Once Booming Dubai Goes Bust

CBS Evening News: Following Wave Of Speculation, Real Estate Collapses In Middle East’s Capital Of The Ultra-Rich


Downturn In Dubai: The worldwide economic crisis has even struck the once-booming oil city of Dubai. As Sheila MacVicar reports, developers and investors are now facing a financial standstill due to mass overexpansion.


The Palm Jumeirah, Dubai, the world’s biggest artificial island. Home prices there are down 40 percent in the last year.
Photo: ThePalmJumeirah.

(CBS) Over the years, booming oil prices helped turn Dubai into a land of opportunity and playground for the ultra rich.

But that was then and this is now. And as CBS News correspondent Sheila MacVicar reports, even Dubai is feeling the pinch of the worldwide economic crisis.

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The gulf city state’s property prices went up as fast and as high as the towering buildings. But reality has suddenly intruded.

One investor said it was as if someone had thrown a switch, as the global credit crunch slammed a city that was, in effect, the world’s biggest construction site

It took just 20 years for Dubai to go from a desert outpost with a handful of office towers to a world metropolis, where one fifth of the world’s cranes operate, and property became a very hot commodity, with some people playing real estate the way others play poker.

“People were buying and flipping properties on a launch basis,” says Manesh Khadri of Century 21 Real Estate. “You launch a property and you flip it within the same day.”

Before an apartment was even built you could away with tens, or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Developers promised: Pay $140,000 for an unbuilt apartment, and within six months, reap a $46,000 profit. So as fast as the city expanded, investors snapped up the real estate, taking on big debt.

American Internet entrepreneur Mahmood Panjwani understands the risk of building a business

But, “I really did not know what risk was until I came here,” Panjwani says. “I mean Dubai is like Silicon Valley on steroids from a risk perspective.”

Buying real estate with little money down and lots of debt is risky indeed. Panjwani saw trouble coming and got his cash out of the market.

“There’s a lot of fear,” he said. “How low can it go down? How long will it stay down?”


(AP Photo/Nousha Salimi)Left: The Burj Dubai tower rises in Sheik Zayed highway in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, in this September, 2007 file photo. The world’s tallest building is still under construction, but prices there tumbled 50 percent as Dubai’s once booming economy and real estate market have gone bust.

Take the world’s tallest building, the Burj Dubai, which remains under construction. In the last month prices there dropped at least 50 percent.

House prices on the man-made Palm – the iconic frond-shaped island colony – down 40 percent.

A seven bedroom villa? $10 million last year, under $6 million now.

Banks aren’t lending. Projects are shelved. And the normally secretive government has had to acknowledge it has one of the highest levels of per-capita debt in the world — and not enough oil to pay for it.

“The worst is still yet to come in the sense of people losing properties” Khadri says. “That will happen.”

Of course, Dubai will come back eventually, many say, perhaps without the speculators and the insane price increases. So while the fizz might be gone, they insist, the water still sparkles.

DUBAI, Jan. 2, 2009

Source: CBS NEWS

2 thoughts on “Once Booming Dubai Goes Bust

  1. Dubai has never been too reliant on oil income in the last 15 yrs. Reporters need to do some research and not play into the stereotypes that all arab nations rely on oil for their main source of income.

  2. Hello Mike,

    The entire region is dependent on oil. Saudi Arabia for example needs oil prices to stay above $ 70/barrel.

    If the price of oil continues to stay below $ 50/barrel Saudi Arabia, Iran etc. will go down.

    Arab countries have lost $2.5 trillion in the past four months
    http://www.infiniteunknown.net/2009/01/17/arab-countries-have-lost-25-trillion-in-the-past-four-months/

    Dubai will soon be looking like a ghost town
    http://www.infiniteunknown.net/2009/02/13/dubai-will-soon-be-looking-like-a-ghost-town/

    The entire region is going down and so is Dubai. In a few months this will become obvious.

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