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Winners and losers in every field

House prices are expected to go down 30 per cent this year. (SUPPLIED)

By Nic Ridley

The economic downturn may be bad news for the construction industry – cement trucks standing idle outside ready-mix factories is testament to that.

But for every loser there must be a winner, and the viewing habits of Emirates Business' online readers proved the point.

A sharp decline in construction expenses is expected to slash the cost of a major gas project in Abu Dhabi by up to 30 per cent, it was reported last week.

Indeed, Abu Dhabi National Oil Company's decision to invite tenders on the long-delayed Shah Sour Gas project shows that for those who have money, now is the time to spend it.

The announcement by Ismail Al Rumhi, director of the gas treatment section of the government-owned company and quoted in the London-based Arabic language daily Al Hayat, was the most visited story from last week's online editions of Emirates Business.

He said: "Adnoc will invite bids for oil and gas projects worth billions of dollars in the next two years. They include mainly the Shah Sour Gas project.

"Adnoc expects the costs of this vital project to decline by more than 30 per cent following the drop in the prices of many commodities, construction supplies and labour costs due to the global economic crisis."

In second place in the clicking-ratings, was another cloud with a silver lining, albeit only for tenants and potential buyers, this time about the continuing reversal of property prices.

Landmark Advisory, in a far-reaching piece of research, found the effects of the global financial crisis continued to be felt locally, and perhaps no more so than in real estate.

House prices, it said, could fall an additional 30 per cent this year – and contrary to speculation there is still enough liquidity in the market and high interest in "attractive" opportunities.

However, the report did state that a majority of the capital is waiting for the market to bottom, which is likely to happen only once financing has resumed.

It also speculated that warehouse sales would buck the declining trend to rise up to 40 per cent. For anyone who missed the story, the Landmark report also found villas were expected to stay resilient this year with a maximum drop of 10 per cent in sales prices. Apartment sale prices could drop 20 per cent. Villa and apartment leasing prices are projected to drop by 25 per cent.

"As Dubai's property market strains under the pressures of correction, certain distinct trends emerge. First among these is that price declines are gaining momentum across the real estate spectrum," said Landmark.

"Sellers are now more motivated than buyers, which means that affordability and consumer preferences are more important than ever. The financial crisis has slowed demand; personal incomes, job security, and confidence are declining.

"As a result, buyers' motivations are diverging, making it hard to predict equilibrium prices. As such, listing prices are becoming an unreliable indicator of property values," it said.

For people still with money to invest, but unsure where to stash their hard-earned dirhams, our comprehensive guide to one of the most over-looked of previous metals was valuable reading.

In a story headline: Is there a future with platinum?,

reporter Patricia Trellis said that declining demand for metal from the automotive industry had triggered cutbacks in production by mining firms.

Experts say there is hope for long-term investors. And, if the investment turns bad, at least they will have something beautiful to look at.

Bernard Loriol, managing partner at Best Assets Class, which specialises in managing and promoting niche investment funds, put it succinctly: "Platinum is scarce and its supply is severely limited."

- Read more at www.business24-7.ae/weekend