Monday, March 23, 2009

Is This Dubai World's Worst Investment?

Dubai World is one of Dubai's huge Sovereign Wealth Funds responsible for investing in companies that it feels will increase in value over time and thus benefit Dubai. Well I think I have found their WORST investment. Back in August of 2007 Dubai World and Mega Casino Operator MGM Mirage became partners when Dubai World agreed to pay $4.3 Billion for half of the gigantic CityCenter Complex Mega Project being built in Las Vegas (note: some sources say Dubai World paid $2.7 Billion). Dubai World also agreed to purchase $2.4 Billion in MGM stock.

Bad move! In August 2007 MGM Mirage stock was trading at around $75.00 a share. Today, March 23, 2009, MGM Mirage stock closed at $3.11 a share!! This is about a loss of 95% of the investment in a little over a year and a half.

That's not all. Dubai World, through its subsidiary Infinity World, is taking legal action against MGM MIRAGE because MGM has said it is so strapped for cash that it may not be able to complete CityCenter Complex... which Dubai World paid $4.3 Billion for a 50% share!! WOW!

Here is an article from TheNational.ae with details about the lawsuit:

Infinity Takes MGM to Court Over Vegas Project

Infinity World, a subsidiary of Dubai World, says it has taken legal action against MGM Mirage after the company allegedly committed a "breach" of its joint venture agreement to build a major project on the Las Vegas strip.

The company is asking a Delaware court to relieve it of any obligations under the agreement after MGM stated in its financial filings on March 17 that "there is substantial doubt about our ability to continue as a going concern." MGM also said it "cannot provide assurance" that it could generate enough cash flow to pay for its share of the project.

The two companies had agreed to build a 31-hectare project in Las Vegas called CityCenter, which is described as the largest casino project in history. The US$8.6 billion (Dh31.58bn) project includes plans for several casinos, hotels, a retail strip and other office and residential buildings. Infinity World contributed $4.3bn to the project and owns 50 per cent of it, Dubai World said.

"The current path of the project is simply unsustainable given our partner’s financial troubles," Dubai World said today, adding that it had been left with "no other option but to act to protect its investment and the future of CityCenter."

Dubai World also alleged that MGM had "mismanaged" CityCenter, causing higher costs despite reducing the scope of the project.

An MGM spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment, but the firm’s chief executive, Jim Murren, told investors last week that he believed the company would succeed despite the challenges it faced. The company was granted a waiver by its lenders until May 15 to restructure at least $7bn of $13.5bn in long-term debt. "I have no illusions that this is going to be easy," he said, according to the Associated Press. "I do not at all harbour any ill feelings towards people who think we will fail, because this is not without risk. But I wake up thinking that we’re going to make progress every day."

The company is being hit by a combination of lower land and property values, less gambling, and declining room rates during the worst US recession in decades.
Indications that MGM was having difficulty with the CityCenter project first emerged in January, when local inspectors found faults in the construction quality of some of the buildings. The company modified parts of the project to cut costs, but it still needs about $1.2bn to finish the project.

Dubai World said it was working with lenders and MGM to ensure the project could still be completed by its deadline of late this year.


Saturday, March 14, 2009


There is no bigger fan of Dubai than myself. In the last 7 years Dubai has truly accomplished the amazing. Through Dubai's Grand Vision the Emirate has created some of the most iconic and spectacular architectural marvels in world history. Projects like:

- Palm Jumeirah
- Burj Dubai
- Dubai Marina
- World Islands
- Ski Dubai.... and many others have made the entire world focus on Dubai with awe and envy. No other location on the planet has EVER developed so much so fast! And Dubai gave birth to the greatest real estate developers in history. Names like Nakheel, Emaar, Limitless and DAMAC have become almost legend through their amazing Mega Project developments.

Dubai also gave almost unlimited opportunities for great prosperity and wealth to all those expats who chose to come to Dubai and seek their fortunes. Many, many individuals made great fortunes in real estate and finance by coming to Dubai. In fact, Dubai was a true "Boom Town" and the world took notice

But all of this has now changed. In a BIG way! The world economies have crashed and Dubai, once thought immune, is also crashing. And crashing fast. I am truly amazed at how fast people are leaving Dubai. The change over the past few months has been remarkable. People are literally leaving all they had in Dubai.... cars, homes, etc. and just getting on a plane and leaving. Jobs are being lost at an alarming pace, especially in those areas that were only a short time ago the most attractive-- real estate and finance.

Real estate prices are collapsing and will no doubt continue on a downward spiral. The future of many of the great Mega Projects is also in question and in my opinion:

> It is very doubtful that either Palm Jebel Ali or Palm Deira will ever be fully developed. There is simply no demand for developments on these two gigantic man-made islands.

> Dubailand will never come close to the spectacular original plan for the project. I think certain parts will end up getting finished, but the vast majority of the project will never be built. It has always been questionable whether this project, even if it were ever to get fully built, could attract the projected 40,000 visitors a day hoped for. Especially during the hot summer months.

> Dubai Waterfront, which was originally planned to be a Mega Community twice the size of Hong Kong, will never be fully developed. Nakheel Harbour and Tower, part of Dubai Waterfront, has already been cancelled.

> Development of towers in Business Bay will be drastically cut back. What is the point of building more and more business towers if there are no businesses wanting to occupy them? And Dubai already has a successful business district with DIFC. A second business district is not called for.

> The gigantic new Dubai Mall could turn out to be a huge failure as more and more expats leave Dubai.

> Overall, real estate prices will continue down.... probably ending up 80-90% below their all time highs. And of course many more real estate brokerages and developers will go under.

++ Here is a quote from a recently published article in the Financial Times:

"Not so long ago Dubai was an Eldorado for construction and property companies. Attracted by some of the world’s most ostentatious and expensive projects, contractors from round the world flooded in to help the ambitious Emirate turn itself into a modern metropolis.

"Now, according to economists at National Commercial Bank, Saudi Arabia’s largest lender, $250bn (€199bn, £178bn) of projects have been cancelled or delayed in the seven-state United Arab Emirates – the majority in Dubai."

I could continue, but you get the point. On a more positive note I think that once the world economy begins to improve Dubai will bounce back STRONGLY. Dubai has already positioned itself as the center of finance for the Middle East and a leading world business hub. I believe that Dubai will eventually become a world business powerhouse equal to Hong Kong and London.

I also believe that Dubai will continue to be the world's most innovative developer of real estate projects. Once things begin to improve, Dubai will continue to develop amazing Mega Projects.... just at a slower and more balanced pace than during the boom.

One of the big positives that I see are all the great investment opportunities that the crash is creating. I will be giving you my favorite real estate investments for the Gulf Region in a future post.

In the long run I think the future of Dubai and the entire Gulf is very positive. In fact, I think The Gulf will emerge from the world economic crisis sooner and in better condition than most other parts of the world.

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