Dubai's Market Slides 7 Percent; Dow Okay

The Dubai Financial Market slid 7 percent today, the first day of trading after the emirate announced that conglomerate Dubai World would have to delay payments on its $60 billion debt.

Markets in Abu Dhabi, Dubai's sister emirate and long assumed to be its financial guarantor, also fell 8 percent, reflecting the decline in world markets that hit after Thursday's news about Dubai's debt woes.

By Monday global stocks recovered somewhat from the hit. Asian markets gained 2-3 percentate points, while in the U.S. the Dow Jones Industrial Average was little changed.

VIDEO: Stocks Slide on Concerns About Dubai Debt Fallout

Questions remain over the state of Dubai's debt and whether Abu Dhabi would come through with a bailout. In February the Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates, a federation of seven states led by Abu Dhabi, loaned Dubai $10 billion to help cover urgent debt obligations. On Sunday, however, the federal authority said it would "pick and choose" how it helps Dubai and its ailing companies.

The most prominent firm facing insolvency is real estate giant Nakheel, a Dubai World subsidiary known for lavish developments like two man-made Palm Islands and "The World," islands in the shape of the global map. Other Nakheel projects have been slowed or stopped as the company ran low on cash. A Trump Tower on the Palm Jumeirah, plans for luxury stilt homes in the shape of Arabic poetry, and the conversion of the Queen Elizabeth 2 into a 5-star hotel have all been slowed or shelved.

Signs of the downturn emerged in Dubai more than a year ago as investors and analysts began wondering whether Dubai could pay for so many projects built on credit and excess, projects that seemed out of synch with real estate demand in a world reeling from recession. In the months that followed, allegations of corruption, embezzlement, and wasteful spending hit a broad swath of executives at some of Dubai's preeminent companies, including subsidiaries of Dubai World.

In that climate of criticism over how Dubai financed its boom years, doubts have emerged over whether Abu Dhabi would come to the city's rescue.

"With regards to Nakheel, Abu Dhabi does not seem to be willing to throw good money after bad," said Eckart Woertz, an economist with the Gulf Research Center, based in Dubai. Investors will be looking for signs of inter-state solidarity, and Abu Dhabi's generosity, during the UAE's National Day celebrations on Dec. 2.

Hani Sabra, a political risk analyst with the Eurasia Group, says Abu Dhabi will more likely than not come through with assistance.

"There is very little chance that Abu Dhabi will allow Dubai to suffer a total collapse," Sabra wrote on Sunday. "There nevertheless remains an appreciable risk...Dubai World will default. If indeed this is the case, it is most likely based on Abu Dhabi's appraisal that the size of Dubai's liabilities are too large to service fully."

On Monday, Dubai's government announced it would not back up Dubai World's debt, raising the scepter of a potential default.

As Sabra and others point out, any help that might come from Abu Dhabi will come at a price. Most likely, it would mean a continued strengthening of federal powers, dominated by Abu Dhabi, at the expense of Dubai's autonomy.

Some analysts predict Abu Dhabi would use its increased leverage to pull Dubai away from Iran. Dubai has close ties and commercial relations with the Islamic Republic, as compared to Abu Dhabi's frosty suspicion of Iran.

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...
See It, Share It
PHOTO: Director Wes Craven attends the screening of Life Itself at the ArcLight Cinemas, June 26, 2014, in Hollywood, Calif.
Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic/Getty Images
PHOTO: Kanye West accepts the Vanguard Award onstage during the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards at Microsoft Theater on August 30, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.
Christopher Polk/MTV1415/Getty Images
PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin works out at Bocharov Ruchei residence in Sochi, Russia, Aug. 30, 2015.
Russian Presidential Press and Information Office/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images