November 20th, 2009
10:24 AM GMT
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The Dubai Air Show was not a glamorous affair.  When one points to regional orders from Algeria and Ethiopia to mark the highlights for 2009, there is a slight disappointment to be candid.  The total tally tells a similar story, some $5 billion of firm placements vis-à-vis $155 billion from just two years ago.

In comparison to the state of the industry in Europe or America today, the result however was impressive.  We interviewed the CEO of low cost carrier Jazeera of Kuwait and asked him why profits were down 53 percent over the same period last year.  The German executive Stefan Pichler replied in a matter fact fashion: at least we are still making money.

I believe it serves as a good microcosm for the region in general as it searches for the bottom of the crisis.  Businesses are not witnessing runaway growth, but they do see light at the end of the tunnel.  For example, the big brand carriers in the region, Emirates, Ethiad and Qatar are not cutting back their original commitments, only stretching them out if necessary.  It is worth noting that the carriers seem less concerned about posting profits right now, but building out their brands and their market share.

With oil trading around $80 the scope to build off the foundation recently put down is there.  Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum chairman of Dubai’s Supreme Fiscal Committee and Emirates Airline told us that the second half of the $20 billion government bond package should come by the close of the year.  If so, and if there are buyers beyond the UAE central bank, it will be an important indicator.
I chaired a forum of business leaders in London this week and found that most believe a firm floor is being put on this economic recovery in Europe as well.  Germany, France and Italy are growing again, albeit all below one percent in the last quarter.  Spain and the U.K., both overly dependent on the property sector, are suffering under the weight of their budget deficits.  It is a similar script being written in the United States. 

But there was categorically a belief there won’t be any hidden surprises, with an important caveat that policymakers may be already planting the seeds of the next financial crisis – in sum too much money thrown at the banking system that will eventually fuel inflation.

Meanwhile, the energy surpluses continue to fuel investments on European soil.  The relatively new investment arm in Abu Dhabi is moving swiftly post-F1 to raise its profile, buying Brawn Grand Prix with partner Daimler.  It also plans to raise its stake in the German industrial group to 15 percent.

Qatar is choosing to continue its investment advances in London.  There is active talk the QIA wants to raise its stake in grocery chain J. Sainsbury and after the Americans leave the posh neighborhood of Mayfair, Qatar will take ownership of the current site of the U.S. Embassy.

These investments may not raise the GDP figures in either Germany or the U.K. but do help us in our search for the bottom.

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