The boss of one of the biggest developers in Abu Dhabi has apologised to investors amid mounting anger about price hikes at its flagship project.
Hydra Properties CEO Dr Sulaiman Al Fahim, who is taking part in a live online Q & A session for ArabianBusiness.com, said he was sorry to investors who have had "poor customer service".
Dr Fahim said: "It is clear that the communication has not been adequate. These projects were launched during the boom. We have hired a dedicated team to deal with these issues - but let me take this opportunity to personally apologise to all Hydra investors who have had poor customer service."
The Hydra boss also left his personal email address for investors to write about their concerns.
He gave a personal assurance that Hydra Village would be completed by the fourth quarter 2011.
Asked when he thought the property market in the UAE would recover, he replied: "With the wisdom of the UAE government, I think the worst is over. We are playing catch up, but I don’t really see any upturn until first quarter of 2010. But I also really don't see us reaching the good levels we experienced before until at least 2011."
Dr Al Fahim dismissed claims that over 1,000 Hydra Village investors were late with their installments and said: "I don’t know where your figures come from but they are wrong.
"As the CEO, I can tell you that my finance department is showing regular payments and new contracts being signed regularly."
He said he was willing to change payment plans, after investor complaints that installments are not linked to construction progress.
And he hit back at claims that the penalties for cancelling contracts are too harsh at Hydra Village.
"Firstly the rules and clauses were there from the time the investment was made. Obviously that was during the boom. Now I am fully aware that the market has changed, but the penalties listed above are far less severe than the original reservations that were signed by our customers. If anything this version is more favourable to you," he said.
But in an olive branch to investors he then went on to say: "But I also know that customer is king and we are trying to resolve issues. If there are specific cases where you cannot meet the payment because of the penalties or other reasons, I can tell you we will examine every case on an individual basis."
He signalled that investors were returning to the UAE real estate market on the back of a "dramatic improvement in consumer confidence".
Fallout from the global crisis has sent prices plummeting in the UAE and led to billions of dollars of project delays and cancellations.
Arabian Business reported that a group of disgruntled investors who had bought at the developer’s flagship project - Hydra Village in Abu Dhabi- had launched a public campaign over imposed price increases of units which they considered unfair.
Investors have also complained that construction on certain Hydra projects has been slow.
In response to the rising tide of investor anger Sulaiman al Fahim, hired Ahmed Khalil to head up Hydra’s customer service division.
At last months’ property exhibition Cityscape in Abu Dhabi Khalil said Hydra was issuing revised contracts to buyers in a bid to improve customer relations.
Abu-Dhabi based Hydra was launched in mid 2006 by conglomerate the Royal Group.
The developer specialises in residential and commercial property in the UAE, Lebanon and Pakistan.
Click HEREfor Dr Fahim's responses in our exclusive live Q&A session.