Mohammed Nimer, who controls 3bn dirhams of projects in the UAE, says Dubai will 'rediscover its basic appeal but without the glitz'

As a growing number of experts agree that Dubai will soon start to see the green shoots of recovery, debate is shifting to what the upturn will look like. At a recent Cityscape Connect forum, Mohammed Nimer, chief executive of mid-market property development company MAG Group Properties, which is involved in 3bn dirhams worth of projects in the UAE, predicted recovery would be gradual but sustainable.

Nimer was speaking on a panel covering the whole spectrum of the industry, from investors to real estate agents, which agreed that Dubai’s property market would start to sprout green shoots sometime between January and June next year.

He said: “The fact that there is a general consensus regarding the end of the downturn is important, but we should now be looking ahead and asking ourselves, how do we make the recovery sustainable, indeed what will sustainable look like?”

Much has been made about the shape of the recovery, V shape, U shape, L shape, W shape or perhaps even a square root shape, he said.

"A V shape recovery would be a disaster - straight back to boom and bust. The others are really a variation on how quickly we pick up, but as always it will be the fundamentals that lead us to sustainable recovery.”

Nimer said the key economic indicators are still positive and improving as we move into the second half of the year. The IMF is forecasting UAE economic growth of about 3%. The gap between loans and deposits at UAE banks narrowed in May to 31bn dirhams, a decrease of nearly 5bn dirhams since April. The figure had stood at 90bn dirhams at the start of 2009.

UAE bank lending grew for the first time in May since December 2008, when loans increased to 207bn dirhams from 201bn a month earlier, an increase of 2.9%, despite concerns over 2bn dirhams outstanding on credit cards 10% of which may default.

“The oil price has doubled since the turn of the year and seems to have stabilised at about $70 a barrel, even though the summer is traditionally a time for weaker prices with less demand for heating oil in the west,” said Nimer.

However concerns remain over population and unemployment. How many expatriates will not return after the summer break or return alone without their families?

All should be revealed by October, but certainly for those who do return, they will be welcomed by more affordable housing, said Nimer. According to Landmark Advisory, rental prices are coming down and Q3 this year will witness falls of up to 25% as more new-build supply comes onto the market.

But Nimer said he did not believe people would necessarily upgrade their accommodation. However he added: “Where I do see pent up demand is from mid-management professionals, who in the past have had to share accommodation. The size of that potential market must be considerable.”

It has also been widely reported that those expatriates that have lost their jobs and gone home may be unwilling to “forgive” Dubai and try again to resume their careers here? Nimer disagreed. He said: “Some may have no alternative, with their home economies still sluggish with high unemployment. Dubai will by default rediscover its basic appeal but without the glitz – a safe and secure, tax-free environment with an advanced infrastructure. That will be too much for expatriate entrepreneurs and business professionals to resist and I firmly believe that they will return.”

In summary, Nimer said: “The recovery will be gradual and sustainable. If I had to put a shape to it, it’s probably a square root, the fundamentals are sound, property is becoming more affordable through basic supply and demand, which in turn cuts business costs, whether it’s commercial rent or employee housing allowance.”