Investors concerned about potential Dubai Expo 2020 bubble

20 November 2013

Professionals say UAE needs more real estate and banking regulations

Investors are concerned that a successful bid by Dubai to host the World Expo 2020 could lead to another economic bubble, according to a survey by CFA Society Emirates. The study measured the opinions of 216 investment professionals in the UAE.

The local chapter of CFA Institute, a global association of investment professionals, said more than half of the survey’s respondents (55 per cent) were concerned that a successful bid for the Expo 2020 will create another economic bubble, and only a quarter believed the UAE has done enough to make its economy immune since 2008.

While over the past year the UAE has introduced new regulations aimed at strengthening banks’ resilience and encouraging the development of off-plan property, investors said more laws are needed to make the economy more robust.

Nearly 90 percent of respondents said more real estate regulations are needed and three quarters favoured an increase in banking regulations.

The respondents showed little concern about the event having a negative impact on the UAE economy, however. Only 4 per cent believe the costs associated with hosting the event will create a debt burden. Most of the respondents think a successful bid will have a positive impact on the stock markets, the real estate industry and foreign direct investment (FDI).

But according to Egypt-headquartered investment bank EFG Hermes, the expo will make the country’s debt situation more pressing than it is now.

“If the next phase of the investment cycle, accelerated by the Expo, is not met by revenue-building measures and asset sales, this could result in total Dubai debt rising to 110-115 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2020, up from 102 per cent of GDP currently,” the lender said in a report.

Dubai’s bid dossier estimates hosting the expo will cost $8.7bn in total – $7bn in investments and operating expenses of $1.7bn. Capital expenditure will mainly cover the development of the expo’s planned 4.4 square-kilometre plot in Jebel Ali and connecting infrastructure such as extending the Dubai Metro’s Red line.

The winner of the Expo 2020 bid will be announced on 27 November.

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