United Arab Emirates: more than an oil state

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1 Financial and Economic Analysis Business Opportunity Report United Arab Emirates June 2016 United Arab Emirates: more than an oil state The United Arab Emirates is a prosperous and strong economy. The UAE is the world s seventh largest oil producer and the production of crude oil is the most important economic activity. Nevertheless, the UAE is well on its way towards a diversified economy. Further integration within the Gulf Cooperation Council and continued work towards expanding its services and other non-fuel sectors will not only serve economic stability, but should also strengthen the UAE s position as a financial and international trade hub. Healthy economic growth rates are expected for the coming years Macroeconomic background Economic growth slowed to 3.0% in 2015 from 4.6% in 2014, the lowest growth since 2010 (see Figure 1). Nonetheless, this is a respectable growth rate for a mature economy. The oil price crash induced drop in economic growth was cushioned by increased fiscal spending and surprisingly resilient investment. Although the UAE is more diversified than most other oil exporting partners, oil dependence is still high. Because we do not expect oil prices to reach their pre-crisis levels in the coming years, we have modest economic growth expectations, hovering around 3% until Figure 1. GDP, annual real growth 15% 10% 5% 0% -5% -10% ING Economics Department Daniel Bosgraaf Economist International Trade Analysis Source: International Monetary Fund Figure 2 shows the development of the different components of GDP. We observe that the financial crisis of 2009 hit the UAE hard. Net exports halved in 2009, while household consumption fell sharply. Interestingly, government consumption, and investment have remained strong, not further exacerbating the GDP slowdown.

2 The emirates work together intensely, central government finances are healthy. Economic structure and policies The UAE is organized as a federation of seven emirates: Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Sharjah, Fujairah, Umn al-quwain and Ras al-khaimah. The federation assumes leadership over many areas: foreign affairs, defence and security, currency, immigration, FDI and trade issues while local governments maintain significant sovereignty over other issues. Most markets are open, with the exception of some regulated industries such as pharmaceuticals, telecommunications services, electricity and water. The central government promotes innovation, sustainability and diversification. Indeed, the UAE has long known that dependence on one sector is poor risk management, and the UAE s economy has been diversifying since the 1990s. However, the low production cost and global demand for oil has long prevented policymakers from pushing diversification even further. The oil price crash of 2015 (in which the average monthly oil price fell from US$108.3/bbl in January to US$39.0/bbl in December) has been a wake-up call. This has led the UAE to plan to limit the contribution of oil to GDP to 20% by In this process, Dubai has been a prominent frontrunner. As Dubai s oil reserves were limited, the emirate grew its tourism and services export sectors. Less than 5% of Dubai s revenue now comes from oil. The UAE has a very appealing business environment with favourable tax policies, strong transportation facilities, and a well-educated work force. The government s revenues come from hotel and restaurant fees, foreign banks profit fees, and royalties on oil and natural gas. There are no income or corporate taxes. A VAT introduction of 5% is scheduled for Despite falling tax income (-5% in 2014) and fiscal expansion to sustain non-hydrocarbon growth in 2014, government debt declined from 22% of GDP in 2012 to 14% in 2014 due to double-digit surpluses in 2012 and In the first nine months of 2015, government revenue declined 21.0% on the back of the oil price crash. Consolidation efforts led to a decline in government expenditure of 13.9% in the same nine months. A government deficit of 3% is expected for 2015, much less than most oil producing countries. Figure 2. GDP components, millions nominal USD Household consumption Gross capital formation Government consumption Net Exports Source: International Monetary Fund UAE: More than an oil state June

3 The healthy government finances are reflected in the investment grade sovereign ratings of the UAE, Fitch and Standard & Poor s maintain AA ratings with a stable outlook, while Moody s maintains an AA2 rating with a negative outlook. The oil market remains important for the UAE: GDP, exports, government revenue, all depend on the oil market. Oil dependency Like so many Gulf countries the UAE s economy is highly dependent on the oil market. The UAE is the seventh largest oil producer in the world. This is unsurprising since the UAE has extensive reserves, totalling nearly 100 billion barrels confirmed. At the current pace the UAE could continue production for more than 90 years. In addition the marginal production cost of one barrel is only US$7. These favourable circumstances have led to a strong dependence on oil: 19% of 2014 GDP consists of oil rents, 36.8% of exports consists of oil, and a large part of tax revenues (35% of 2014 s budget). In the event of a shock in the oil market, the UAE is vulnerable and needs significant buffers to cushion the fall in both GDP and tax revenue while simultaneously experiencing pressure on the (pegged) exchange rate. The UAE has these buffers firmly in place. Exchange rates and foreign reserves The Dirham is pegged to the U.S. dollar at , (or 1 USD = Dh). In the years up to 2015 foreign reserves have climbed, reaching 78.4bn USD in foreign exchange reserves in 2015, from 32.8bn in However, with falling demand for oil, demand for the local currency also contracted, and this led to increased pressure on the peg. Fortunately, the vast amount of foreign currency reserves reduces the vulnerability of the peg. The UAE s free trade zones have very favourable regulations and tax schemes. Free trade zones 1 The UAE has established 37 free trade zones. These trade zones are divided in business categories (for example: gold and diamonds, healthcare, media, etc). These zones have some (very) favourable tax and business regulations: - No personal income taxes - 100% foreign ownership of the enterprise is allowed - Imports and exports are tax exempt - Full repatriation of capital and profits is allowed - Corporate taxes are exempt up to 50 years. International hub The UAE is an international hub connecting Europe and Africa with Asia. The country has heavily invested in infrastructure and has managed to set-up market leading companies in the airline (e.g. Emirates & Etihad) and shipping (e.g. DP World) industry. Also the country s harbours (e.g. Jebel Ali) and airfields (Dubai & Abu Dhabi) have become world-class players. Hence, apart from its traditional role as being an oil hub, the country is now a centre of international finance and travel. Business environment The UAE is an attractive market for foreign enterprises. With a GDP per capita in excess of US$43,000 the UAE population can be considered wealthy. The UAE is ranked 17 out of 189 in the World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Competitiveness Report. This is a fifteen place rise from Similar hubs outside the 1 For more information on the UAE s free trade zones, please see UAE: More than an oil state June

4 Middle East like Singapore (2nd) and Hong Kong (7th) are ranked higher. In the Middle East, Qatar ranks slightly higher (14th) and Saudi Arabia lower (25th). Very high scores are achieved in goods market efficiency (3rd), infrastructure (4th) and foreign competition (5th). In goods market efficiency, for example, the UAE scores higher than the Netherlands (10th) but lower than Singapore, which ranks 1st. The scores of the UAE in the different pillars of the competitiveness ranking are shown in Figure 3. Figure 3. World Economic Forum Competitiveness Pillars scores (7 is the best score) 10th pillar: Market size 12th pillar: Innovation 11th pillar: Business sophistication 1st pillar: Institutions nd pillar: Infrastructure 3rd pillar: Macroeconomic environment 4th pillar: Health and primary education The UAE is a competitive economy but starting a business may be cumbersome. 9th pillar: Technological readiness 5th pillar: Higher education and training 8th pillar: Financial market development 7th pillar: Labor market efficiency 6th pillar: Goods market efficiency Source: World Economic Forum The UAE ranks 31st in the World Bank Ease of Doing Business 2016 rankings in between countries such as the Netherlands (28th) and Japan (34th). It scores well on dealing with construction permits (2nd), paying taxes (1st) and getting electricity (4th). However the country scores poorly on issues such as getting credit (97th), resolving insolvency (91st) and starting a business (60th). On average it takes 32 days to obtain credit. The recovery rate on insolvency is 29%, and recovery takes on average 3.2 years. It takes on average 8 days to start a business. These scores are quite in line, or slightly better, than those seen in other Middle-Eastern countries, but lower than OECD high income countries. The labour market of the UAE is very flexible with low redundancy costs, loose hiring and firing practices and the UAE does not have a minimum wage. In addition, the population is young and well educated. Compared to the EU s median age of 42.5 years, the UAE s median age of 33.5 is low. A very small share of the population is over 65 years old, only 1.1% versus 19.2% in the EU. The working age share of the UAE population is therefore much greater (84.9%) than in the EU (65.3%). UAE: More than an oil state June

5 The country scores relatively high on the Transparency International ranking for Corruption Perception index (23/167). Although the UAE scores lower than most Western countries, the UAE has the same rank as France. Summarizing, the UAE is a highly advanced hub in the Middle East which is very open and very competitive but entrepreneurs starting a business in the UAE may face significant hurdles with respect to financing and starting a business. OB CHRISTEN Sector composition of the UAE According to Oxford Economics, a research firm, industry developments are mixed. Between 2010 and 2014, agriculture production declined steadily by 3.3% annually. Figure 4 illustrates the current composition of UAE s economy. Although production (which includes goods production, utilities and extraction) has grown 5.0%, the services sector, however, is the real motor (5.0%). In addition, economic growth in non-oil sectors has remained strong, especially in construction, hospitality and transport services. Figure 4. Output per industry, % of total GDP Utlilities 100% 90% 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% Intermediate Goods Investment Goods Consumer Goods Durable Consumer Goods Non- Durable Extraction Construction Services Agriculture Source: Oxford Economics The UAE s economy is diversifying, oil and ICT are expected to be the biggest losers while, construction and machinery are expected to do well. At a more granular level, we see that the construction sector was very strong in 2015, with construction-related sectors growing strongly: iron and steel (+10%), cement, plaster and concrete (+18.2%) and non-ferrous metals (+7.0%). Other industries performed badly: computers & office equipment (-6.4%), consumer electronics (-6.1%) and telecommunications equipment (-4.8%). Clearly ICT was not in favor in For the period , construction is expected to continue to grow, now joined by repair and installation of machinery (+7.4%), pharmaceuticals (+5.8%) but also ships and rolling stock (+4.7%). The decline in the ICT industries is expected to continue: computers & office equipment (-0.7%), electric components & boards (-0.3%), and consumer electronics (-0.2%) are expected to be the slowest growing industries. UAE: More than an oil state June

6 International Trade Trade tariffs and barriers Import tariffs in the UAE differ, but are generally low. The average agricultural tariff is 5.4% and the average non-agriculture tariff rate is 4.6% 2. However, the UAE scores badly with regard to non-tariff barriers. At rank 101 (out of 189 countries) the UAE scores much lower on the Trading Across Borders pillar than it does overall in World Bank Ease of Doing Business 2016 ranking discussed above. This low ranking is attributable to high compliance costs for both imports and exports. The UAE is imbedded in the Middle-Eastern Gulf Cooperation Council but is also actively reaching out. Trade agreements The UAE joined the WTO in 1996 and is has signed various trade, economic and technical cooperation agreements with 12 countries in Asia, eight countries in Africa and Europe and two in South America and Australia. In addition, the UAE is part of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC), which include the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman. While the GCC was established in 1981 out of a desire to ensure external security, the formation of an economic bloc was already envisioned in its Unified Economic Agreement. And this dream has come closer to fulfillment recently; the GCC has been a customs union since 1 January Also, there is full equality among GCC citizens and further integration is underway. On 1 June 2016 a new commission on economic and developmental affairs was announced to improve coordination in all economic fields and to promote joint action on economic developments. The UAE has signed the Greater Arab Free Trade Area Agreement (GAFTAA) and other bilateral free trade agreements within the framework of GCC agreements. Under the GAFTAA, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Morocco and Jordan are the Arab nations with which the UAE has already signed a number of free trade pacts. The GCC is currently negotiating free trade zones with the European Union, Japan, China, India, Pakistan, Turkey, Australia, New Zealand, Korea and the Group of Mercosur which include Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay. It has also concluded the negotiations and the signing of free trade agreements with Singapore, European Free Trade Association (EFTA), Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, the Principality of Liechtenstein and New Zealand. Table 1. Import by origin country Import partner Imports 2014, (US$bn) CAGR CAGR F 1 China % 14.1% 2 India % 13.6% 3 United States % 8.5% Source: ING Trade Model, UNCTAD 2 Trade tariffs per product and country can be found in the European Commission s Market Access Database (MADB) and the WTO s Tariff Download Facility. UAE: More than an oil state June

7 Imports Despite falling commodity prices, UAE s imports increased 7.9% to US$264.3bn in The UAE s ratio of import-to-gdp increased in 2015 to 76.6% of GDP from 55.6% in ING forecasts that the value of UAE s imports over the period will grow at an average annual rate of 11.8%. The UAE s top 3 import partners in 2014 were China, India and the United States. Within this top 3, imports from China are expected to grow the fastest over , with an annual average growth rate of 14.1%. The increasing importance of India coincides with India s rise in the world as an economic power. For the US the picture is the opposite. Import growth rates from the US over the period are expected to be much lower than in the period , although 8.5% is nothing to scoff at. Table 2. Import by product group Product group Import 2014, $bn CAGR CAGR F Other manufactured goods % 11.0% Office, telecom and electrical equipment % 14.1% Road vehicles & transport equipment % 11.6% Industrial machinery % 9.5% Textiles % 8.7% Basic food % 9.4% Fuels % 10.7% Other products % 9.1% Chemicals % 10.1% Ores & metals % 8.5% Pharmaceuticals % 10.5% Beverages & tobacco % 11.6% Agriculture & raw materials % 9.7% Source: ING Trade Model, UNCTAD Other manufactured goods, for the UAE consisting mostly of construction-related materials, forms by far the country s largest import product group. Other large import product groups are office, telecom & electrical equipment (US$36.0bn), road vehicles & transport equipment (29.9$bn) and industrial machinery (US$24.4bn). Textiles are the product group that saw the fastest average annual growth rate over (+14.8%). Agriculture & raw materials was the slowest growing product group, but still with a respectable annual average growth rate of 9.2%. For the period , ING estimates that Office, telecom & electrical equipment will be the fastest growing import product (+14.1%). Further, all product groups are expected to experience high average annual growth rates. All see an average annual growth rate of +8.5%, with the slowest growing group to be textiles (+8.7%). Exports Exports as a percentage of GDP are expected to have bounced back in 2015 to 56.5% in 2015, from 47.9% in Despite the decline in oil prices, exports are expected to have grown 2.4% to US$196.0bn. UAE: More than an oil state June

8 Table 3. Export by destination country Export partner Export 2014, $bn CAGR CAGR f Japan % 4.5% 2 India % 7.8% 3 Korea, Rep % 8.0% 10 Turkey % 26.4% Source: ING Trade Model, UNCTAD In 2014 the UAE s largest export markets were Japan, India and the South Korea. Annual average growth rate of exports to Japan over are estimated to slow down while, the annual average growth rate of exports to India are expected to increase sharply. The export growth rates for to Korea are expected to remain similar to Finally, we expect that by 2019, China overtakes Japan as the UAE s main export destination. Korea is expected to fall out of this top 3 and drop to the 7 th place. Table 4. Export by product group Product group Exports 2014 (US$bn) CAGR CAGR F Fuels % 7.4% Other manufactured goods % 12.1% Other products % 17.7% Ores & metals % 7.7% Chemicals % 8.0% Basic food % 12.4% Office, telecom & electrical equipment % 7.1% Industrial machinery % 8.2% Road vehicles & transport equipment % 13.5% Textiles % 4.0% Agriculture & raw materials % 8.6% Beverages & tobacco % 7.3% Pharmaceuticals % 13.9% Source: ING Trade Model, UNCTAD Similar to other Gulf states, the UAE s biggest export product is fuels. Fuels exports are 6 times larger than the country s second export product, which is other manufactured goods. The products that are forecasted to have the fastest annual growth rates are other products (+17.7%), pharmaceuticals (+13.9%) and road vehicles & transport equipment (+13.5%). Trade in services In contrast to the trade in goods surplus the UAE maintains, the country runs a deficit in trade in services. Both imports and exports of services are growing. In 2015 services UAE: More than an oil state June

9 exports as a percentage of GDP was 8%. This rate has been increasing from 4% in Services import was 19% of GDP in 2015, whereas it was on average 16% over Concluding remarks Although economic growth is lower than in past years, the UAE s dedication to diversification, its strong competitiveness and its outward looking agenda, the UAE s economy should prove to be resilient. Indeed, the UAE easily fended off the oil price crisis of The favourable business environment and its status as an international business hub should ensure a prosperous economic future for the UAE. UAE: More than an oil state June

10 Disclaimer This publication has been prepared by ING (being the commercial banking business of ING Bank N.V. and certain subsidiary companies) solely for information purposes. It is not investment advice or an offer or solicitation to purchase or sell any financial instrument. Reasonable care has been taken to ensure that this publication is not untrue or misleading when published, but ING does not represent that it is accurate or complete. The information contained herein is subject to change without notice. ING does not accept any liability for any direct, indirect or consequential loss arising from any use of this publication. This publication is not intended as advice as to the appropriateness, or not, of taking any particular action. The distribution of this publication may be restricted by law or regulation in different jurisdictions and persons into whose possession this publication comes should inform themselves about, and observe, such restrictions. Copyright and database rights protection exists in this publication. All rights are reserved. ING Bank N.V. is incorporated with limited liability in the Netherlands and is authorised by the Dutch Central Bank. Any person wishing to discuss this report or effect transactions in any security discussed herein should contact ING Financial Markets LLC, which is a member of the NYSE, FINRA and SIPC and part of ING, and which has accepted responsibility for the distribution of this report in the United States under applicable requirements. UAE: More than an oil state June

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