For the past five years, Dubais real estate market has been blamed for the emirates financial and economic woes.
As property prices fell in 2008, developers such as Nakheel were left with billions of dollars of debts as the broader economy stalled. For a while, it appeared the emirates economy would never recover. Then, in 2011, the real estate market bottomed out and since then, Dubai has been on the upswing.
Nakheel was quick to react. In April 2012, the firm realised the market had turned and took the bold step of launching its first new property development since the crash. Since then, it has released a raft of new schemes that have either sold on launch, or will be held by the firm as cash-generating assets for the future.
That decision, together with prudent cost controls and lower-than-expected claims payouts to contractors and creditors, has greatly improved Nakheels financial position when compared to the restructuring plan that was created for the company in 2010.
The developer is now AED22bn ($6bn) better off than expected, allowing it to pay off its debts early. In February, Nakheel will prepay AED2.4bn of bank debt, as part of a new strategy to clear its debts early.
The firm then plans to pay off a further AED1.7bn in August. Following this, in February 2015, it will pay AED1.5bn, and in September that year, it will pay another AED1.5bn. Nakheel will then proceed to pay its AED4.5bn trade creditor sukuk (Islamic bond) in August 2016 on time, and follow this by settling a AED900m bank loan in 2018.
As the developer outperforms its restructuring plan, it is starting to become clear that the real estate boom was overhyped in 2007, and in 2008, and the crash was exaggerated as well. If that is the case, then the outlook for Dubai should improve significantly. If Nakheel can pay off its debts early, other entities should also be able to do so.