EXCLUSIVE: Mideast’s largest developer mulls theme park for Qatar resort

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Qatar’s Barwa Real Estate, the Middle East’s biggest property company by assets, is in initial studies to incorporate a theme park into the designs for its new tourist resort in South Msaieed, about 50km from Doha, a leading executive told Arabian Business.

The property developer inked a deal with Qatar Petroleum in March to rent part of the Msaieed Industrial City to transform it into a resort and design and feasibility studies are currently underway.

“It is under design,” Mohammed Ismail Al-Emadi, director group real estate investment for Qatar told Arabian Business in an interview at his office in Doha.

“I think entertainment is being studied. These things should be studied well. We are doing the studies for the theme or aqua parks… [but] what is the size the market can [sustain]?” he added.

Branded resorts and entertainment venues have become commonplace in the Middle East. Abu Dhabi developed Ferrari World, Dubai is planning a series of theme parks in Dubailand, Jordan has announced a Star Trek-themed centre at the Red Sea Astrarium and even lesser known Ras Al Khaimah recently signed a US$1bn deal with Spanish football giant Real Madrid to build a resort on a manmade island off its coast.

Despite this trend for big names, Al Emadi said he has no plans at the moment to follow suit. “Maybe in the future but not now… Not for the moment… Our name is a brand anyway in the region. We are concerned about quality not quantity and want to add quality to the market.”

Al Emadi said the project is moving forward very quickly and the concept designs are currently being brainstormed and will be finished within two months. Once the detailed architectural drawings are completed, he is confident construction will start within a year, putting the project on course to open around the end of 2013.

The project will be built in phases, but Al Emadi currently doesn’t have any final completion dates at present. “We are planning to make it in phases as you cannot deliver all the projects at one time into the market and the designs will be divided into phases to meet market demands.”

Barwa Real Estate this month reported its first-quarter profit fell by almost half after a loss from revaluation of investment properties.

Net income, excluding non-controlling interests, fell to QAR292.5m (US$80m) from QAR548.5m a year earlier, according to a statement posted on the Qatar Exchange.

Barwa lost QAR25.4m from property revaluation, against a QAR420.1m gain a year earlier.

Qatari real estate is recovering from excessive home-and office-construction before the global economic downturn four years ago. Average rental rates for apartments and villas were unchanged in Doha, the capital, during the first quarter, even as the leasing market “picked up significantly,” according to a report last month by Asteco, a real-estate services company.

Barwa, in which government-controlled Qatari Diar Real Estate Investment Co. owns the biggest stake, is also developing properties in countries such as Egypt, the UK and Russia, according to its website.

The company’s revenue fell to QAR650.6m in the first quarter, from QAR1.3bn a year earlier, according to the statement.

Barwa’s stock was down 3.1 percent, at QAR27.05, on the Qatar Exchange at the 12:30 pm close of trading today, the biggest decline since March 22.

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