Saudi Entertainment Authority Vows to Introduce 200,000 Jobs

Jeddah- Saudi Arabia’s General Authority for Entertainment vowed to provide some 200,000 job opportunities and to contribute 133 billion dollars to the annual national income by 2030.

In May 2016, Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz ordered the formation of the authority in a move that was welcomed by many Saudis who demand more entertainment activities in the country.

More so, the announcement was made amid verification being given by the tourism authority on its sector creating another 300,000 jobs as well.

Dr. Hatem Samman, Executive Director of Strategy at the General Authority for Entertainment, presented a roadmap for the entertainment industry during an opening session of a Jeddah-held forum.

He stressed the importance of building an integrated system of entertainment services across all Saudi cities and regions according to a regulated framework and system of governance, activating and diversifying the role of the private sector.

Samman also pointed that a study covering recreational services provided in 14 Saudi cities has been carried out—research recommendations will help outline the best experiences available in the kingdom and help expand them nationwide.

He also called on the community to be patient with the body’s procedures.

“During this brief period, the Authority has succeeded in playing a pivotal role in organizing the various events in all the cities of the Kingdom, despite the challenges it faces in light of the lack of options for entertainment,” he added.

Secretary General of the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry Hassan Dahlan, who was the forum’s moderator, described the entertainment body as “the joy icon”.

The third session at the entertainment-oriented forum discussed the role of social media in promoting tourism and entertainment.

The fourth session dealt with the role of Jeddah Municipality in the development of the tourism and leisure industry.

‘False Peace’ for Markets? A Trader Is Betting Millions on It


AUSTIN, Tex. — Last Wednesday was another good day to make money on Wall Street: Stocks pushed up, interest rates were at rock bottom and the VIX gauge of investor unease was again trending downward.

But as investors celebrated yet another bounce-back from a market slip, Christopher Cole, a trader who runs a hedge fund here that makes bets on various forms of financial apocalypse, spotted something amid the sprawl of data and code that decorated the wall of screens before him.

“Optically, volatility is still very low, but fear is increasing,” Mr. Cole said, pulling up a chart on one of his six trading windows. It showed that in the months beyond the 30-day period measured by the Chicago Board Options Exchange’s VIX index, investors were expecting some violent moves to come in the stock market.

Betting against a flare-up of such turmoil has been one of the longest-running and most profitable trades in recent financial history.

Mr. Cole, who opened Artemis Capital to outside investors in 2012, is taking the opposite side, arguing with the passionate intensity of the true believer that this market calm cannot last.

In doing so, he draws parallels to the stock market crash of 1987, when investors were similarly lulled into believing that volatility would not erupt.

So far, those betting against chaos have carried the day.

From day traders perched in front of their living room laptops to sophisticated institutional investors the world over, many have made piles of money betting that the VIX will keep moving lower.

After peaking at close to 90 at the time of the financial crisis, the VIX recently sank to a multidecade low of just below 9, the occasional sharp spike upward notwithstanding. (As of Wednesday afternoon, it was 10.5.)

Several factors have helped along the way, analysts say. They include aggressive money printing and bond purchasing by global central banks and the profusion of exchange traded investments, which make it cheap and easy for professionals and amateurs alike to bet on a falling VIX.

Now, just a month ahead of the 30th anniversary of Black Monday, when the Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index plunged 20 percent, Mr. Cole is wagering on a similar calamity, underpinned by a vicious spike in the VIX and a steep sell-off in stocks.

“The fact that everyone has been incentivized to be short volatility has set up this reflexive stability — a false peace,” he said. “But if we have some sort of shock to the system, all these self-reflexive elements reverse in the other direction and become destabilizing as opposed to stabilizing.”

Calling an end to the second-longest bull market in modern financial history has, understandably, become quite fashionable. Not just on the perma bear fringes, either. Wall Street houses talk regularly about overvalued stock markets, and establishment voices like Lloyd C. Blankfein, the chief executive of Goldman Sachs, have mused openly that “things have been going up for too long.”

A little-known British investment firm, Ruffer Capital, has caused a stir by predicting a shattering denouement, and many hedge funds are buying up cheap VIX options, which will pay off handsomely if the index shoots up.

Artemis Capital is of a slightly different stripe. It is, as Mr. Cole likes to say, a hedge fund with a capital H. That means, in times of bull market fever, the fund will bet on a reversal, offering downside protection for cautious investors by finding creative ways to purchase exposure to financial chaos. These trades entail purchasing a variety of derivative instruments that pay off if there is a dramatic upward spike in the VIX, which can cause stocks to fall precipitously.

Of late, money managers seeking such a hedge have grown markedly. Mr. Cole, who started with $1 million in 2012, is now sitting on $200 million, and demand has been so strong recently that he expects to hit $300 million soon, at which point he will restrict further access.

Mr. Cole, 38, has the bouncy enthusiasm of a young child, and he spends each waking day reading, coding and free associating about what it will be that marks the bull market’s end.

Like many dyed-in-the-wool market skeptics, he has his quirks. To remind himself to make full use of each day, he wears a watch that counts off the time he has left to live — 50 years and 4 months.

At the moment, Mr. Cole calculates that as much as $1.5 trillion in investor money is betting the markets will remain as they more or less have been since 2009: volatility free.

This sum, he says, includes about $60 billion in funds that are explicitly short volatility in its many forms. The bulk of this amount is in funds that deploy strategies where volatility is a critical input for allocating exposure to the stock market. So the lower volatility is, the more these funds load up on stocks.

Piling on to the low volatility trade have been corporations, which this year may buy back close to $1 trillion worth of stock, analysts estimate.

In 1987, portfolio insurance transformed a market decline into a historic rout when computer driven programs sold stock market futures into a panicked marketplace absent of willing buyers. Mr. Cole says this $1.5 trillion in short volatility money can play a similar role today if the fear gauge index spikes sharply.

All of a sudden VIX sellers will become VIX buyers, which will send the index soaring and stocks plummeting.

As he sees it, the formulaic strategies that sold stock market futures into a falling market in 1987 and the short volatility money of today are akin to barrels of petroleum that can turn a mere fire into a seismic conflagration.

“In 1987, we were in a bull market, and the Fed was behind the curve with regard to inflation and interest rates,” Mr. Cole said. “What could cause a crisis now is if rates suddenly spike higher, share buybacks seize up and then the volatility sellers turn into volatility buyers all at once.”

It is, in many ways, a moral argument for him.

Volatility sellers reap cheap and fleeting gains, which he compares to speeding, obesity and marrying for money. Those willing to suffer the immediate pain of being long volatility — before the reward of calamity comes — Mr. Cole sees as being more virtuous.

To say that Mr. Cole is obsessed with volatility — as both a financial and a philosophical construct — would be an understatement. In his investor letters and papers, he cites the poems of Goethe, the movies of William Friedkin and George Lucas, and Joseph Campbell’s works on mythology as teaching tools for interpreting the whims of sudden change.

Ultimately, though, he believes that those who have held volatility in abeyance for so long — from risk parity funds to global central banks — will face a reckoning.

“Volatility is an instrument of truth, and the more you deny the truth, the more the truth will find you through volatility,” Mr. Cole said. “If central banks want to keep saving the day, that is fine. But volatility will then be transmuted through other forms like populism and identity politics and threaten the fabric of democracy. And that is something that my hedge fund will never be able to protect against.”

The New York Times

Euro Tiptoes Higher as ECB Eyed


The euro extended gains on Tuesday on growing expectations that any concerns the European Central Bank flags about its strengthening at a meeting this week will have a limited impact.

“Any attempt to jawbone the currency lower by the ECB will be limited in its impact as the broader market expects policymakers to stick to their plan of gradually unwinding its policy stimulus,” said Peter Rosenstreich, head of market strategy at Swissquote in Switzerland.

The euro climbed 0.1 percent to $1.1905, notching up meagre gains as most currencies traded broadly unchanged from overnight ranges as tensions over North Korea remained high, Reuters reported.

It has gained more than 13 percent against the dollar this year and is up more than 5 percent on a trade-weighted index calculated by the ECB since April.

Political tensions kept the dollar on the back foot against the yen and the Swiss franc.

The dollar’s index against a basket of six major currencies slipped 0.15 percent to 92.508.

When is politics like a tree?


If you study and write about happiness as I do, you become attuned to patterns. For instance, when I walk into a workplace, I can usually tell, based on my first few conversations, if the environment is happy or not. And in the past couple of years, I have noticed a happiness pattern that relates to politics. Namely, the people most in the know tend to be unhappier than those who pay less attention.

I subjected this observation to a bit of analysis, and sure enough, the numbers bear it out. I analyzed the 2014 data from the General Social Survey collected by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago to see how attention to politics is associated with life satisfaction. The results were significant. Even after controlling for income, education, age, gender, race, marital status and political views, being “very interested in politics” drove up the likelihood of reporting being “not too happy” about life by about eight percentage points.

My results did not prove causality: People who pay close attention to politics might also tend to have some latent source of unhappiness. But behavioral science shows that the link might just be causal through what psychologists call “external locus of control,” which refers to a belief that external forces (such as politics) have a large impact on one’s life.

An external locus of control brings unhappiness. Three social psychologists showed this in a famous 2004 paper published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Review. Studying surveys of college students over several decades and controlling for life circumstances and demographics, they compared people who associated their destinies with luck and outside forces with those who believed they were more in control of their lives. They conclude that an external locus is correlated with worse academic achievement, more stress and higher levels of depression.

Incidentally, the researchers also found that this external locus of control has been increasing among students since the 1960s. No surprise here, as young people have been increasingly exposed to trigger warnings, sensitivity about microaggressions and safe spaces. Awareness of oppression is crucial, of course, but the research suggests that today’s campus trends carry tangible academic and psychological costs.

To be sure, an external locus of control is not necessarily inaccurate. If someone is directly affected by a political action (having her immigration status changed or losing her health insurance, for example), her attention will naturally be occupied by events outside her control. However, the external locus of control can also be based on an illusion that something affects us — meaning that the resulting unhappiness is unnecessary.

Which brings us back to the opening question of this essay: When is politics like a tree? In his classic book “Living With the Himalayan Masters,” the Hindu guru Swami Rama recounts the day his master taught him the nature of “maya,” or illusion. Without warning, his master tightly grabbed hold of a tree and cried out: “Help me! My body has been caught by this tree trunk.” Swami Rama exhausted himself trying to pry his master off the tree, but to no avail. Finally, his master let go, and said, laughing, “This is maya.” He explained that we needlessly attach our fate to external things, bringing misery. The simple solution: Just let go.

The question today is how much of our political consumption is like the tree, and thus expendable in order to raise our happiness. We all have political opinions — some of them strongly held. But much of what actually happens in politics is far beyond our individual influence. That doesn’t mean it is intrinsically unimportant, but let’s be honest: Many of us consume political news and commentary in a compulsive, concupiscent sort of way, voluntarily subjecting ourselves to gratuitous information and stimuli, particularly on social media.

The unhappiness results speak for themselves. A friend of mine — a well-known journalist with a large social media following — once confided in me that there is little that brings him more anxiety than checking his Twitter feed. As he clicks on his notifications, he can feel his chest tighten. Maybe you can relate to this.

So what is the solution? First, find a way to bring politics more into your sphere of influence so it no longer qualifies as an external locus of control. Simply clicking through angry political Facebook posts by people with whom you already agree will most likely worsen your mood and help no one. Instead, get involved in a tangible way — volunteering, donating money or even running for office. This transforms you from victim of political circumstance to problem solver.

Second, pay less attention to politics as entertainment. Read the news once a day, as opposed to hitting your Twitter feed 50 times a day like a chimp in a 1950s experiment on the self-administration of cocaine. Will you get the very latest goings on in Washington in real time? No. Will that make you a more boring person? No. Trust me here — you will be less boring to others. But more important, you will become happier.

So go ahead, let go of the tree.

The New York Times

Assessing the Markets’ Shift to a ‘Presidential Put’


Stock-market investors, especially the very bullish ones who have been proven right and have been richly rewarded in recent years, are in the midst of a gradual transition in their operating regime.

Their environment is moving away from comfortable reliance on central banks that are able and willing to support asset prices and toward a White House that appears less constrained by Congress in pursuing pro-growth policies, given the Republican majorities in both houses of Congress. Two events this week will attest to the speed of this transition, though without shedding much light on its potential effectiveness.

For much of the period since the 2008 global financial crisis, markets have been able to rely on central banks to repress financial volatility and boost asset prices — not as an end in itself for policy makers, but as a conduit to higher growth and faster balance-sheet repair. Over the last few weeks, however, the Federal Reserve — using the public reasoning of higher global growth and inflation — seems set to resume gradually lifting its foot off the accelerator. This includes a skillful and carefully orchestrated management of market expectations that, with the assist of solid data, has tripled the implied probability of a March Fed hike to almost 100 percent in just a few days; and without causing major disruptions to markets.

The Fed is not the only systemically important central bank that may be in transition mode, particularly given the growing awareness of the potential costs and risks of remaining too loose for too long. For its part, the European Central Bank has come under increasing pressure to consider reducing its balance-sheet support for markets as a prelude to abandoning negative policy rates. Meanwhile, the governor of the Bank of Japan has publicly questioned the continued effectiveness of a pedal-to-the-metal approach to unconventional monetary policy.

This change has not been of major concern to markets because of what Jonathan Ferro, the co-anchor of Bloomberg Television’s US morning show, has referred to as the “presidential put” — that is, the markets’ willingness to embrace prospects for pro-growth policies under the new Trump administration. This is due to two factors: repeated comments by President Donald Trump signaling his intention to pursue the trifecta of pro-growth measures involving deregulation, infrastructure and tax reform; and the reduced threat of paralyzing political gridlock on Capitol Hill.

In sum, the major question facing stock markets is less about the nature of the regime shift and more about its timing and effectiveness.

The ECB policy meeting on Thursday and Friday’s job report will have some influence on the speed of this transition.

Consensus expectations suggest that the ECB’s Governing Council will acknowledge the improved economic situation but refrain from any policy changes, especially given the proximity of the French election and the upcoming scheduled trigger of Brexit’s Article 50 by Prime Minister Theresa May’s government in the United Kingdom. The market regime transition would be accelerated, however, if the central bank also took this opportunity to change its forward guidance — away from signaling continued loose and, effectively, open-ended balance-sheet support to suggestions of a gradual taper over time.

On Friday, the US jobs report for February is likely to provide the final data point that the Fed needs to hike interest rates in its policy meeting next week. Indeed, only truly horrific job creation and wage data would dissuade the central bank at this point. And, alternatively, were the data to be extra strong — involving, for example, job creation of more than 200,000, a significant boost in wage growth and a stagnant labor participation rate that suggests limited slack remaining in the labor market — the Fed could even signal next week that the balance of risk to its baseline of three rate hikes this year has shifted to the upside. And this would be part of a change from data dependency to a more strategic approach to monetary policy.

When it comes to effectiveness, markets have yet to internalize the multiple dimensions associated with the simple fact that this is a different type of “put.”

On the positive side of the ledger, for example, transitioning from overreliance on central banks to a broader policy response has the potential to generate higher and more inclusive growth, as well as strengthen the underpinnings of genuine financial stability. Both of these would help validate existing asset prices and even push them higher over time in a sustainable fashion.

On the negative side, however, the new policy construct is less autonomous when it comes to implementation. Unlike the Fed, which can pursue measures without congressional approval (though that offers a significantly narrower policy set), the president needs congressional approval for a lot of what he has suggested for promoting growth. And such approval is subject to influences that go beyond the merit of the measures themselves. As an illustration, there is some concern that the administration’s taking on health care ahead of tax reform means the implementation of an important item of the pro-growth agenda could be delayed by political divisions over the effort to repeal and replace Obamacare.

The “central bank put” was extremely supportive of asset prices for several years. For the “presidential put” to be similarly beneficial, good policy making by the Trump administration would not prove sufficient unless it is accompanied by sound economic governance by Congress.


European Shares Ease ahead of Trump Inauguration

European market shares fell, posting their biggest weekly loss since before Donald Trump won the U.S presidential election in November, as investors grew cautious before his inauguration.

The STOXX 600 closed 0.1 percent lower, marking a five-day loss of almost 1 percent. Britain’s FTSE slipped 0.1 percent and posted a weekly decline of 1.9 percent. European markets closed before Trump’s inauguration speech.

The pan-European index has gained around 7 percent over the last two months, but it has slipped from its early January peak amid concerns Trump may struggle to deliver on his stimulus promises.

“I think markets now are attuned to expecting the unexpected, but by definition it means that there can be surprises along the way,” Geoffrey Yu, head of investment office UK, at UBS, said.

“This is a very unorthodox presidency, so we just won’t know and markets didn’t pre-position themselves for tweets, either.”

The broader market was weakened by some disappointing earnings updates, although merger and acquisition talk helped support the telecoms sector.

British pharma stock AstraZeneca was 3.4 percent weaker, the biggest faller on the FTSE 100 index after rival Bristol-Myers Squibb Co decided not to seek accelerated U.S. approval for a combination of two immunotherapy drugs as an initial treatment for lung cancer.

The fall weighed on Europe’s health care index, down 0.8 percent. Danish insurer Tryg was also among the biggest STOXX losers, down 2.9 percent after its fourth-quarter profit missed expectations.

Britain’s AA also dropped, falling 6.2 percent on worries about costs. Energy stocks were among the biggest gainers, however, with shares in Subsea 7, Amec Foster Wheeler and SBM Offshore all rising between 4.7 percent to 5.4 percent.

Amec Foster Wheeler benefited from a SocGen upgrade to “buy”, citing the potential for the oil company’s shares to re-rate.

TDC also rose, up 3.9 percent after a report in Dagens Industri said telecom operator Telia was considering a bid for the Danish company, which is itself exploring a takeover of Swedish cable TV company Com Hem .
Telia and TDC both declined to comment on the report. Gains in TDC drove Europe’s STOXX telco index up 0.6 percent.

Banks were also firmer, with Commerzbank rising 2.8 percent after a price target upgrade from analysts at Deutsche Bank.

Shares in Italy’s UBI Banca were the biggest fallers among the banking stocks, ending 2.2 percent lower after DBRS cut the trend on UBI Banca’s debt ratings to negative following its acquisition of three banks.

Fingerprints in Truck Match those of Berlin Attack Suspect


Berlin- Investigators found fingerprints of a Tunisian suspect in the Berlin Christmas market attack on the door of the truck that plowed through the crowds killing 12, German media said on Thursday.

ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack in which a truck smashed through wooden huts selling gifts, mulled wine and sausages on Monday evening. It was the deadliest attack on German soil since 1980.

The media did not name their source for the report about 24-year-old Anis Amri’s fingerprints and police declined to comment.

Berlin attack has raised concerns across Europe in the approach to Christmas, with markets in France target of a series of militant attacks over the last year, tightening security with concrete barriers — troops were also being posted at churches.

Berlin market reopened on Thursday ringed by concrete bollards.

Police in the western German city of Dortmund arrested four people who had been in contact with Amri, media reports said, but a spokesman for the chief federal prosecutor denied that and said he would give no further details on the operation.

Bild newspaper cited an anti-terrorism investigator as saying it was clear in spring that Amri was looking for accomplices for an attack and was interested in weapons.

The report said preliminary proceedings had been opened against Amri in March based on information he was planning a robbery to get money to buy automatic weapons and “possibly carry out an attack.”

In mid-2016, he spoke to two ISIS fighters and Tunisian authorities listened in on their conversation before informing German authorities — Amri also offered himself as a suicide attacker on known Islamist chat sites, Bild said.

Police started looking for Amri after finding an identity document under the driver’s seat of the truck used in the attack. Authorities have stressed he is just a suspect and not necessarily the driver of the truck.

Broadcaster rbb said the perpetrator lost both his wallet and mobile phone while running away from the attack site.

On Wednesday, Ralf Jaeger, interior minister of the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), said the Tunisian appeared to have arrived in Germany in July 2015 and his asylum application had been rejected in June 2016

House Hunting in … Milan


This 3,600-square-foot, three-level loft was built in 2008 within a former industrial building. It is a stand-alone unit, not part of an association, according to Roberto Magaglio, the listing agent with Engel & Völkers and the agency’s licensed partner for Milan. The loft is about a 10-minute drive from the old city center, not far from the tree-lined Corso Sempione thoroughfare and the Parco Sempione. The Milan airport is about a 30-minute drive.

The main entrance leads to the open living area, with wall-height windows, marble floors and vaulted, 20-foot ceilings. The gas fireplace, in a shelflike wall recess, is remote-controlled. A glass wall separates the kitchen from the living area. The kitchen has stainless-steel appliances and thick wood counter tops. Amenities include a professional-quality gas stove and a wine cooler, along with a high-end prosciutto slicer.

Two bedrooms, each with an en-suite bath, are also on the main floor, along with a powder room. A stone staircase leads to the basement, which has a heated counter-current pool, a sauna, an exercise room and a full bath.

The same staircase leads from the main living area up to a balcony that overlooks it and provides access to the master suite and a fourth bedroom. The master bedroom has a spacious walk-in closet; the master bath, with resin floors, has a custom bathtub with a whirlpool. The fourth bedroom also has an en-suite bath.

The entire loft is heated and cooled through a geothermal system. The only fuel cost is for electricity to pump the water throughout the system, Mr. Magaglio said. The hot-water heater is solar powered. There are also programmable alarm and lighting systems.

The loft comes with one on-street parking space. The furnishings are negotiable, Mr. Magaglio said.

Milan, with a population of about 1.3 million people, is a global center for fashion and design, as well as home to Italy’s stock exchange. This property is on Via Monviso in a residential neighborhood with shops and restaurants, and a few steps from a subway stop. The neighborhood has benefited from its proximity to the CityLife development, Mr. Magaglio said. The 90-acre mixed-use project, still under construction, so far has 530 apartments in two complexes designed by Zaha Hadid and Daniel Libeskind, according to a spokesman for the developer.

The property is also close to the fashionable Via Piero della Francesca, which has many restaurants and bars, including Iyo, a Japanese restaurant with a Michelin star; Il Gattopardo, a disco in a former church; and 55 Milano, a happy-hour hot spot.

The nearby Corso Sempione begins at the Piazza Sempione with its neo-Classical Arco della Pace, or Arch of Peace, a gateway to Parco Sempione that dates to the Napoleonic era. The dense concentration of restaurants and bars in this area draws a crowd for its night life.


Milan’s housing market is undergoing a slow recovery in the aftermath of Italy’s prolonged recession and amid continued concerns about the stability of its debt-burdened banking system. The housing market bottomed out in 2012-13, according to a recent report on the luxury market from Tirelli & Partners, a real estate company. While demand had shifted markedly to rentals, the report said, sales have been climbing since 2014.

“Over the last five years, prices were too high and confidence in the market was low,” said Gabriele Torchiani, the commercial director and a partner at Tirelli. “Now things are changing.”

According to Mr. Magaglio, at its height in 2008, sales volume in Milan was about 18,000 transactions; by 2013, it had plummeted to around 10,000. He expects this year’s tally to come in at about 12,000. Prices are about 25 percent below their peak, he said.

Properties commanding the highest prices are in the old downtown center, including the prestigious Quadrilatero della Moda and Brera districts. The average for apartments there is roughly $800 to $900 per square foot, but those in the best condition can command more than twice that, according to Mr. Torchiani.

Over all, the Milan market is oversupplied with apartments, many still overpriced, Mr. Torchiani said, but demand is increasing from both local buyers and foreigners. He noted that the city’s profile was helped by last year’s Expo Milano, the international fair, which drew thousands of visitors from abroad.

Mr. Torchiani expressed optimism that the market will continue to improve, as consumer confidence has increased and credit is loosening. “The banks completely blocked financing after the crisis,” he said, “but now they are trying to offer some good conditions to buyers.” Still, he added, demand is a bit “unstable” and is highly dependent “on the mood of people in Italy.”


Milan is dominated by local buyers, with foreign buyers making up a small percentage, said Simone Rossi, the managing director at Gate-Away, a website that promotes Italian property to overseas buyers. Foreign buyers making inquiries through the site are more often interested in living close to but outside Milan in the Lake Como area, he said.

Among foreign buyers within Milan, Europeans make up the largest share, particularly the French, Germans and Swiss, Mr. Magaglio said. Some Russians who like to attend fashion and design events have purchased pieds-à-terre to use on their visits. And more Chinese have started to buy in the last couple of years, he said.


There are no restrictions on foreign buyers. Lawyers are not usually involved in purchases, which are instead handled by notaries, Mr. Magaglio said. A deposit of 5 percent to 20 percent is due when an offer is accepted. Most purchases close within three to four months. The agent’s commission is 4 percent to 6 percent in Milan, and is split between buyer and seller, he said.

The transfer tax on properties is very complicated, as many factors are involved. In general, the transfer tax on a sale between private individuals involving a primary residence is 2 percent of the assessed value (the assessed value being typically about a third of the sales price), Mr. Magaglio said. The tax on second homes and luxury homes, as defined by law, is 9 percent. This property has not been categorized as a luxury home, he said.


Italian; euro (1 euro = $1.06)

New York Times

Northern Ireland… A Gradual Comeback to Real Estate Market

This seven-bedroom house, called Springfield and built in 1855, sits on about five acres of property southwest of Belfast in Northern Ireland. The house is on the market for $1,209,000 (975,000 pounds). Credit: Rob Durston for The New York Times

This seven-bedroom home, called Springfield, was built in 1855 in the Victorian style by a prominent family associated with the linen industry about 11 miles southwest of Belfast, Northern Ireland.

“It is one of the last linen houses remaining in private ownership,” said John Houston, who purchased the home with his wife in 2004 and began extensive refurbishment, retaining much of the architectural detail.

The original 18th-century cottage built on the home’s five-acre grounds still stands, but is under separate ownership, Mr. Houston said.

Springfield, with 10,428 square feet (969 meters), has two stories plus an attic level, and includes 16 functional wood-burning fireplaces, though the primary heating system consists of new oil burners, Mr. Houston said. There are six full baths and two half-baths.

The home’s main entrance opens to a large reception hall, with several nearby additional reception rooms, including a drawing room and a living room. The Houstons retained the original tile floors, along with hardwood floors like oak, maple and parquet.

“All floors are original or reclaimed from the era,” Mr. Houston said. “One of the floors which I put in is reclaimed from the Guinness factory in Dublin.”

Tall working sash windows have functional interior shutters. Restored details include cornicing, ornate decorative friezes and ceiling roses. Many rooms have Victorian-style radiators. The owners have made an ongoing project of collecting furnishings from the Victorian period, Mr. Houston said, which are available by separate negotiation.

Built-in Victorian benches surrounding an arched black marble fireplace in the dining room were originally used for warming visitors, he said. A cream-colored country-style kitchen with a casual dining area has granite countertops and an island with butcher-block tops. A four-oven Aga complements a twin butler’s sink, along with a Miele dishwasher and a hidden refrigerator and freezer. A former pantry, now a family room off the kitchen that stays cool because of the sheltering trees outside, still has its original metal meat hooks in the ceiling, Mr. Houston said.

The first floor also has a gym, a shower room, a games room and a reading room with a marble fireplace, twin glazed ceiling atriums and a minstrels’ gallery.

A large staircase with a decorative metal railing and a wooden handrail ascends to the second floor, with a 20-foot stained and etched glass window on the midlevel landing. The staircase is topped by a glazed dome skylight. The master bedroom has a bay window and a gray marble fireplace, along with an en-suite bathroom and a dressing room. Two of the other six bedrooms also have en-suite bathrooms with old-fashioned claw-foot bathtubs. The third-floor attic rooms have skylights and access to the home’s roof, with expansive views of the countryside and the local parish church, Mr. Houston said.

A sweeping driveway approaches Springfield, leading to two 200-year-old trees: a cedar and a giant redwood. The rear of the home has box hedges. Most of the property is formally landscaped, except for two paddocks and apple orchards now used for sheep grazing.

Springfield is surrounded by farmland, with the nearest grocery being two miles away. The city of Lisburn, with a population of about 120,000, is around four miles away, and the village of Hillsborough, with Hillsborough Castle, which is the official residence of Queen Elizabeth II when she is in Northern Ireland, is about five miles away. Central Belfast and the international airport are a drive of about 20 minutes, while central Dublin is about an hour and 45 minutes away, Mr. Houston said.


Home prices in Northern Ireland began growing steadily in 2012, after having crashed by about 40 percent to 50 percent after the summer of 2007 because of the global real estate crisis, said Patrick Palmer, a partner-director with Templeton Robinson, who has the listing.

Home prices have risen anywhere from 3 percent to 5 percent a year in recent years, depending on the market segment, said Conor Cooke, a partner with the Forestside branch of Ulster Property Sales, which focuses on the Belfast region.

“It’s an awful lot better than it was five or six years ago, Mr. Cooke said, “and we’re getting back into a consistent market and one that’s sustainable.

The June referendum in which a majority of Britons voted to leave the European Union has not affected the housing market in Northern Ireland, Mr. Cooke said.

Home prices have not yet reached pre-crisis levels, Mr. Palmer said. At the end of June this year, the average house price in Northern Ireland, depending on the area, ranged from 102,000 pounds, or about $126,480, up to about 148,000 pounds, or about $183,520, Mr. Palmer said.

In the Belfast region, which generally has the priciest homes, the latest Ulster University quarterly house price index showed the average price for a detached single-family home at just over 300,000 pounds, or about $372,000, Mr. Cooke said.

There are a handful of estates valued at more than 1 million pounds in such areas as Malone Park in South Belfast and the coastal Holywood and Cultra areas in northern County Down, estate agents said.


In general, there are few foreign home buyers in Northern Ireland, with most overseas buyers coming from other parts of the United Kingdom and Ireland, Mr. Cooke said.

Mr. Palmer said that though the vast majority of buyers are from Northern Ireland, he had seen some growth in the numbers of Eastern Europeans migrating into Northern Ireland and buying homes, along with occasional buyers from the United States and East Asian countries.


There are no restrictions on foreign buyers. Buyers are required to use a lawyer, with a typical fee running about 1,000 pounds to 1,500 pounds, or about $1,240 to $1,860, Mr. Cooke said.

As of late 2014, stamp duty was reformed in Britain, including Northern Ireland, meaning a smaller levy for those buying cheaper homes and a larger one for more expensive homes. The stamp duty is calculated on a sliding scale and tops out at 12 percent on the portion of a home’s sales price over 1.5 million pounds, or about $1.86 million, Mr. Cooke said.

On Springfield, the stamp duty would be about 41,250 pounds, or about $51,150, Mr. Palmer said. As of last April, the purchase of homes in addition to one’s primary residence, or those bought to rent out, are subject to an additional 3 percent duty on the entire purchase price, which in the case of Springfield would amount to a total of 70,500 pounds, or about $87,420.

Mortgages are available to foreign home buyers, though lending criteria are stricter than for those from Northern Ireland, Mr. Palmer said.


Northern Ireland tourism:

Visit Belfast:

Lisburn information:


English, Irish, Ulster Scots; pound sterling (1 pound = $1.24)


Property taxes, called “rates,” on this home are about 3,000 pounds, or about $3,720 a year.

(The New York Times)

‘Net-a-Porter’ Cooperates with Five International Designers to Serve Arab Woman


London – The Middle East region has been a perfect hub for international fashion designers after it stole the lights in the past years following the growing economic crisis which was mainly caused by the slowness of the Chinese economy. New investors, who chose the Middle East to launch their new markets, have focused on the Arabian style and introduced designs that respond to its needs – jewelry designers work on the Arab woman’s favorite stones, diamonds and Emeralds.

Some designers like Dolce & Gabbana saved efforts and time and introduced a line of Abayas that made imaginary profits and raised envy among other hesitating fashion houses. For example, in Qatar, the D&G Abayas were sold out in no time despite being rejected by many clients and designers in the region.

Apparently, Dolce & Gabbana studied the market well and understood that the Arab lady is a good listener as long as she feels respected; this respect was emphasized in decent designs with long sleeves, high collars, and unopened skirts. In the past, these designers failed in the Middle East after they introduced a low level-style that featured clichés and designs with exaggerated embroideries to justify high prices.

However, they finally reached an equation that provides them with profits and which also respects the taste of the Arab woman who desires a look with modern elegance that suit her environment and convoy trends at the same time.

“”, the global shopping website has introduced a line of evening dresses specially designed for the holiday season. The site has requested five international designers and fashion houses to provide one design that can be wore by the eastern woman. These designers are Elie Saab, Etro, Roland Mouret, Dolce & Gabbana, and Alexander McQueen.

The results were magnificent and designs were full of luxury and elegance for the Arab woman with a touch of uniqueness.

Net-a-porter’s Retail Fashion Director Lisa Aiken said that after studying the sales’ activity in the Middle Eastern market, the website chose the best selling designers; it worked with them closely to introduce a unique collection that respects the taste of Net-a-porter’s clients. This collection has been available exclusively on the website since the 11th of November.