LIVE: The 8th annual Arabian Business Forum

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Andrew Neil, Chairman, ITP Publishing Group.

Andrew Neil, Chairman, ITP Publishing Group.

15:05: And that's it from the panel - another strong and candid discussion. They leave the stage to warm applause. At this point, we'll be closing this blog; the next presentation is about a banking survey, and you will find the results elsewhere on our site. So that's it for today - thanks very much for staying with us.

15:00: A question about Expo 2020 - what impact will that have if Dubai wins the bid? Plumb says it will have a huge impact on Dubai; JLL is advising PwC (which is advising on the bid) on the impact of the project, but "the numbers are very significant". He also says that areas near to the Dubai World Central site, like Dubai Investments Park and the Green Community, will also be boosted.

The panel are now discussing the fact that - somewhat extraordinarily - Dubai needs to get building again if it is to meet demand by 2016-2020. Otherwise, a lack of supply could create a bubble on its own.

Another feature of the market is the growth of lower and middle income residents - related to tourism, trade and so on. The future lies, Plumb says, in more projects like International City, which caters to the mid-market. It's the same for hotels - demand is now rising significantly for three-star - as opposed to five-star - properties.

A question from the audience now; is the new ruling from Abu Dhabi that all government officials have to live in the UAE capital going to have an impact on Dubai? Maclean says that the growth in employment in Dubai is outstripping that of Abu Dhabi, and that the government needs to be careful not to force government employees to forego Abu Dhabi for what might be a more attractive market in Dubai. Plumb points out that prices are still higher in Abu Dhabi, and that the 25,000 cars making the daily commute between the two cities mean that many might simply be convinced to stay and work in Dubai. 

14:45: Title is also an issue, with banks not certain of their ability to foreclose on a particular project. Instead, banks price in risk to their interest rates - it's an area that needs to be sorted out, the panellists agree.

There is still some debris from the bubble, Plumb adds - 37 percent of all commercial space in Abu Dhabi is unoccupied. That figure is 31 percent for Dubai. "So clearly the markets here are very oversupplied - in the residential sector we estimate that 15 percent of the residential units built in the last five years are unoccupied," he says. Many properties were bought by investors who never intended to live in them, but are still not on the market. That's the case of what's going on on The World - the Nakheel project - where all the islands have all been sold, but very few are seeing any development.

Back onto commercial property, and Plumb says that new sites are being developed - mainly legacy properties. That adds to the overhang. However, most of these are being purpose-built for specific companies. "Before the end of this year, we'll see quite a lot of spec commercial property coming back onto the market," says Maclean. The market is also being hit by the strata law - which is seeing companies move out of near empty buildings (where they have to pay a higher proportion of the service charge) and move to more established locations.

...continued on next page

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