Brexit & Dubai realty


The effects of “Brexit” are as diverse as they are far-reaching, with experts considering how the decision made by the majority of Brits will affect everything – from the European geopolitical and socio-economic landscape, the strength and resilience of the European Union in the face of further discontent among its member states, the social and economic ramifications to a newly  “independent” United Kingdom, and the inevitable question as to whether the United Kingdom can remain united given the Scottish and  Northern Islands’ wish to continue as part of the European Union.

In addition, the whole strategic alliance framework of the West has been weakened somewhat as a robust and strongly united European Union was always considered to be a cornerstone to an effective defense to an aggressive Russia and China on both economic and security fronts.

All this is heady stuff, complicated by the fact that the separation process will be negotiated by a new English Prime Minister, and will probably take up to 2 years! Understandably, the whole world is worried because all the financial and trade mechanisms, agreements, communication channels, policies, protocols and security arrangements that have taken over four decades to build will soon be set to zero for renegotiation.

No wonder the world is nervous and understandably uncertain as to what the future might hold.

And it’s that uncertainty which will have an effect on the Dubai property scene. As we all know, investors and potential homeowners alike do not handle uncertainty well.

And it is this very same uncertainty that now lies around the effect of the Brexit on world growth, and the possibility of European and UK recessions in the coming year that will make most investors move to less risky assets and safe haven currencies such as the Japanese yen and the US dollar.

Of course, uncertainty regarding world growth has also negatively affected oil prices so many investors will be more reticent to invest in those economies that rely on its revenue. While we all know that Dubai is much less reliant on oil than the neighboring UAE emirates and Middle Eastern countries, it will still be affected by investor nervousness by way of association, which is unfortunate yet a reality. Just take a look at the Dubai Financial Market – it lost 3.3 percent, the biggest decline since January, as Emaar Properties PJSC fell by 4.7 percent, mirroring the Brexit effect on many other markets around the world. Hardly rational, in my view.

And investors will be looking closely at the effect of Brexit on the Dubai tourism industry as well. In the first quarter of 2016, Western Europe was the second largest source of tourists to Dubai by region, accounting for 23 per cent, led by the UK’s 8 per cent and Germany’s 3 per cent.

With the Euro weakened to $1.10, and with most analysts bearish on its immediate future, it is hard to imagine that level of contribution will continue until the post-Brexit uncertainty dissipates. Now, such a strong pillar in Dubai’s burgeoning economy, tourism rates can be affected as nearly every global currency has depreciated versus the AED, making travel to the UAE more expensive for the majority of global travelers while journeying to the UK and Europe for most people has just got a lot cheaper. Hopefully, many will still use Dubai as a travel hub and take advantage of what this exciting city has to offer during stopovers.

At the time of writing, the British pound had fallen more than 10 per cent to below $1.34 and is still falling as uncertainty continues to cloud everybody’s view as to the future of the UK economy. This is significant as British investors alone injected £1.9bn into Dubai’s property sector in 2015, purchasing around AED 10 billion worth of UAE property assets and ranking them second with an overall 7 per cent of total investments made in the sector in 2015, increasing from the prior year. Needless to say, with such a currency devaluation and an uncertain outlook, Dubai property has suddenly become a lot more expensive for those wishing to purchase with British pounds.

And yet, the London property market has just become a lot more affordable. Already, there are reports of overseas buyers from all over the world taking advantage of the weaker pound to buy property in the stunned city. While a feeding frenzy hasn’t developed as yet, a prolonged weakness in the pound could divert significant levels of investment capital away from markets such as Dubai, especially as British expats, living in the emirate and earning UAE dirhams, take advantage of exchange rate gains to invest back home.

So, while there are interesting times ahead, there is no need to act impulsively or with any undue haste. The true extent and nature of the ramifications of the Brexit decision are yet to be fully identified, analyzed and quantified. It is still early days, and it will take some time for the fog of uncertainty to clear and for opportunities to emerge. Decision time will come soon enough.