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Sat 31 Jan 2009 04:00 AM

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Capitalisation

Abu Dhabi’s 'slowly but surely’ approach has succeeded in instilling confidence in the industry. As times get tough, many are looking towards the capital with quiet optimism. CID talks to relevant stakeholders about their future projections.

Abu Dhabi’s 'slowly but surely’ approach has succeeded in instilling confidence in the industry. As times get tough, many are looking towards the capital with quiet optimism. CID talks to relevant stakeholders about their future projections.

At a time when extreme caution abounds, it seems fitting that confidence in an emirate best characterised by its ‘slowly but surely' approach should be holding steady.

According to Abubaker Al Khouri, managing director of Sorouh Real Estate, there are solid reasons why Abu Dhabi will be able to weather the current economic storm.

The government seems to have good policies and I believe that Abu Dhabi will continue to flourish, even in the present economic climate... I think we are well placed to be at the forefront of that.

"Our oil reserves, strong spending by the government, the recent injection of AED120 billion into the banking system and, above all, strong demand for property - all these factors will help protect us from the global situation. Our real estate sector will prosper over the coming years," Al Khouri projected.

The Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce puts at 28,000 the number of units needed to meet demand for residential property in the emirate this year. And the welcome news of projects being signed - instead of shelved - confirms that demand does exist and is definitely being addressed.

"Kenneth Laidler Design (KLD) has just won a large mixed-use project in Abu Dhabi, and is already working on two furnished apartment tower blocks in the emirate that were awarded in the last two months," Kenneth Laidler revealed exclusively to Commercial Interior Design in December.

Having recently appointed a new general manager, Mohammed Kailani, for its Abu Dhabi division, turnkey design and fit-out solutions company Summertown International is strategically positioning itself to be able to take advantage of growth opportunities in the emirate. Kailani has been set with the vital task of driving the company's expansion in the capital.

"The Abu Dhabi market has incredible potential, especially since the government announced its comprehensive plan for expansion in the coming years, the most prominent being Abu Dhabi 2030, an urban structure framework plan," Kailani explained.

"The market growth rate in Abu Dhabi hopefully will continue to expand, which creates a remarkable opportunity for investors to establish new businesses," Kailani continued.Demand for high-end products and services, in particular, will continue to grow, Kailani predicted.

"The project selection process at Summertown is to focus on targeting medium to high-end projects, which require quality products and services. We anticipate that projects of such scale are due to increase over the next few months and years."

"Quality awareness in the Abu Dhabi market is fast increasing as new products and technologies emerge, coupled with the various multi-national corporations setting up offices in Abu Dhabi and bringing along their standardised quality requirements," he maintained.

Responding to this perceived demand for quality products, and further reiterating industry confidence in the Abu Dhabi market,  PF Emirates, a joint venture between Mubadala Development Company and Poltrona Frau Group, launched the first ever Poltrona Frau luxury furniture centre on Abu Dhabi's Corniche at the end of 2008.

It offers premium Italian furniture from Poltrona Frau, Cassina, Cappellini, Alias, Gebrüder Thonet Vienna, Gufram and Nemo, as well as a full service design studio. Covering an area of 1,500m2 across two floors, it is showcasing all seven of the group's brands in one location for the first time.

"As Abu Dhabi experiences rapid growth in luxury real estate developments, there will be an increasing need for high-quality interior design. The specialised products and services of Poltrona Frau Group are ideally positioned to serve this expanding market," commented CEO, Mubadala, Khaldoon Al Mubarak.

United Design International, an Abu-Dhabi-based turnkey design firm established to service the very top end of the market, is also looking to the future with healthy optimism. According to the company's CEO, Gary Lawton, the company's Abu Dhabi roots leave it well positioned to capitalise on potential opportunities in the emirate.

"The way that Abu Dhabi is being developed, particularly in terms of it becoming the cultural centre of the UAE, will have an impact, and I think we are well placed to be at the forefront of that," he said.The government seems to have good policies and I believe that Abu Dhabi will continue to flourish, even in the present economic climate.

The company plans to forge ahead with its existing five-year plan, which was initiated in 2006. "I think the original five-year plan is still sound," Lawton stressed. "I see continued expansion within United Design International, which follows on from strong expansion to date," he added.

The company is currently working on two hotel projects in Abu Dhabi, along with a major office development for one of the ministries. In addition, it has nine large villas, in various stages of design and completion, on its books.

For Summertown International, it is the corporate market that offers particular potential. With multi-national companies looking to establish a presence in the region often confronted with rising property prices and cramped quarters, Abu Dhabi has emerged as a highly attractive option, Kailani maintained.

"We are also noticing that more and more UAE-based organisations are expanding into Abu Dhabi, which naturally creates demand for corporate office space. This demand is leading to an increase in the number of office buildings, which require fit-outs," he said.

And even if the downturn does begin to make itself felt in the emirate, this will only translate into an increase in the number of refurbishment and refit projects, Kailani predicted, as companies  may be unwilling to invest in relocation but will look, instead, at optimising existing space.

"Large businesses are looking to invest in the space they already occupy, with 30% to 40% turning to refurbishment and 60% to 65% turning to a completely new fit-out. Space remains a major concern. The key is space optimisation, to emerge with an end solution that is both aesthetically pleasing and also fully-functional on a long-term basis," Kailani added.

"The limited office space currently available, coupled with growing demand, has resulted in a rise in rent costs, leaving many corporations with the option of optimising their current offices and changing the existing layout-style, as opposed to relocating to bigger premises. These shifts certainly create more opportunities for those of us in the interiors refurbishment side of the fit-out market!"

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