Saturday, November 28, 2009

S’pore firms shrug off Dubai default

THE debt troubles of Dubai World appear to have had a limited impact on Singapore companies with links to the Gulf emirate.

Property group City Developments (CDL), which tied up with the Dubai government investment company to develop the billion-dollar South Beach site near Suntec City, said it does not expect ‘any impact at all’ on the site’s development.

‘Dubai World holds only a one-third share’ of the development, a CDL spokesman said yesterday. CDL has another third, and the last third belongs to the United States-based El-Ad Group.

The spokesman told The Straits Times that no further capital needs to be pumped into the project at present.

‘However, when the time comes for construction to proceed, all partners will be required to put in their share of additional funds. Should Dubai World decide not to contribute their proportionate share for whatever reasons, their shareholding will be diluted.’

Dubai World had asked on Thursday for six more months to repay its debts, sending global financial markets into a panic over Dubai’s possible bankruptcy.

Analysts singled out banks as among the most vulnerable to a Dubai debt default. The news could have a ‘meaningful impact’ on banks across Asia, said Mr Daniel Tabbush, a banking analyst at CLSA in Bangkok.

He listed Standard Chartered, HSBC and Singapore’s DBS Group as the most exposed in the region.

DBS has a branch in Dubai that was opened in 2006, marking the bank’s first foray into Islamic finance. DBS could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Along with United Overseas Bank and OCBC Bank, DBS is also part of a syndicate helping to finance CDL’s South Beach project.

Market observers said the banks that have exposure to Dubai only through the South Beach project are unlikely to be affected by Dubai’s financial problems, as they will have collateral in the form of the property.

Public transport company SMRT also has a partnership with Nakheel, a property developer that works under the umbrella of the Dubai World group.

SMRT has a six-year contract worth about $120 million with Nakheel to operate and maintain a monorail running through the Palm Jumeirah development in Dubai.

In response to queries about how Dubai’s debt difficulties would affect SMRT, chief operating officer Yeo Meng Hin said the impact to the monorail’s operations, if any, would be minimal.

‘We are long-term partners with Nakheel, and will continue to work closely with its management during this challenging time,’ he said.

Other Singapore companies that have crossed paths with Dubai World include Labroy Marine and Pan-United Marine. The Dubai firm bought both Singapore shipyards in 2007 for about US$2 billion (S$2.7 billion).

Earlier that year, Dubai World’s sister firm Dubai Ports World grabbed headlines in Singapore when it beat PSA International to buy P&O Ports for £3.9 billion (S$8.8 billion).

Source: Straits Times, 28 Nov 2009

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