By Anil Bhoyrul
Property chief says no plans to quit, company ‘in his blood’, despite private ventures
Mohamed Alabbar is not planning to step down from his role as chairman of property firm Emaar, despite spending an increasing amount of time on a private mining company.
In an interview to be published on Sunday in Arabian Business, Alabbar said he now devotes 20 percent of his time to Africa Middle East Resources (AMER), but will not quit the property giant that he helped create.
“Emaar is my love. It is part of my DNA. I’m here, I give 80 percent of my time to the company but I have another new team that runs this [mining] business and I give them 20 percent of my time and I support them,” he said.
“I don’t think I can wind down from Emaar, it is in my blood; it is what I am known for and what I know how to do best for the company and the shareholders. My passion and my heart is Emaar and that won’t change.”
AMER is a 50:50 joint venture between Alabbar and Malaysian businessman Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary. The pair also teamed up to launch Gulf International Investment Group, which last week signed a $1.6bn deal to develop an aluminium smelting plant in Malaysia.
Though Alabbar has no plans to leave Emaar, he admits he has become discouraged with some aspects of the property industry.
“I’m frustrated with bureaucracy, I’m frustrated with negative minds and negative thinking because I’m a go getter; I’m going places all my life. But that’s okay, these things you have to deal with,” he said.
Emaar’s share price has risen since March but, at just over AED3.2, remains significantly down from the AED11.8 recorded before the global financial crisis three years ago.
The developer behind the world's tallest tower posted a 45 percent drop in profits in the first quarter to $115m, with revenues falling by 31 percent to $540m.
Alabaar, however, said the outlook remained positive for the state-backed company and hinted the developer was mulling a new project.
“I think the time has come for Emaar to roll to an incredible level. You know the story of the phoenix, it always rises up,” he said. “It’s that rise that is coming again and I think in the history of man, three years of difficult times is nothing in the life of cities and companies. I think we are ready to go on another swing. Not all strategies work at the same time. We are working on something which we will announce soon.”
AMER has begun operations eight African countries. The company is carrying out exploration work for a number of commodities, including coal, copper, oil and gas, and gold.
While I do understand Mr. Alabbar's quest for a new challenge, he must have made a remarkable amount of money from the property sector to be able to embark on this change of direction.
While he's not stepping down at Emaar, his desire for pastures greener indicate that his faith in any medium term recovery in the real estate market and its ability to make money at previous levels in the future is diminished.
Still it was essentially Emaar who delivered the core of freehold residential Dubai and Burj Khalifa, both notable achievements against what has become a backdrop of intense market disillusionment.
Is this not the same guy who was going to list Emaar on the NYSE and I am wondering what happened to that challenge?