central bank], other regulatory authorities and the shareholders’ approval.”

Buy or rent a home in Dubai?

Residential rents in Dubai are now more than 15 to 20 per cent lower than peak levels in 2015 while sales prices are also fall in affordable category with increasing supply of residential units, says a latest report.

With the onset of an early Ramadan followed by summer, consultancy Core Savills said in 2018 first quarter report that rental softening in Dubai is expected to continue for the remainder of 2018.

Sales prices also continued to decline across most communities, with central areas seeing larger declines than outer areas. Downtown Dubai and Dubai Marina saw the sharpest declines at 7.5 per cent and 6.6 per cent, respectively, resulting from the large number of new launches within this area, estimated Core Savills.

However, rents are expected to see an uptick in 2019 and 2020. Market observers, therefore, believe now is an ideal time to buy property in Dubai before the US Federal Reserve increases interest rates, forcing mortgage buyers in the UAE to shell out more in repayments for their home. While the 25 per cent down payment can be a challenge for some, this threshold is now within reach given the lower property values.

The softened sales market has made the cost of property ownership lower than the cost of renting for long-term occupiers, making it attractive for tenants to move to ownership.

This shift to ownership is also shrinking the rental pool, leading to further downward pressure on rents.

According to data from Reidin, the average sales price of a 1-bedroom apartment in Dubai is Dh1.03 million and a 2-bedroom unit is Dh1.8 million. The average rent for a 1-bedroom apartment in Dubai is Dh71,000 while average rent for a 2-bedroom unit is Dh114,000.

Jumeirah Lakes Towers (JLT) and Emirates Living also saw a decline in sales prices owing to new launches, in addition to witnessing demand shifting to Jumeirah Village as products with similar or lower price points and newer build quality become available.

Communities with multiple phased deliveries such as Mira, Mudon and Arabian Ranches have also cast significant downward pressure on The Springs and The Meadows’ sales market. According to Core Savills, Dubailand was the only community to see a visible rise in apartment sales prices at 2.7 per cent. This is due to the fact that most new sales activity is concentrated within this area, with lower entry prices driving sales.

“The cascading effect of new stock impacting secondary sales prices, either within the community or in adjoining areas, is one of the strongest reasons causing a delay in sales price recovery. However, this hasn’t significantly dampened occupier sentiment due to the wide variety of options now available at very competitive prices by developers in new launches,” said Edward Macura, partner, Core Savills.

Over 6,000 units were delivered in year to date 2018. Core Savills forecasts a further 15,500 units to be handed over during the remainder of the year. Newer villa districts such as Dubailand and Jumeirah Village have seen a more direct impact of the supply surge. Over the rest of the year, Dubailand will represent almost a third of total handovers.

Meanwhile, developers are exhorting end-users and investors to identify pockets of opportunities in a difficult market. “The Dubai property market cycle has weakened. The longer we go through a weak cycle, the closer we are to a recovery. If high oil prices persist, it will have an impact on property prices. As Expo 2020 gets closer, there will be a sense of urgency to participate in the property market. So long there is sufficient return to risk capital, there will be capital deployed to exploit the opportunity,” Adil Taqi, CFO, Damac Properties, told.

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