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“UAE to become the global economic centre of gravity” day one of Cityscape Summit hears

Ian Goldin, Professor of Globalisation and Development at University of Oxford, identifies Expo 2020 Dubai as a factor in the emirate becoming the global economic centre of gravity



Cityscape Summit

Officially inaugurated by His Excellency Sultan Butti bin Mejren, Director General of Dubai Land Department, the latest edition of the Cityscape Summit opened its doors today as government, industry and thought leaders from across the region and beyond descended on the Dubai Exhibition Centre (DEC) at Expo 2020 Dubai to take part in numerous topics defining the current and future real estate landscape.

Horizon-gazing: What’s the global economic outlook against a backdrop of divergent recoveries?

Assessing the global economic outlook, Ian Goldin, Professor of Globalisation and Development at the University of Oxford, shared his thoughts on the future of the world economy and the implications for Dubai and its property sector. Identifying the emirate’s Urban 2040 Plan and recent amendments to property and visa laws, Goldin believes there are very few places on earth that have achieved what the UAE has in the last 60 years.

“The world economy will look very different than it does today by the year 2040. China will be the largest economy by far, probably accounting for about 18% of global economic activity; the US will have slipped from number one to number three; India will be bigger than the US at number two accounting for around 15%; and Indonesia will be close behind the US, with about 10% of global economic activity. 

The centre of global economic gravity is shifting fast, and the pandemic has accelerated shift towards the Middle East region and further east, with the UAE ideally placed to be a strategic bridge between old economic centres and new. Not only is it where things are happening and changing, but the composition of economic activity and markets are aligning perfectly, as well,” said Goldin, who also identified some of the UAE’s key industries as ‘composition growth sectors’:  “Manufacturing, services, digital, financial, hospitality, retirement, care, health and education are all accounting for a greater share of our economies. Again, this places the UAE and Dubai in an ideal situation because these are where the country is excelling. More people will come here to enjoy life and work in these industries, with dramatic implications for property and the real estate sector. We are already seeing a rebound to the sorts of levels seen before the pandemic, and this will be sustained.”

JLL and Dubai Land Department launch latest Dubai Commercial Property Price Indices at Cityscape Summit 

The latest Dubai Commercial Property Price Indices, jointly created by JLL and Dubai Land Department, was launched today at the Cityscape Global Summit. According to the report, around 2,845 commercial property transactions worth AED 33.9 billion were recorded by Dubai Land Department (DLD) in Q3 2021. Transaction volumes were up 1% when compared with the preceding quarter and stood 34% higher year-on-year.

“These figures demonstrate that 2021 saw a significant pick-up in sales activity in this sector compared with last year. Sale transactions, which represent cash bought commercial properties, accounted for the largest proportion of the overall volume of transactions registered in the third quarter of 2021. Indeed, this element accounted for 74% of the total figure, followed by mortgages at 18% and gifts at 2%. Meanwhile, the value of mortgage transactions equated to AED 20.3 billion in Q3 2021 – double that of cash transactions.

This means the relatively small volume of sales completed using mortgage finance were high-value commercial property transactions, which typically have high dependency on financing options. Ready, or existing, properties accounted for 86% of transaction volumes in Q3 2021, with off plan sales comprised the remaining 14%. In terms of value, ready properties represented the vast majority (98%) of total transactions recorded between July and September of this year. This suggests buyers showed a strong preference for completed, and thus ready-to-occupy, commercial properties in Dubai,” said Khalwar Khan, Head of Research, MEA and Turkey, JLL.

Around 88% of the total volume of transactions in the third quarter of 2021 comprised properties located in freehold areas. Business Bay took the lead, recording 367 transactions, followed by Jebal Ali First (279 transactions) and Al Thanyah Fifth (209 transactions). In terms of value, freehold areas represented 68% of total transactions. Marsa Dubai was the most popular area in this context, recording transactions worth AED 4.9 billion. Palm Jumeirah took second place at AED 3 billion and Al Kheeran ranked third at AED 2 billion.

The real estate market has seen five-fold investment since 2008, according to Colliers CEO

Ian Albert, CEO Colliers – MENA discussed the staggering increase in real estate investment and how, as an asset class, rental collection rates make it a chief focus for institutional investors and funds. 

“In 2014, there was a report by Grosvener Estates about resilient cities. Effectively, what they came up with are new ways of looking at property investment. And it took two different lumps of assessments – one called vulnerability which looked at a city’s vulnerability to things like climate change, industrial changes and adaptability such as governance and how quickly it could change itself. The outcome of those numbers is resilience. 

What’s happening in the global investment market has been a shift away from the traditional shopping malls, offices and industrial parks. Since 2008, the investment from funds and institutions into the real estate market has increased five-fold. In the last five years alone, residential investment has grown 30% in Europe from funds. This year, a full 25% of committed investment fund money has gone into residential. 

According to Albert, the increase in residential investment is due to it being a good cash business: “Rental collection rates of various investment funds in 2021 was sitting at 95-97%. Industrial and logistics remain quite high at 85-87%, and office space is around 70-75% rent collected. So, if you look at it from a cash-on-cash business, it wins. The UAE market total available for foreign investment is somewhere around US$350-450 billion worth of assets out there now that foreign investors can buy now in this market. If you look at returns in Dubai, capital growth is sitting at about 30%, with yields at around 5%, therefore clearly outperforming some of the key markets in Europe.”

A glimpse into the future and Dubai’s Vision 2040

Nasser Abu Shehab, Chief Executive Officer, Strategy and Corporate Governance, Dubai RTA also spoke on day one of the summit, exploring how Dubai’s Vision 2040 will shape future real estate investment. According to Abu Shehab, two of the plan’s strategic themes will be imperative to the ongoing growth of Dubai’s real estate sector – planning vibrant and healthy communities, and the national housing programme. 

“The Dubai Urban master plan is focused on development and investment into five main urban centres, three existing and two new. This will support growth of the economic sector and increase job opportunities across the city. Two of the key areas are Expo 2020 Dubai and Dubai Silicon Oasis, both of which offer important areas for tourism, research and events. The 2040 Urban Plan also proposed over 120 strategic projects and initiatives through direct government investments or private sector partnerships and attracting foreign direct investment. These are specifically designed to forge a new and advanced economic sector, as well as supporting vital sectors such as tourism and logistics,” said Abu Shehab.

“The Cityscape Summit hosted at Dubai Exhibition Centre, against the amazing backdrop of the Expo 2020 Dubai site, will explore the sustainability of our future ambitions and our visions. Over two days, we will hear from government organisations, industry experts and chief economists who will share micro and macro insights to ensure opportunities are maximised with up-to-the-minute knowledge and understanding of what the future may look like.” said Chris Speller, Cityscape Group Director.

The live and in-person Cityscape Global Summit event is being held in adherence with Informa AllSecure, an enhanced health and safety standards that raise the bar on safe, hygienic, productive, and high-quality organised event experiences. The Summit is supported by key sponsors Colliers, JLL, Kohler, Land Sterling, LWK + Partners, Regus and WhiteBricks.

Registration for Cityscape Global, the live and in-person summit and exhibition that takes place from 7th-11th November at DEC, is now open. For more information, visit:

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