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Dubai to global bankers: ‘Expect another boom’

London: Some of Dubai’s top officials told international bankers on Monday that it was gearing up for another boom and did not regret the pro-growth policies it used during the first boom. It appeared to win the endorsement of many of the bankers.

Over a dozen top Dubai officials and executives met about 100 representatives of financial powerhouses including Deutsche Bank, Nomura Holdings and Fidelity Investments for the emirate’s first big investor roadshow since the crisis.

“If Dubai had to do the same again, most likely we would follow the same approach,” Mohammad Al Shaibani, chief executive of Investment Corp of Dubai, told the audience at Deutsche Bank’s London offices.

He argued that heavy investment in Dubai between 2006 and 2008 had succeeded in setting the emirate up as a major centre for finance and trade.

“Now we are leading the region and we have a mission to position Dubai as one of the world’s main global cities. We are on the right track,” Shaibani said.

Many of the bankers expressed support for the emirate’s growth strategy on Monday.

Juergen Fitschen, co-chief executive of Deutsche Bank, said there was a danger of excessive growth: “Managing the expansion the right way and minimising potential risks will be crucial for future investments.” But he noted that Dubai’s latest investment plans, which involve spending tens of billions of dollars over the next five years on infrastructure projects and preparations to host the 2020 World Expo, would be a strong stimulus for the economy.

“Dubai is known to be a success story,” he said.

Dubai needs to restore full, healthy ties with the international financial community both to fund its growth plans and to manage heavy debt maturities coming due in the next few years, the legacy of its loan restructurings.

The International Monetary Fund estimates the emirate and state-linked entities will face $78 billion worth of debt maturing between 2014 and 2017, an amount which it has described as “challenging”.

Money is likely to be less readily available then it was before the global financial crisis, which has caused many foreign banks to become more cautious about lending.

Dubai officials and executives told the London meeting that after a slump immediately after the debt crisis, the emirate had entered a new phase of sustained growth on the back of burgeoning regional trade and financial flows.

“Dubai’s 10-year plan was to grow the economy from $38 billion in 2005 to $108 billion in 2015. We are now at a GDP of $97 billion with a growth of 5 per cent expected in 2014,” said Eisa Kazim, chairman of bourse operator Dubai Financial Market. “We are ahead of the plan.” Much of the discussion focused on the risk of another bubble forming — property consultants JLL said in a report on Monday that Dubai’s average residential property prices soared 33 per cent from a year earlier in the first quarter of this year, with prices in some areas reaching their pre-crisis peaks.

In addition to threatening another crash down the road, surging property prices could hurt Dubai’s competitiveness by raising its cost base. Hamad Bu Amim, Director-General of the Dubai Chamber of Commerce, said the increasing cost of living needed to be monitored.

But Dubai executives insisted that lessons had been learnt from the last boom, and that this time policymakers would prevent the economy and markets from overheating.