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Sun 8 Nov 2009 06:09 AM

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Al Habtoor chief upbeat on Dubai future

Leading UAE businessman says impact of crisis on city 'fading into history'.

Al Habtoor chief upbeat on Dubai future
UPBEAT MESSAGE: Khalaf Al Habtoor, chairman of the Al Habtoor Group which employs 40,000 people. (Getty Images)

One of the UAE's most prominent businessmen has delivered an upbeat message on the future of Dubai, saying the impact of the global economic crisis was "fading into history".

Khalaf Al Habtoor, chairman of the Al Habtoor Group which employs a total of 40,000 people across a number of sectors, said he was now seeing improvements in many parts of the business.

He added that while "the lights have flickered briefly" in Dubai during the downturn, he believed the city was now on the recovery path.

"The party's just beginning," Al Habtoor told Arabian Business, adding that the emirate was going to defy all the foreign pundits who last year predicted the end of Dubai's success story.

"In spite of morbidly gloomy predictions by foreign pundits that Dubai’s bubble had terminally burst, the economy is back on track...Dubai is the Arab capital of cool -and so much more - but difficulties caused by the global downturn are fading into history," added Al Habtoor whose company operates in construction, hotels, real estate, education, insurance, car dealerships and publishing.

He said the construction arm, which has completed many modern iconic landmarks including the Burj Al Arab, Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Madinat Jumeirah, and Terminal 3 at Dubai International Airport, was once again picking up big contracts.

Discussing an improvement in investor confidence in UAE economy, Al Habtoor added: "There is good news for the private sector too, which, I can state with confidence as a businessman involved with almost all sectors of the economy.

"Our construction business continues to be awarded lucrative contracts and our hotels are enjoying high occupancy rates. Our automotive subsidiary sold more vehicles in October than previous months. Moreover, due to record high demand, we are expanding our leasing fleet of 9,000 cars.

"Likewise, our schools have reported the highest number of student enrolments ever and have long waiting lists. We are certainly not alone in this positive evaluation."

Citing the International Monetary Fund (IMF)'s prediction for the UAE's GDP to grow by 3 percent next year, he said: "Dubai is well-placed to surge ahead and especially when concerns that Dubai might fail to meet its debt obligations have been allayed, thanks to the government’s capital-raising strategies."

He added: "Those doom merchants who claimed Dubai would not be able to pay its debt due this year, will soon be eating their words in the same way that those who foresaw that developer Nakheel would default on its obligations already have."

Arabian Business: why we're going behind a paywall

Sussex Sheikh 10 years ago

This reads well on the same day that the Japanese Consul claims millions are owed. The Japanese are usually low profile on such matters so things must be serious.

Paolo C 10 years ago

what else should he say? Smart guys are looking other places in the world to invest and today I can think of many places far more secure.

dr hashmat malik 10 years ago

I agree with Mr Khalafs comments, yesterday is gone,tomorrow nobody seen, what he is expecting beyound tomorow ,is his positive vision,because of which he is a positive man employing a huge work force, all coments against his vision are of people who have lost their dream palaces build in the air, I am sure dubai is going to be the most sought after place to live,earn and enjoy life in very near future. Keep buildibg mr khalaf. their without owning them.

Ali X 10 years ago

I have been a Dubai resident 15 years; I have seen it emerge reasonably quickly from 2 economic downturns before.... of course nothing compares to the current crisis. I am a strong believer in the Dubai story, and I actually call it home. However it is my view that we need to start engaging with each other differently. Residents of Dubai are an intelligent crowd; I don’t think that any of us have made it easy in life. Addressing an intelligent crowd, you need to present them with plain facts and accurate figures, and then let them make their own assessments and come to their own conclusions. Transparency is all what is required..... God bless Dubai.

Nicola 10 years ago

I truly understand those who witnessed the crazy race to real estate, figures tripling in a gap of a year. That wasn't the reality. That was a crazy thing and as speculative as hazardous as a casino could be. Dubai is recovering fast in the right way. Right way because what is not recovering as fast is those pharaonic projects where some of the developers have bet what they didn't have. Any business which has been carried out as per good standards and practice is still active and running to it's best! I am also a businessman and I also have the confidence Mr. Habtoor has on Dubai's future. Who is trying to register his child at school knows this (I am). Certain restaurants, especially on weekends, are fully booked. Emirates flights, which don't come cheap, to and from Europe or the Gulf are more than full. These are indicators which can't lie and who's been unfortunate because the easy money is gone should not criticize those who are still optimistic and somehow doing well.

Jesus of Dubai 10 years ago

Paolo, I agree with you 100%. Right now I am sitting in my flat in Kuala Lumpur. I just had it handed over to me. The craftsmanship is impeccable. The developer couldn't have been more professional in every respect of the word. EVERYTHING promised was delivered, on time. I have a contract that guarantees that I will receive 8% of the purchase price in revenues each year. So although I do not intend to work in KL, I will have an income here for the next 10 years. In the UAE, thinking of what happens 2-3 years down the line is idiotic, cause the laws change with the season. Dubai is a wonderful place, specially if you make loads of money. But for investment, as you said, there are many better options. Oh yes, one more thing. In Malaysia you get a 10 year renewable residency with your home purchase, subject to some conditions of course. I think if the UAE really wants to lure the investors back, it needs to rethink the 6 month visa policy.