Dubai says the crisis is over; the banks say it's over--why does that make me uneasy?

11/30/2009 5:39 pm EST


Jim Jubak

Founder and Editor,

Hope it’s that easy. But I doubt it.

Dubai and Dubai World, you remember the country and the company that threw world financial markets into a panic over the Thanksgiving weekend, say that working out a restructuring with lenders is turning out to be as easy as pumpkin pie. (Well, “constructive” is the word Dubai World actually used.)

Oh, and by the way, those estimates that the company was in danger of defaulting on $60 billion in debt were way, way too high, Dubai World says. Turns out that it’s just $26 billion in debt that needs restructuring.

Take this all with a grain of sand, however.

Both the banks and Dubai have any reason to come up with as low a figure as possible and to write down as few assets as possible.

One of the reasons that experts on Middle East finance offered as to why Abu Dhabi didn’t volunteer to bail out its neighbor was a lack of transparency in Dubai and Dubai World’s finances. Abu Dhabi didn’t want to sign a check to Dubai until it was sure how much the country and company actually owed.

Wonder if the banks know. Could be they’ve just decided to look the other way again. Business as usual is more profitable as long as you can get away with it.

Anyway, today global financial markets bought into the reassuring noises coming from Dubai and its bankers. Tomorrow? The way these things evolve it’s typical that a day of optimism is followed by a day of pessimism as various experts have a chance to dig deeper into the details.

I still don’t think this is a world shaking crisis. (See my post ) But I’d be surprised if it ends quite so quickly and neatly.
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