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November 28, 2009

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UAE estimated to owe US$184b in debt

THE United Arab Emirates have total debt amounting to US$184 billion at the end of 2009, according to estimates by Bank of America-Merrill Lynch, which said the region faces a heavy redemption schedule until 2013.

Dubai's shock announcement this week that it is seeking to suspend payments on debt of its state-owned conglomerate Dubai World and property subsidiary Nakheel has roiled global markets, raising fears that the emirate which funded a spectacular building boom on a mountain of debt could default.

BofA-Merrill Lynch said in a report that the restructuring undertaken by Dubai would be a serious blow to the Gulf region's economic recovery prospects, adding that the scale of the region's debt was now the issue.

"The lack of official debt data may add up to uncertainty and cause higher risk premiums," it said.

Of the US$184-billion UAE debt, Dubai holds US$88 billion while Abu Dhabi accounts for US$90 billion.

BofA-Merrill Lynch said the debt servicing cost will be higher than these estimates as their numbers only include the principal payments.

The bank said Dubai faces almost US$50 billion of debt amortization in the next three years: US$12 billion in 2010, US$19 billion in 2011 and US$18 billion in 2012.

"We estimate the total debt for Dubai World as US$26.5 billion, 80 percent of which needs to be paid back in the next three years," added BofA-Merrill.


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