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  • Tuesday, February 28, 2006

    UAE Rental Range Spreadsheet 2006

    For those of you that are considering moving to the UAE, you may find the rental range spreadsheet of some use. I have just put together a very rough overview of the rates available in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. While this may not be useful to those already here, it could be useful to those moving here.

    There's no real analysis, just some data to help out and make life a little easier.

    Please feel free to share with anyone you feel may find the information useful. And also, if you have any corrections or ammendments, I would welcome those as well.

    You can locate it from the home page of the grapeshisha website.

    Posted by at 2 comments :

    Monday, February 27, 2006


    Sheikha Lubna has been important for the UAE for two reasons - she was the first female minister, and she understands the benefit that foreign businesses and competition play in the economy. Since she was assigned her role in Economy and Planning in late 2004, there have been rumours of a new companies law that would really change the dynamic of the UAE economy. In January, she announced that foreign ownership of companies (outside the freezones) would move from 49% to a 79% cap. It was talked about yesterday that this would now be 100% ownership which would completely shake up the economy. Whether this is in fact true, or was just referring to the massive special economic zones project for Abu Dhabi that was discussed today is unclear. What is clear that whether it is 79% or 100% ownership for foreign companies, the lure to these companies to operate in the UAE increases substantially. It is also clear that UAE Nationals are busy securing business interests before agency laws monopolising importing of foreign brands are changed. Bring on June by which time the new law will be announced.

    Andrew Carnegie once said "And while the law [of competition] may be sometimes hard for the individual, it is best for the race, because it ensures the survival of the fittest in every department."

    Posted by at No comments :

    Sunday, February 26, 2006

    Fujeirah is the new Abu Dhabi?

    Fujeirah is the new Abu Dhabi? Abu Dhabi was the new Dubai? Thursday is the new Friday, but for some, Wednesday is.

    It is amusing how the Observer pitches the whole play for tourism as a competition between Emirates and that now Fujeirah is stealing Abu Dhabi's thunder. I fear the Ms. Fearis is not aware that Abu Dhabi has bigger pockets. Each Emirate offers different things and is pitched as so. Whatever happens with Fujeirah, it will never be the same as Abu Dhabi which will never be same as Dubai.

    Next thing they will be saying that Ras al Khaimah is the new NASA, or Cape Canaveral or Florida or moon or something farfetched like that.

    Posted by at 2 comments :

    Piff Paff Puff - Smoking Legislation

    Recently the UK government passed legislation to ban smoking from all public enclosed areas, meaning that essentially smokers could only really smoke in their own homes, with the ban coming into play in the Summer of 2007. Secret Dubai recently highlighted the issue of a plan to implement such a ban within the next five years, and commented on the fact that smoking is a natural occurrrence here, since the UAE is a smokers haven. Many smoke, and many smoke from an early age.

    Talk of bans are all well and good, but the issue is enforcablity of the rule. Reports today suggest a taxing on tobacco products, pricing cigarettes out of the range of children. While we believe that shisha cafes should not be banned outright, due to cultural heritage, age restrictions, licencing and taxes are the basic legislation that need to be considered. Next should be to police the current no smoking areas, whether they be offices, malls, or restaurants. There is a current apathy to the ban by malls, for example, since there are no fines for non enforcing any such ban and supposedly the freezones are smoke free zones.

    Here are some basics of legislation we would recommend:
    1. Issue licensing for public establishements such as retaurants, bars and shisha cafes.
    2. Tax tobacco products at a realistic level, but not as much as 500-700%
    3. Make smoking illegal below the age of 18
    4. Ban smoking in offices as part of HSE or Labour Law with relevant checking
    5. Enforce severe punishments for anyone flouting such laws.

    The fact that this has become a major issue very recently makes the upcoming legislation important. Being firm now, will be crucial for the future health of the youth of tomorrow. Being weak and cowing down to the apathy of smokers to health issues and passive effects on non smokers will lead to the shambles of previous , failed attempts to ban smoking in the UAE.

    Posted by at 1 comment :

    Saturday, February 25, 2006

    hype pathetic cull

    Some hypothetical news leaders.

    The US has banned all imports, exports, FDI and anything not related to the US. This occurred after the Senate took control of the US after Presdient Dubya was caught redhanded accepting charity to help the people of the US. Cross border investment has been banned. Imports and exports have been banned. All US companies operating overseas have been ordered to cease operations and come back home. MacDonald are not happy.

    Tom and Jerry are in shock today as they have found out that they are latest in the long line of victims to be banned in the Middle East. It has been argued that two dissimilar animals, both of the same gender should not be seen to be chasing each other for want of comparison to activities unbecoming of the culture.

    Posted by at No comments :

    Friday, February 24, 2006

    Shot but not shown

    It would be ironic that the first big budget movie to be partly shot in the UAE would not be shown because it was a little sensitive, politically. If it was too sensitive to show, then it shouldn't have been allowed to be shot here. With all the umming and ahhing about whether a certain gay cowboy movie is to be shown, this would certainly be a step back, just as the Oscars are about to hit us full force. No more foreign investment from Hollywood. Better tell Charles Kaufman to stop writing his thriller on the hidden world of port operation espionage. I jest.

    Posted by at 2 comments :

    Wednesday, February 22, 2006

    Today's Port Deal Update

    Well, despite Dubya reasoning that the deal was sound and that he would veto any objections to the deal, it transpires that he didn't know anything of the deal until it was agreed and lawmakers are unperturbed by his veto threat Despite this, some reasoned arguments about why it would be bad to reject the deal have been raised as well as some of the real issues that need to be faced. However, continued anti-Arab sentiment is being thrown around, which, whatever happens with this, will only have damaged UAE-US relations.

    Posted by at No comments :

    Cartoons, Cola and Consumerism

    Whether or not you agree with the banning of Danish products, finding a substitute for Lurpak was forced upon some peoples this month, but anti-West sentiment has lead to an unexpected trebling of sales of Mecca Cola. That's probably small cheese to Pepsi and Coke who dominate the Middle East market, as they dominate the World. But it's interesting that such events can change the dynamic of trade. If markets are fickle in this way, assumptions will have to be revisited. Would Western icons that define modern day consumerism be replaced by Gulf based ones? Next to fall - watch Taza Chicken knock KFC into touch, that is if this avian flu doesn't go pandemic.

    Posted by at 5 comments :

    Tuesday, February 21, 2006

    Xenophobia, and some port clarification

    Before the P&O Deal hit the radar of the US media, a small minority of UK shareholders were going crazy over the deal throwing sorts of wild accusations:

    "...because the ports operator is based in Dubai, it therefore almost certainly has links to Al-Quaeda and therefore will almost certainly look to bomb the Channel Tunnel in order to increase the ferry company's profits..."

    Whether you consider the people are taking the homeland security view or the xenophobic one, there are more people than not who want to stop this deal, and have have been digging to get as much dirt as possible including linking two Bush officials to DP World:

    But onlookers are beginning to voice concerns about what exactly is going on, including the chariman, or ex-chairman of P&O, Sir Jon Parker:

    "What he does not understand is the xenophobic nature of some of the debate that took place in the course of the bidding process....'Dubai is a country that has not harboured terrorists, and I have great respect for the sultan, Ahmed bin Sulayem. I've had three and a half months of dealing with him, and he is a really professional businessman. With people like him running it, I'm not surprised Dubai is doing so well,' he says....'Security is not a factor. It is handled by the individual ports on a country-by-country basis, and a change of ownership will not affect that,' he insists."

    But Lex of the FT and Jeremy Warner of the Independant have both pointed out that the deal is unlikely to be completely scuppered. At worst, DPW may have to sell on the US Businesses. In any case, DPW are more interested in the Far East Operation of the deal which give 60% of the profit versus the North American part at 12%. And just some final clarification, DPW wouldn't own the US ports, it would only run it under licence.

    Bring on March the 2nd, then.

    Posted by at 2 comments :

    Monday, February 20, 2006

    Return on horse investment

    (all figures in dollars)

    Buying 27 horses - 41.9m
    Securing a world record price for a horse - 9m
    Annual upkeep per horse - 50,000
    Not winning too much, but happy because everyone else can't afford to buy fillys any more - Priceless

    There are Some Things Money Can't Buy. For Everything Else, there's Mastercard.

    Posted by at 9 comments :

    Inflationary pressures will change Dubai lifestyles

    With estimates of the market rate of inflation varying between 12% and 40%, you need to think long and hard about whether the salary you receive is worth the quality of life that you have. With, increased petrol costs, and the implementation of 5% VAT next year, it will be difficult to even save on food products. Locally produced and imported products will converge towards a similar price and rental price hikes will continue due to workarounds of the law. This will mean forgoing the Dubai lifestyle that many have got used to.

    Posted by at 5 comments :

    Sunday, February 19, 2006

    Dubai Ports and the perceived link to terrorism

    The anti-UAE speak emanating from various US publications seems somewhat understandable given that the key ports within the States will be owned by a foreign company. But the extent to which the UAE has been linked with other nefarious activities and the way that this has been discussed verges on slander.

    Here are some facts:

    1. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States has already approved the deal, considering information from its own intelligence agencies.
    2. All regulatory approvals needed for such a transaction have been passed.

    Based on these two points alone, is it not a fair assumption that a full risk assessment has been undertaken? Indeed, if the intelligence agencies have been involved, especially in a post 9/11 era, then this assessment would have been extremely rigorous. You also need to look at this and understand that P&O was already foreign owned (by the Brits), and so the arguments are patently against the UAE, which brings me to my next points.

    3. The UAE was not the operational base for the September 11th hijackers.
    4. The UAE condemns terrorism of any sort and is committed to combatting terrorism
    5. The UAE is a staunch ally of the United States

    Why are the objectors so against the transaction, if it is a UAE company? Is this bigotry? Why, if the UK were looking after the ports for so many years, would they only object after the UAE takes it over. A certain ignorance (they even call Dubai a country) probably alikens their concerns on this basis - Arab = Muslim = Middle East = Terrorist = Anti US. None of these are patently true. Ok, many Arabs are Muslim, but not all. All generalisms. Either way, they are pocketing the UAE into a generalised terrorist state. Untrue, and unfair. They say that the UAE has a spotty record on terrorism. So spotty that there has been no terrorist activity in the UAE and the UAE is not anti-US. The arguments against the UAE are woolly at best. If they say funds were channelled through the UAE, it can be argued that funds were channelled all over the world including through the US itself. Further, because of current regulations, these are now tighter than world standards, especially considering cross border transactions.

    6. Hilary Clinton's popularity has been waning in recent months
    7. There is widespread Muslim demonstrations across the globe, from the cartoon row to critique over the Iraq war and the profiteering from that war.

    It is no secret that Hilary Clinton wants to run for the US presidency in 2008, but with her popularity as it is, she certainly doesn't have it in the bag. For her to throw her weight behind the Nationalist 'protect out shores' vote is typical of desperation. And taken up the stance without qualifying her argument is unwise if she was to go to office, and lose the links that Billy Boy built up.

    8. Dubai relies on foreign investment
    9. There is very little oil left in Dubai

    I wonder if some of these senators have actually been to Dubai. Just because it is on the same mainland as Saudi, doesn't mean that it shares all the same values. You could say the same of England and Scotland, Spain and Portugal, the US and Canada. The list is endless. Do they even know that if there was any link with terrorism of any sort, directly or indirectly, that the Dubai economy and the grand plan will fall away as quickly as you could say 'sand dune'.

    10. P&O operates in more countries than just the US.
    11. DP World operates internationally and is a 4th largest port operator

    The other countries that the DP World currently operates do not object to its presence, and the other countries in which P&O have operations have not objected, so why should the US think any differently?

    Given all this, I do understand why there is opposition to the takeover. Loss of nationalism, perceived safety issues etc. but the way that untruths have been flagrantly recounted is just underhanded. The way that UAE is being portrayed for political reasons, is plain disrespectful for a supposed ally. With lawyers getting involved in a messy legal system, I believe that either the deal will fall apart, or some sort of compromise will have to be made with regard to the US ports. But it will all be a shame, at a time where ties should made and bridges built.

    Would such a debacle have occurred if Singapore had won the bidding war?

    Posted by at 4 comments :

    Saturday, February 18, 2006

    Dubai buys Time Warner!

    OK, so Istithmar only purchased 2.4% of Time Warner, but I'm sure the US press will be all over this one in light of recent events with P&O, think that the UAE is trying to control the media, and treat it in the same way.

    Posted by at No comments :

    The Three Musketeers of Dubai

    While nearly all the US Press is still fuming about the Dubai port company, DP World taking over P&O and thus controlling 6 US ports, the New York Times publish a simple overview to understanding what Dubai is really all about linked in with a profile of Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem. They unravel the inner workings of how the Emirate works listing Suleyman, Gergawi and Alabbar as essentially the guys who sort it all out.

    "Sheik Mohammed, "asks a lot of questions and these three guys go looking for the answers.""

    There is also an interview with Bin Suleyman in the Guardian.

    Posted by at No comments :

    The Inshallah Factor

    For those of you not signed up for the Grapeshisha Newsletter , I have just sent out the latest one on Arabic Catchphrases, that you hear regularly in the UAE and the Middle East. Enjoy!

    Posted by at No comments :

    Thursday, February 16, 2006

    Someone correct them please - the UAE is NOT a terrorist nation.

    What I can understand with the P&O Debacle is why the US would have issues with another country looking after their ports. What I can't understand is the bending of truth stirred up by this Associated Press journalist that caused a furore that has the US chairman of the house homeland security committee asking the White House to reconsider the deal. They continue to cite the UAE's history as an operational and financial base for the hijackers who carried out the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks against New York and Washington. That's like linking the UK to terrorism because the 7/7 bombers were born in the UK. And the US didn't have a problem having good old blighty looking after the ports.

    The fact is that the DP World has already gone through U.S. government panel that considers security risks of foreign companies buying or investing in American industry. They could have blocked the transaction. Next thing Michael Moore will come up with some hair brained theory that this is the pre-cursor to the next 9/11, and make a film called Celsius or something.

    Even though the UAE has taken patent steps to counter terrorism, handing over and expelling suspects, the US press seems to be generalising that 'Middle East' equals 'Terrorism' and therefore the UAE falls under that banner. What balony! If the UAE aligned itself in such a way or was seen to be doing so, the foreign investment would disintegrate over night and the fall out would lead to the decline of Dubai Inc. Perhaps 'Connie' will apologise for this next week.

    More on the anti-UAE sentiment here, here and here

    This is not good press for the UAE. What I can not understand is why the UAE Press are not defending the country on this. Maybe they are more worried about cartoons or swimming pool closures in The Springs.

    Posted by at 14 comments :

    Wednesday, February 15, 2006

    VAT for Dubai?

    The issue came up when the IMF and and Dubai Customs were commissioned to conduct a study. The reason why it is needed because of the UAE wishes to set up free trade agreements with the US, EU, Australia and China, and that would involve reducing import levies. So, with this reduction in revenues, the UAE needs to look at other revenue sources - and VAT seems the obvious move. Apparently it wont be for some time, and apparently will be phased in, and apparently will start with tobacco, alcohol, luxury items, electronics etc. But, once that starts, expect the sheen to go on Dubai, the number odf items taxed to increase, the percentage to slowly veer towards 20% and inflation to rocket. More about it here, here, and here.

    Posted by at 2 comments :

    Jebel Hafeet is the World's Greatest Driving Road

    The UAE boast many greats, and many craziests in its short life, but this driving site gives the Jebel Hafeet Mountain Road the thumbs up for giving your car a spin. Many people dont have this down as a to-do lists when visiting Dubai, but now expect the racing car enthusiasts to use this route to test out their bi-annual car upgrade. Worth 5 minutes of your time, if not for just for the photo of Jebel Hafeet by night. Stunning.

    Posted by at 5 comments :

    Tuesday, February 14, 2006

    Is there room for another Airline?

    First there was Emirates (confused with the country), then came Etihad (with the forgettable name), then Air Arabia (with the Arabic South Park Characters).....and now, wait for it, RAK Airways will be operational by early 2007 with 2 used airbuses. We all know that the airline market in the Middle East is going through significant growth, but another one? Next thing you'll tell me that UAQ will want one, then there be one called UAE airlines which will claim to be the UAE flagship airline, stealing it from Etihad who stole it from Emirates.

    I haven't been to RAK, and don't intend to go, from some of the bizarre stories I have seen in the press, but I'm sure that one day I'll need some good quality ceramic. And I suspect that it is safer to fly to RAK than go by road, what with the death rate from ego driving.

    Posted by at 3 comments :

    Dubai Slips

    No, not underwear. As seasoned yacht owners, you will all know that a slip is where you dock your boat. Some crazy fool is auctioning off the domain name dubaislips.com with a minimum bid of 5000 bucks under that premise. You would be forgiven if you thought that this was something to do with the Dubai Financial Market which has slipped to a 6 month low. My advice is to buy now (the stocks, not the domain)

    Posted by at No comments :

    Monday, February 13, 2006

    I've got more money than you have so tough.

    We all knew that once Singapore started the game of poker over P&O, that Dubai Ports weren't bluffing. And because they wanted it, they got it. Obviously such a move makes strategic sense for the Dubai, in the ports business and also for the shareholders who voted today 99.5% in favour of the bid. With shares having jumped 70% since this was all talked about, that's a nice little earner. But the matter of fact way that Bin Suleyman acknowledged that it was theirs is a qualified arrogance:

    "it was important to pay a high price so as to speed up the outcome of the deal."

    Money is power, and now money is speed. The way that Dubai Ports did it, reminds me of the invincibles of Sport, Pele & Brazil, Mohammed Ali, Borg - you just know that they are going to win. Well, most of the time.

    When someone at Dubai Holdings figures out what this information superhighway internet thingy can do, expect simultaneous bids for Microsoft, Oracle and Google.

    Posted by at No comments :

    Dubai is in Algeria?

    I hadn't heard this until today but, yes, there is a market in Algeria called Dubai - affordable prices and a choice of goods.

    "You can find anything except your mother and father in Dubai"

    This is starting to get confusing for me, what with the World in Dubai, 2 Taj Mahals in Dubai, Dubai in Algeria. What next? India in Dubai? Israel in America? The country formerly known as Denmark.

    Ok, enough.

    Posted by at No comments :

    The Dubai Sandwich

    This recent article from the Guardian Newspaper paints a pretty unbiased view of Dubai, telling it how it really is. While some of the information maybe slightly skewed, by and large Adam Nicolson gets it just right. The concluding paragraph gets Dubai right down to a nutshell (or sandwich)

    This is the Dubai sandwich: at the bottom, cheap and exploited Asian labour; in the middle, white northern professional services, plus tourist hunger for glamour in the sun and, increasingly, a de-monopolised western market system; at the top, enormous quantities of invested oil money, combined with fearsome social and political control and a drive to establish another model of what modern Arabia might mean in the post-9/11 world. That is the intriguing question: can Dubai do what Libya, Egypt, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, or almost anywhere else in the Arab world you might like to mention, have failed to do? Is Dubai, in fact, the fulcrum of the future global trading and financial system? Is it, in embryo, what London was to the 19th century and Manhattan to the 20th? Not the modern centre of the Arab world but, more than that, the Arab centre of the modern world.

    At a time where the Western perception of the Middle East is at an all time low, this article gives a realistic view that rises to the surface of the gunk that seems to be written about the region nowadays and puts articles that link the UAE with 9/11 to shame

    Posted by at No comments :

    Dubai drivers are the best

    Great little short piece in the Gulf News today with some deep insight at the end:

    Motorist reverses into a lot of mess
    By Alia Al Theeb, Staff Reporter
    Dubai: A motorist, who lost his composure while reversing, damaged nine cars on Sunday at the parking lot of Dubai Police Headquarters.
    The Asian, who was leaving, reversed his car from the parking space.
    However, instead of slamming the brake, he stepped on the accelerator and hit two cars, pushing one of them on to the pavement.
    Then he turned his vehicle to the right, but again pressed the accelerator instead of the brake and damaged two other cars.
    On impact, one of the damaged cars hit two other cars parked near it. Two more vehicles were reported damaged.
    No injuries were reported in the incident.
    Police said the man might have been confused.

    And I am sure this guy had to go through the customary 5 tests before getting his licence, which probably led to him being so confused.

    Posted by at 1 comment :

    UAE Cost of Living Spreadsheet 2006

    I have compiled some general data to produce a cost of living spreadsheet to assist those moving to the UAE. Data consists of groceries, services, entertainment etc., amongst others. This will hopefully help the large number of expats who move to Dubai and Abu Dhabi every year. You can locate it from the home page of the grapeshisha website.

    It is not meant to be a work of genius, just something useful to make transitions to this country that much easier. I remember when first came over to this country, and the Economist didn't cover Dubai as part of their Big Mac Index.

    Please feel free to share with anyone you feel may find the information useful. And also, if you have any corrections or ammendments, I would welcome those as well.

    Posted by at 1 comment :

    Sunday, February 12, 2006

    Broken Back

    For anyone unclear about whether the UAE turns a blind eye to homosexuality can now be certain that getting caught will result in five years in jail. With Brokeback Mountain also being banned from a UAE release, there is absolutely no doubt that it will not be tolerated here. Allegedly, the defense's argument was that if alcohol is allowed in the hotels, then so should homosexuality, but that, I think, is just an old wives tale. With all the demonstrations these days, expect gay rights activists to be lobbying for a release.

    Posted by at 1 comment :

    Saturday, February 11, 2006

    Danish Clarification

    The cartoon row will hopefully one day subside. News that EU Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana visiting the Middle East to speak in person with leaders in the region can only be a good move at a time where Islam and the West exist at opposite polarities.

    Having been emailed today to boycott goods with certain barcodes (which relate to specific countries), I think it worth reading the Q&A issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark. I also found the Jyllands-Posten articles an interesting read. To this day, I am sure that I thought many other things happened, but I guess that is how the press can manipulate, in both directions. The whole situation is regrettable, and I hope and pray that the situation will start to calm.

    Posted by at No comments :

    Emiratisation and Education

    I am not convinced that nationalising a whole job sector is beneficial for the UAE Nationals who struggle to get find opportunities in the work place. Don't get me wrong on this. I am very for giving the UAE Nationals the opportunities in their own country, but sectioning off a section of specific number of jobs neither promotes meritocracy nor sends out the right message. Of course, solving the issue is a difficult one and requires long term thinking and dedication. With numerous UAE Nationals out of work, something needs to be done. Offering some sort of benefit to companies who employ a certain percentage of staff could be an idea, as well as emiratizing levels within an organization or sector. The real reason that expats are here are to offer skills in a country that needs this expertise, and when those skills are met, it is important to fill those positions with capable UAE Nationals. I would therefore take the expenditure increase in education one step further. Joining up with international companies to offer placement schemes or work experience overseas would give the young Nationals a good grounding and expertise to come back and slot back to compete with the supposedly more skilled expat. Is meritocracy too much of an ideal to strive for?

    Posted by at No comments :

    Friday, February 10, 2006

    Boiling Point

    The UAE is often referred to as a melting pot of cultures. Well that melting pot is coming to the boil. You always hope that incidents such as the "Danish one" will die down, but as we speak, the demonstrations continue, most notably in Lebanon.

    Media always plays a part in such debacles, and while I cant vouch for an opinion either way due to my lack of Arabic,

    Internet forums played an important role by publishing a number of stories attributed to the Queen of Denmark stating she despises Arabs and Muslims. The website alsaha.com was primarily responsible for stirring up popular sentiment. Based in the United Arab Emirates, the site is an extremist Salafi forum that discussed issues related to extremist Islam. It opposed US presence in Iraq and backed the kidnapping of foreigners. Despite the UAE government’s opposition to religious extremists, it has allowed alsaha.com to continue to incite readers through its threatening messages and al Qaeda clips. It is believed that more than 100 thousand internet users visit the site each day.

    If it is true that a website such alsaha.com is inciting hatred, is based in the UAE, and nothing is being done about it, then will the UAE get officially dragged into this debacle politically?

    Oh and by the way, I received this SMS from the British Embassy today:

    Please be aware of the possibility of demonstrations after morning prayers tomorrow and where ever possible avoid large crowds, meeting spots, malls etc

    Is this demonstration thing in Dubai becoming common place? For some reason I thought demonstrations were part of a democratic society. No matter, in any case Egypt play in the final of African Cup of Nations at 9pm, so the fickle crowds will be calm again by then.

    I still worry though.

    Posted by at No comments :

    Wednesday, February 08, 2006

    Abu Dhabi is an Emerging Global City

    A couple of days ago, Forbes issued its Emerging Global Cities List for 2006 and joining Chengdu (China), Warsaw, Pune (India), Curritiba (Brazil), and Tripoli was the UAE capitial. This is what they had to say about Abbadabby:

    "A kind of city-state in the mold of Singapore, this Persian Gulf archipelago hasn't experienced the same rush of foreign investment as neighboring city Dubai. But that's changing now that the Abu Dhabi government is pushing for more office and residential development. Experts expect to see less of the ultra-Vegas-style opulence that's taking over Dubai and more of the serious architecture associated with New York's Financial District. Key to realizing Abu Dhabi's faster growth is the abundance of petrodollars and a new, energetic ruler (Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan) who's actively promoting private investment in real estate."

    It's always interesting to hear what the outside world think if what is going on here, and invariably it usually focuses on oil, property and opulence, even if they are not completely correct on the detail. The perception is there - we shall see if their predictions are correct.

    Posted by at No comments :

    Etisalat do not need to be worried

    When the UAE telecoms regulatory authority (TRA) announced in 2005 that it would allow a competitor to the sole telecomes provider, Etisalat , the residents of the UAE clung to hope that this would allow some sort of change in service. Many professed, and still do, that they would change providers in an instant. Well, 2006 is here and the new operator, tentatively named Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company (EITC) will launch probably H2 or Q3 this year.

    What I forsee is a very similar offering in a tricky market. Going to market in telecoms is easiest within the mobile sector first, and no matter how negative anyone is towards Etisalat, let's be real here - the mobile and landline offering is pretty damn good. Mobile availability (or 'service') is always high and local call charges are very low even in the context of the Middle East market but especially in comparison to the world. There are numerous other issues that fall into the negative, such as overpriced international call charges, the banning of VoIP, restriction of some innocent web sites on 'cultural grounds', and the list goes on. The main issues that Etisalat face with regards to complaint are transparency of decision, or lack of it, some price elements and service provision in the internet and new media markets.

    What we need to understand here is that EITC will go to market first with mobiles. Service will be similar and price cant get much lower. Furthermore, the TRA has a hold on price and will regulate to prevent a price war in other segments, so overseas calls will be unlikely to reduce to the extent that one would hope, at least in the short term. But also, things take time people are often reluctant to change, no matter how much they try and convince you otherwise. I think EITC will take some market and will slowly increase their share, possibly in new sign ups and somewhat on renewal.

    EITC may perhaps launch their internet provision by the tail end of the year, and that should give Etisalat enough time to get their offerings into gear. But the question is this - does it really matter to them, especially in the grander scale of things? Etisalat have not hidden the fact that they wish to be a top ten proovider in the world, as far as market share. Let's be real again. That is not going to happen by staying in the UAE market. There is significant growth in other large markets of lower penetration such as Africa and the Middle East markets of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and it is likely that Etisalat will enter some of these markets in the same way that they took a stake in the Pakistan market late last year. Expect also some other opportunistic ventures within other more competitive countires possibly in Europe. Being involved in a more mature saturated market will give Etisalat more market know how to be able to deal with their core offerings in their primary markets.

    Whether Etisalat lose market share in their primary domestic market, they are not worried. They have or should have a very healthy bank account from operating as a monopoly for so long. Etisalat are more interested in long term strategy from a global perspective than losing a little ground which is a certainty that they can not change.

    I look forward to seeing how the future unfolds over the coming year. Interesting times, my friends, interesting times.

    Posted by at 4 comments :

    Tuesday, February 07, 2006

    Too good to be true?

    Often, I am asked by people about the stockmarkets in the UAE, whether they will crash, whether it is a bubble just about to pop. While I am neither a soothsayer nor an expert dabbler in the markets, I can say this: The last three years have shown some remarkable gains. If you look at the image below, you can see what has happened to the Dubai Financial Market. Some would say that is pretty ridiculous. (the red line is the Abu Dhabi Securities Market)

    But let's look a little more closely at what has happened over the past 3 months. Is that a market down turn? Is this a volatile market? I will leave it to you to judge.

    To check out all the Middle Eastern markets in detail, I would recommend the Gulfbase website, where I obtained the images above, and you can analyse the UAE megastocks of Aldar and Emaar amongst others.

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    "You have grape flavour?"

    Well hello,

    The itch has been there for a while and so, after pondering on the peace pipe, I have decided to take the plunge into the land of Blog. I have been writing a newsletter for a while on all things UAE, and recently launched a site, aiming to give further information and insight. The blog will be the midway point between both - random thoughts on random issues, but all related to Abu Dhabi, Dubai, UAE, the Middle East, and Old Blighty. Well, mostly.

    The future is not yet written. I may blog daily, or weekly. And I'll try to be different from expert blogs that are out there already. I hope that my flavour, the grape flavour, will provide something different.

    I guess I'll smoke you later. Until then....

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