Panel takes troubled Dubai developer’s disputes in downturn

Business

FILE – In this March 30, 2019 file photo, horses warm up in the saddling enclosure ahead of Dubai Kahayla Classic at the Meydan Racecourse in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Dubai said Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2019, that it had set up a special committee to “resolve multiple disputes” involving the government-owned developer Meydan as it faces a series of lawsuits amid an economic slowdown gripping the city-state. (AP/Martin Dokoupil, File)

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — A special committee will “resolve multiple disputes” involving a Dubai government-owned developer that faces a series of lawsuits, the city-state said Tuesday, a sign of renewed economic problems in this desert sheikhdom that’s home to the world’s tallest skyscraper.

The problems gripping Meydan, a developer whose name graces the Dubai racecourse that hosts the horseracing world’s richest race, comes as the city also faces falling real estate prices.

Such special committees previously resolved cases against other developers after Dubai’s 2009 financial crisis, which saw the city receive billions of dollars in a bailout from Abu Dhabi, the Emirates’ oil-rich capital.

In this case, authorities hope the committee “will efficiently adjudicate all cases against Meydan, expedite the process and focus all disputes in one circle of judges,” the government’s Dubai Media Office said.

“Although Meydan should be able to cover its liabilities, the government is prepared to stand behind it and make good on any payments ordered by the judges,” the office told The Associated Press in a statement.

Authorities did not elaborate on the potential liabilities Meydan faced. Calls to Meydan rang unanswered Tuesday night and a message sent to an email address for the company bounced back.

The Financial Times, which first reported about the creation of the committee, said around 40 cases valued at several billion Emirati dirhams would be moved to the committee. A dirham trades for just over $0.25.

Skyscraper-studded Dubai has sought to make itself an attractive location for international businesses and trade in a Mideast often torn by conflict. However, real-estate speculation and the Great Recession helped drag down its economy in 2009. A sharp drop in oil prices in 2014 also hurt the UAE’s economy, as has tension between the U.S. and Iran and the ongoing war in Yemen.

In March, research from a leading Emirati bank showed non-oil companies across the UAE had cut staff at their sharpest rate in nearly a decade. Meanwhile, Dubai’s real-estate market, which had been a major economic driver, has seen its value drop by nearly a third.

Other developers continue to build around the Meydan Racecourse, which hosts the annual Dubai World Cup at the end of March. This year’s purse was $12 million.

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