Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 February 2020

Sterling’s fall a boon for British expatriates in UAE

Some cash in quickly by exploiting the pound’s decline after the referendum, but the finances of others are taking a beating.
At exchange houses yesterday, cashiers said there had been many requests for UK transfers since the Brexit result. Jon Nazca / Reuters
At exchange houses yesterday, cashiers said there had been many requests for UK transfers since the Brexit result. Jon Nazca / Reuters

ABU DHABI // British expatriates garnered a tidy little windfall on the back of the pound’s crash since the referendum result.

The value of the sterling tumbled from US$1.48 (Dh5.43) on Thursday night, touching $1.36 before closing down 7.98 per cent at $1.37 on Friday.

“British expatriates in the UAE and GCC region are taking advantage of the weakening pound, and are remitting money home at very favourable exchange rates,” said Sudhesh Giriyan, chief operating officer of Xpress Money.

At exchange houses in Mall of the Emirates in Dubai yesterday, cashiers said business had been very brisk, with many requests for UK transfers yesterday and the day before.

At Al Ansari Exchange, recruitment consultant Joshua Hardwick, a 26-year-old Dubai resident of three years, was sending Dh10,000 to an account in Britain. “I’m transferring today because of the exchange rate, it’s too good an opportunity to pass up,” he said.

Matthew Rice chose UAE Exchange to send his remaining dirhams. “It wasn’t my intention to transfer money today, but with the result and the resulting drop in the exchange rates, it will make a big difference to the amount I end up with back in the UK,” said the 38-year-old teacher, who will soon return to Britain after working in the UAE for two years.

Other British expats carefully tracked the pound’s decline in the wake of the historic vote on Friday morning.

Shaun O’Mahoney, a 42-year-old British engineer in Dubai, said he made about Dh2,000 on a remittance of £5,000 (Dh25,115) by sending money to the UK on Friday rather than making the same transaction two weeks earlier.

“I had just had a tooth taken out so I couldn’t sleep and I stayed up to watch the whole thing,” he said. “I was monitoring the exchange rate falling and decided to make the trade at about 6am when it stood at about Dh4.95 to the pound. Two weeks ago it was at about Dh5.45.”

However, not all expats in the UAE will benefit from a weaker pound. Canadian businessman Jeff Say, 40, lives in Dubai but is paid in British pounds. So the fall in sterling’s value has effectively reduced his salary by a fifth.

“I woke up on Friday morning to find that my pay had fallen 15 to 20 per cent overnight,” said Mr Say, who works for a machine manufacturer based in Birmingham.

“Costs here in Dubai are going up and I can’t afford to suffer that sort of hit. I’m sure lots of people over here will find themselves in the same situation.”

Mr Say said if his company was unable to effectively offset the shortfall by protecting the exchange rate at which he is paid or paying him in US dollars, he would be forced to leave Dubai.

“No one really thinks about how these global decisions randomly affect people like me,” he said. “And I’m not even British.”

But uncertainty will also affect those who are making gains on the currency.

Mr O’Mahoney, who was due to relocate to Britain this year, said the low value of the pound was now tempting him to stay in the UAE for another year.

“Like a lot of people I’m closely watching to see what happens next,” he said. “The problem is that people just don’t know.”


* Additional reporting by Krysia McKechnie

Updated: June 26, 2016 04:00 AM



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