Dubai developer Damac said to be mulling IPO

Sources say listing plan is at early stage; company submits requests to international banks

Damac Properties, a privately-held Dubai developer, is considering listing its shares on the stock market and has approached banks with proposals for advisory roles as it bets on a recovery in the emirate's real estate market.

The developer has submitted requests to a handful of leading international banks, three sources aware of the plan said, speaking on condition of anonymity as the matter is not public.

It would be the first major property firm in the United Arab Emirates to launch an initial public offering (IPO) since the property market collapsed in 2009, after similar plans by family-owned Al Habtoor Group were shelved last year.

An IPO by a big Dubai name would also jolt moribund equity markets in the region. The last listing on the Dubai Financial Market index was in March 2009, while the Abu Dhabi bourse has seen only a couple of minor sales since 2008.

The IPO plan is at an initial stage and it was not clear whether the listing was planned in Dubai or in another international market. No details on the potential valuation for the business was available.

Damac said a potential IPO is one of the options considered for the company's future growth but gave no additional details.

"As a company of our size and scope, we are continually looking at all growth possibilities and an IPO is one of these routes," said Niall McLoughlin, senior vice president at Damac Properties.

Dubai's property market has recovered gradually in the last one year after a 60 percent plunge in prices as investors fled the emirate following the global financial crisis.

"The Dubai real estate sector is pretty hot right now so they would want to capitalise on that sentiment," said one equity banker, declining to be named as he was not allowed to speak to the media.

"They are one of the biggest developers in Dubai - when you're driving around, you see their billboards everywhere - and the obvious comparison, Emaar Properties, has been doing pretty well recently."

Emaar Properties' shares have risen 36 percent year-to-date on the back of increased revenue from hospitality and retail businesses.

The developer has approached banks, including HSBC, Deutsche Bank, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs, the sources said.

The company is yet to pick an advisor for the proposed float, the sources said.

Led by Hussain Sajwani, Damac symbolised the flamboyance in Dubai's property market during the boom years, handing out sports cars and luxury yachts to customers of penthouses and duplex homes.

The developer slowed down during the downturn but returned with new projects as Dubai's real estate market stages a gradual recovery.

Damac, formed in 2002, has completed 37 buildings and has another 66 buildings under construction across the Middle East and North Africa region.  It recently announced a plan to build a $1bn development in partnership with Viacom Inc's Paramount Group.

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