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Sales total KD 266 mn during Feb; investment sector leads Kuwait Credit Bank approves KD 23 million in loans

* Real estate data for February show sales totaling KD 266 million, up 22% y/y although solid, sales were likely negatively affected by the short nature of the month of February, including the National Day public holidays. After accounting for this, underlying performance may therefore have been stronger. Sales growth in the residential and investment sectors remained good, while the more unpredictable commercial sector saw negative growth y/y. 

* Sales in the residential sector reached KD 137 million in February, a 32% y/y increase. Although there was a 7% y/y decline in the number of transactions to 344, this was more than offset by a rise in the average transaction value. The latter increased 40% y/y to KD 399,000. It is worth noting that despite strong year-on-year increases, price levels have been volatile over the past couple of months. But - especially given the seasonal factors mentioned above - it is too soon to conclude that the market is experiencing a sustained cooling off.

* In terms of location, 32% of transactions were in Mubarak Al-Kabeer governorate, mostly plots in Abu Fateera and Funaitees areas. Another 30% went to Al-Ahmedi governorate. Sales of land plots - as opposed to finished buildings - accounted for 60% of all residential transactions in February.

* Sales in the investment sector stood at KD 120 million in February, up 29% y/y, but down 15% m/m. The m/m decline in sales was driven by a lower number of transactions - perhaps attributable to seasonal effects. But overall, interest in the sector continues to hold up well. Sales levels remain solid from a historical perspective and average price levels per m2 have recovered strongly after a dip in 4Q last year. The sector has long been viewed as a viable alternative to the stock market for investing.
n Whole buildings made up more than half of all transactions in the investment sector - the majority in Mahbola. Individual apartments came in second, accounting for 35% of transactions, followed by plots with a 13% share.

* Sales in the commercial sector dropped 60% to KD 8.4 million in February, from KD 21 million a year earlier. Just three transactions were recorded in the sector with one complex in Hawalli selling for KD 4.8 million. Sales in this sector are often uneven month-to-month. While 2013 was an exceptional year for the sector, part of this may have come from purchases by government-held portfolios.
Away from sales, Kuwait Credit Bank approved KD 23 million in loans in February, down 5% from a year earlier. The past year has nevertheless been a very active year for the bank. The slowdown in the past couple of months could be linked to a slowdown in the distribution of government plots.

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