In the boom years it is easy to forget to ask the basic questions, like can I really own some sand?
Dubai was and is many things to many people, however it is not what many who have never stepped foot in the place assumed it was. It is a land for the local Emirati population and in particular those from the ruling or connected families. It is not a democracy nor does it have a consistent or equally enforced legal system. The saying goes, if you’re in a fight with a local and you win, you will still loose. However Dubai does not pretend anything to the contrary, what you see is what you get and it seems the holders of Dubai World debt were not looking.
With this in mind it is hardly surprising the buyers of Nakeel Sukuk will be left with worthless pieces of certificates, or at very best a massive write down. Hardly good news for the troubled British Banking holders (HSBC, RBS, Barclays) of much of this toxic debt. What is surprising is why they did not consider Dubai world a private company or comprehend should the worst ever happen what their fall back would be in a asset based Sukuk. It turns out the asset backing the Sukuk is a few strips of desert land which by local Emirati law foreigners are not allowed to own in any case.
Add to this folly, Barclay’s advice to its clients a few weeks prior to the stand still announcement to buy more Dubai debt. Barclays is majority owned by an extension of the Qatari Royal Family and it would have been fully aware of potential negatives on the horizon as the Dubai Government had been knocking on its door heavily throughout 2009 for it to buy more Dubai debt. Qatar is well positioned to reap from Dubai’s and its bond-holders pain as it seeks to bolster the flagging Qatar Financial Centre.
To assist on the restructuring of its debt, Dubai World has chosen the pre-eminent institution that is Rothschild’s. Rothschild’s needs no introduction and throughout history has often profited from others loss. It is baffling why with a host of capable investment banks available regionally Rothschild’s was chosen. It is said the Emir of Qatar sold out to the Americans to fund the coup against his father, let’s hope Dubai has not sold out to the powers that are Rothschild’s in order to keep afloat.