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Shipping will be a particular beneficiary of this. Further, the country's ports also benefit from being transhipment facilities for the region, Jebel Ali in particular. Strong growth is forecast by BMI at all of the emirates' major ports despite the headwinds facing the global economy, though we project that this growth rate will slow over our forecast period to 2016.
More vulnerable to the global macroeconomic situation are air freight volumes. The country's largest air port in terms of volumes, Dubai International Airport, has followed a 2011 decline with a further year-onyear drop in Q1 volumes, though it should be noted that the smaller facility of Abu Dhabi has enjoyed double-digit growth.
Headline Industry Data
* 2012 Jebel Ali and Port Rashid total tonnage throughput growth forecast at 6.5%, and to average 5.8% to 2016.
* 2012 air freight tonnes through Dubai airport forecast to grow by 1.1% and to average 5.0% to 2016.
* The UAE's total trade real growth in 2012 forecast to be 8.0%, and to average 7.0% over the medium term, to 2016.
Key Industry Trends
Middle East Fastest Growing Region For Air Freight Thanks To Aggressive Expansion BMI believes that the Middle East will continue its rapid growth in air cargo handling in 2012 as the region's airlines and airports continue to press ahead with rapid growth and expansion. The most recent example of this is the launch of a new service by Saudi Airlines Cargo (Saudia).
DP World Clearing Debts With Proceeds From Strong 2011 And Australian Ports Sale BMI believes that DP World's strong exposure to emerging markets has helped the company enjoy strong profit growth in 2011. The sale of its Australian assets has boosted its financial position, and the fact that the terminals operator plans to pay off US$3bn of debts using existing cash resources in April underlines its strength.
Dubai International Named Best Cargo Airport
Dubai International was named the best airport for cargo in the Middle East at the Air Cargo Excellence Awards in March. A company spokesperson commented: 'To be recognised as not only one of the world's busiest but also the best is a great honour. We have always been focused on enhancing our customer service and the value we offer'. Dubai International is to increase its cargo capacity as part of a US$7.8bn expansion, adding 30,000 square metres to its terminal during 2012-2017.
Key Risks To Outlook
The key risks to our outlook for the UAE come from the continued political unrest in the Middle East. The Arab Spring has not spread to the emirates, but neighbouring Bahrain has been affected and nowhere appears completely immune. BMI considers any serious disruption to trade in the UAE to be an outlying scenario, however. Likewise, were Iran to follow through its threats to close the Strait of Hormuz to global shipping, then there would be considerable downside risk to those UAE ports on the Gulf, and upside risk to the Sharjar terminal of Khorfakkan, which lies outside the strait on the Arabian Sea. BMI's core view is that this will not happen, however.
In terms of air freight, there are risks to the downside from the global headwinds facing the sector, though expanding business from emerging markets may be sufficient to offset these.
Equally, as with any economy largely reliant on the export of crude oil, we note that risks to our outlook are ever present. Any significant change to the oil price, whether that be caused by a supply shock, a double-dip global recession, or a release of strategic reserves, would bring risk to our macroeconomic forecasts for the country.
About Business Monitor International
Business Monitor International (BMI) offers a comprehensive range of products and services designed to help senior executives, analysts and researchers assess and better manage operating risks, and exploit business opportunities, across 175 markets. BMI offers three main areas of expertise: Country Risk BMI's country risk and macroeconomic forecast portfolio includes weekly financial market reports, monthly regional Monitors, and in-depth quarterly Business Forecast Reports. Industry Analysis BMI covers a total of 17 industry verticals through a portfolio of services, including in-depth quarterly Country Forecast Reports.