Dubai is broke and will become a ghost town.
“Altogether, the Dubai government and its companies have more than $80 billion of debt. The emirate, which has a population of only two million, has been forced twice to approach its oil-rich neighbour in Abu Dhabi for the funds to bail it out.”
The Atlantis (!) hotel in Dubai
David Beckham and Brad Pitt are believed to be among the celebrities and sportsmen who bought villas in Palm Jumeirah in Dubai, a luxury development that juts out into the Gulf. But when the property bubble burst this year, residents saw the value of their investments collapse. Yesterday their situation worsened as Nakheel, the developer, and its state-owned parent made a request to suspend debt repayments.
The statement rocked credit mar-kets around the world and prompted analysts to question whether Dubai, the most populous of the United Arab Emirates, will be able to meet its obligations. The concern is that Nakheel will be unable to continue developing the Palm and neighbouring projects, leaving Dubai and its coastal waters an ugly, unfinished construction site.
When the 2,000 villas and townhouses on the Palm went on sale in 2002, they sold out in a month. Passing through en route to the World Cup in Japan and Korea were the England football team, and several players stopped off to sign up for £1 million properties on the artificial island, with Michael Owen, David James, Joe Cole, Andy Cole and Kieron Dyer, it was reported, joining Beckham on the beaches. Pitt and Angelina Jolie are also said to have bought homes.
Joe Cole was one of the few who got out in time. The Chelsea player sold his villa for about $3.5 million (£2.1 million) last summer as Dubai’s property bubble approached bursting point.
Nakheel is now in deep trouble and struggling to cover its debts. Dubai World, a government conglomerate that owns the developer, is $60 billion in the red. Yesterday’s announcement by the Dubai government that it wishes to suspend repayment of Dubai World’s debts for six months, including a $4 billion bond held by Nakheel that was due to be repaid next month, is the clearest indication that the emirate can no longer meet its obligations.
Work has stopped on several major projects around the city and companies have had to accept huge cuts in the value of their contracts. More than 400 projects worth more than $300 billion are said to have been cancelled or shut down as a result of the property collapse.