Ex Nakheel exec defends first Dubai property boom

Abdulla Bin Sulayem says huge number of projects was part of 'learning curve' for developer

Abdulla Bin Sulayem worked on the axed Palm Deira project for Nakheel.

Abdulla Bin Sulayem worked on the axed Palm Deira project for Nakheel.

A former executive at Dubai developer Nakheel has defended the ambitious body of projects that the company embarked on at the height of Dubai’s first property boom, saying it was a learning curve.

Abdulla Bin Sulayem, who now heads the family’s real estate and development firm Seven Tides, argued it readied Dubai for the current round of construction challenges.

“Obviously, any developer who goes through any phases goes through a learning curve,” he said in a wide-ranging interview published in Arabian Business.

“If you ask, was it too much? I would say no.”

Bin Sulayem, who is preparing to open Seven Tides’ newest venture, the Anantara Dubai Palm Jumeirah Resort and Spa on Sunday, pointed to the challenges of building the project to make his case.

“Today, the amount of units, apartments, there is a lack,” he said.

“We are facing sometimes challenges in finding good accommodation. For instance, this hotel, it was a challenge to find accommodation for the staff.

“So, if you think about it, if they haven’t built a lot back then it would have been ten times more challenging to find a decent place and a decent location.”

Bin Sulayem, who became Seven Tides CEO in 2010, worked on the Palm Deira project, which was eventually axed after Nakheel began to crumble under a growing mountain of debt. Other state-funded mega-projects by Nakheel such as Palm Jebel Ali and The World, a complex of man-made islands, were also sold to investors but later stalled.

“Palm Deira was interesting, it was the most challenging project at that time in Nakheel and the biggest man-made project island in the world,” Bin Sulayem, who was director of operations at Nakheel, said in the interview.

“So, for me, going through that project was maybe an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity where I can gain a lot of experience.”

Since restructuring in August 2011 under a government-led intervention, Nakheel has paid over $354 million (AED1.3bn) in loan interest and sukuk profit payments, as well as cash payments of around $3.08bn (AED11.3bn) to trade creditors and contractors.

It is also in talks regarding renegotiating the terms of its upcoming $8bn loan repayments and is in the black after posting a first-half net profit of AED1.2bn ($327m) and pursuing a new pipeline of projects, including three new hotels.

Bin Sulayem declined to comment on the criticism now leveled at Nakheel.

 “It’s a different time now, things change,” he said.

“Obviously, the global crisis had an effect in different areas around the world. But, at the end of the day, as you can see, Dubai is heading already into a very positive trend.”

Bin Sulayem also believes there is room for some of the projects which stalled during the crisis to still go ahead, but doesn’t elaborate on which ones.

“The demand is there and especially the Expo 2020,” he said of the UAE’s bid to host the prestigious event.

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Posted by: one of the joes

To the editors of these pages

There are a significant number of posts on this page that just are emotional outbursts without any factual basis.
You publish posts that are plain aggressive and offensive against individuals who have attempted to address facts rather than emotions.

You censor posts that include text that was already published elsewhere and is openly available in the UAE. At least some of these censored texts just present statistical evidence collected by internationally well accepted institutions.

It appears stirring up emotions is within your standards, looking at facts and putting things into perspective is violating your rules of decency?

How much longer do you intend to keep up your double standards?

Posted by: Ahmed Bin Sulayem

No worries, we can live without you ever existing in this world, Think about it, would the world change in any way if you did't exist?

Yours Truly,

Posted by: Ahmed Bin Sulayem


It's clear a of people can do with out you. Why else are you commenting here with no value to Dubai or this world

Posted by: Steve

Haha Ahmed what exactly do you intend on doing with these names and visa details etc? I love the idea of you turning up to a police station demanding all these comentators are expelled from Dubai immediately!! I'm sure in my case my Business partner would have more than a word or two to say about that. Bearing in mind it's your own country, I think you live in a dream world about how much influence you have..
Now, the West being jealous... This is great. From a nation that is obsessed with western influence, from the hotels to the malls to the horse racing to the cars. Another comical statement.
I like the UAE and I've got allot of good friends that are locals, but people like you really don't do anyone any favours. However, it's worth remembering every country has them, they just wouldn't normally comment on a suposedly business site.

Posted by: Steve

@ Ahmed expo
Your comments get better and better! For the purposes of this meaningless arabian business comments board I could be a girl, it really makes no difference. It seems you were getting frustrated by my not replying, but I've just been busy, working. Try it sometime it can be rewarding. Anyway - rant away, I'll check again in the a few days and look forward to the next instalement......

Oh and by the way, I don't have anything against Dubai! It's fine for now and serves it's purpose perfectly well. Really it feels like an extention of Europe and the west but hotter and with no tax. If I want to see other cultures I normally go to places like Jordan or Egypt.

Posted by: Ahmed Bin Sulayem


Here is my twitter account @ahmedbinsulayem come by any time, share your thoughts with the world.

Posted by: mazhar fakher

Ahmed is right. No one forced you to buy into these projects. Many people did and made lots of money - others did and lost big time. But as Ahmed says that's how the cookie crumbles and if you can't stand the heat get out of the kitchen. It's what you call a frontier market risk. Let Nakheel do what it wants- it doesnt need PR advice it is doing very well Mashallah. As for the UAE well each new day new companies are coming here to relocate. It has become the envy of the world and a model of excellence for all to follow and inshallah it will win the 2020 bid. Arabian Business- please no more negative news only good news please (at least until the vote).

Posted by: Ahmed Dubai

Mark it is actually very simple. You sign a contract and pay your money. We take your money and ignore the contract. Some call it fraud, I call it the luck of the draw. The big fish eat the little fish. But we let some little fish go, so that they will come back to be eaten next time.

Posted by: Ahmed Dubai Expo 2020

Cheap Alexandria the Awful,

Get a life, leave the UAE Yes yes 42 years & still embarrassing you, enough for you to post your retarded comments.

Posted by: Ahmed Dubai

Sanjay your Emirati hosts appreciate you. I like the way you blow our trumpet.

The rest of you with negative opinions, please keep quiet.Yes some of you lost millions to Nakheel but that is how the cookie crumbles and Nakheel has very right to use that money for prestigious new projects. After all, everyone in Portugal and Spain lost all their money and that was far worse!

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