Cityscape special

Thousands of property professionals flooded Dubai last month for the world's largest property expo. Arabian Property reports on the real estate mega event that was Cityscape Dubai 2007.
Cityscape special
By Administrator
Tue 06 Nov 2007 01:06 PM

A record-breaking 45,000 regional and international investors, property developers, government authorities, architects, designers, consultants and industry professionals from around the globe witnessed the unveiling of the world's most spectacular residential and commercial property projects at Cityscape Dubai 2007.

Leading UAE developers including Dubai Properties, ETA Star, Saraya Holdings and Omniyat Properties released details of upcoming projects while industry heavyweights Nakheel and Emaar promoted their wide range of high profile projects to the expo attendees.

The expo hosted special guests, including most notably Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, who paid a surprise visit on the second day of the event.

The show also played host to billionaire American property guru Thomas J Barrack Jr who delivered the opening address and Hollywood movie star Patrick Swayze.

The three-day event was spread over a floor area of 70,000 sq m hosting 1,000 regional and international exhibitors and developers marketing the booming Middle East multi-billion dollar property industry.

The full value of the deals completed during the show is yet to be announced, however the total is expected to surpass the US$160 transacted during Cityscape Dubai 2006.

Arabian Property brings you a round-up of news and views from the record-breaking real estate event.

DubaiProperties

Dubai Properties has unveiled a US$11bn 678-hectare mixed-used development to be built in Dubailand, a mixed-use development.

Mudon will house almost 50,000 people and include a range of villas, townhouses and apartments, and a 93-hectare golf course. The project will be done in six phases and is scheduled for completion by 2012. Phase one and two of the project are underway and are anticipated to be finished by the end of 2009.

The design of the development is themed around five prominent Arab cities, including Damascus, Marrakesh, Cairo, Beirut and Baghdad. Mohamed Binbrek, CEO at Dubai Properties, said the developer chose these five cities in an attempt to "bring the past into the future".

Binbrek said the project would be entirely self-funded and dismissed claims that the developer is set to go public with an initial public offering (IPO) in the near future.

"We do not intend to IPO at this stage. Maybe when we reach a (US$190bn) property portfolio, then we'll consider it."

He also said the developer is confident demand still exists for such residential projects, despite recent speculation about oversupply and a possible property price correction in Dubai in the future.

Binbrek said the firm was very confident about the Dubai residential property market. He expected Dubai Properties to announce further mega projects in 2008, he added.

The project would be entirely self-funded, he said. The launch follows the announcement of Dubai Properties' latest development within Business Bay, the US$1bn Bay Square. The 46.5-hectare development will be made up of 13 buildings, including a boutique hotel and an exclusive residential tower.

Other Dubai Properties projects include the Business Bay Vision Tower and Executive Towers, Culture Village, the Jumeirah Beach Residence and The Villa and Al Waha Villas in Dubailand.

Al Fara'a Properties

Al Fara'a Properties, the flagship subsidiary of the Al Fara'a Construction Group launched The Manhattan, a US$96m luxury apartment complex located within Jumeirah Village.

Al Fara'a Construction Group is a conglomerate of business entities including Al Fara'a General Contracting, Unibeton, Belgium Aluminium and Glass and Al Sabbah Electro Mechanical.

The Manhattan, which was unveiled at Cityscape is inspired by the urban residences of 1930s New York. The project offers 355 units, which comprise a selection of studio, one, two and three-bedrooms apartments.

Natasha Gangaramani, properties director at Al Fara'a Properties, said the project was the first of a series of six launches Al Fara'a planned over the next six months.

"We launched T he Manhattan at Cityscape, as we believe it is a valuable platform for the real estate sector. Participation will help us network with serious buyers and international investors and provide an ideal opportunity for visitors to experience our latest venture and the uniqueness of the Al Fara'a brand," she said.

ETA Star

ETA Star launched its first master development La Italia at Cityscape.

The US$680m La Italia project is a 32 million sq ft Italian-themed residential community, located at the Falconcity of Wonders in Dubailand.

La Italia will consist of 22 separate building blocks of low-rise residences in Venice, Rome and London clusters. Work is expected to begin on La Italia in March 2007 and be completed within five years.

Abid Junaid, Executive Director, ETA Star, said the group was confident that La Italia would set a benchmark for newer property developments in Dubailand.

Mohammed Ali, General Manager of business development at ETA Star, said the group was receiving mostly regional interest in the project at Cityscape.

However, interest in the project was also strong at the expo from ex-pat Indian and Pakistan nationals, and buyers from Iran, Russia and the UK. Ali said he had observed a larger presence of American and South Korean investors at Cityscape 2007.

He attributed this to a slowing American property market and greater ease for South Koreans to invest money overseas.

Nakheel

The recently introduced escrow account law is not a full performance guarantee for UAE property purchasers, according to David Nicholson, legal counsel at Nakheel.

Speaking at the Cityscape real estate expo, Nicholson advised real estate buyers to conduct their own due diligence when researching a local property developer.

"The escrow account law is not a full performance guarantee. Buyers should seek sufficient information on their developer. The escrow helps but the developer must also have sufficient equity or loan finance or the development may still not be built."

Despite issuing the warning, Nicholson said Nakheel still felt the introduction of the accounts was a win-win scenario for both developers and buyers.

"It's a win-win for developers because it gives them a marketing edge, and it's an advantage for consumers but its just not a full performance guarantee."

In view of increasing regulations in the UAE market, developers must be prepared to give full disclosure of material facts regarding their projects, he added.

"The market is changing, there are more and more developers. To be successful, developers are going to need to be more transparent."
In regards to mortgage law, Nicholson said the strong market meant he did not see a mortgage default between 2004 and 2007.

He attributed this to borrowers who had difficulty making payments, selling quickly and easily at premium.

However, this practice would change when price growth began to slow, he said. "The test will definitely come when the market flattens and it will certainly flatten."

If the market flattening resulted in a rise in interest rates, borrowers may start to default repayments, he added.

This could lead to banks refusing to lend, he added. With this is mind, Nicholson is a proponent of separate foreclosure processes and laws.

Meanwhile, legal discussion at the event included speculation on the anticipated introduction of a timeshare law, property investments funds law and strata laws within the region.

Four Seasons

The Four Seasons Ocean Residences, described as the world's most luxurious floating residences, made their Middle Eastern debut at Cityscape Dubai.

After launching in London, New York, Hong Kong and Singapore, a scale model of the 48,600-tonne, 719-foot vessel was on display, in a bid to attract high-end investors.

Developed by BV International Ocean Holdings Ltd, Four Seasons Ocean Residences offers 112 residences for private sale.

Robert Oppenheim, managing director of BV International Ocean Holdings Ltd, said the Four Seasons Ocean Residences will be the world's grandest and most luxurious residential community at sea. The design of Four Seasons Ocean Residences allows the ship to circumnavigate the globe, with an average cruising speed of 18.5 knots, visiting cities around the world and docking or anchoring near remote habitats only accessible to a limited number of smaller sized yachts.

Prices range from US$4.2m for a one-bedroom apartment up to US$14m for a three-bedroom apartment. A limited number of penthouses are also available and prices range from US$15.6m to US$42m.

Four Seasons Ocean Residences is scheduled for completion and delivery in 2010. The first journey is scheduled for 2010, with the first two years following a fixed itinerary including events such as Antarctica, the Amazon as well as the 2012 Olympics in London and the Grand Prix in Monaco.

The residences will range in size from 800 to nearly 8,000 sq ft, and the wholly owned private residences offer one, two, three, or four bedrooms including single storey, duplex and triplex apartments and penthouses.

With 70,000 sq ft of public space, the vessel offers a range of onboard activities including the Four Seasons Spa, fitness facility, four restaurants, designer shops, and a casino.

DTZ Bahrain

Oman is set to be a key tourism hotspot, a regional real estate advisory consultant said at Cityscape.

Predicting that with its unique features, the country was set for a boom in tourism, Robin Williamson, general manager of DTZ Bahrain, said that Oman represented a huge opportunity for real estate developers operating in the region.

Oman has been focusing on developing its identity as a leading tourism location in the Middle East since the slump in oil prices in the late 1990s required the country to diversify its economy away from dependence on its oil and gas resources.

Housing will be another key area for growth, Williamson said, particularly provision for the mid and lower middle class.

"Due to the expansion of the population and the pressure on the government to provide housing for people, there is likely to be immense growth in the housing sector," Williamson said.

The populations in both Saudi Arabia and the UAE are experiencing strong growth.

Warehousing is likely to be the third main driver of growth, says Williamson. As more foreign companies begin renting warehouses rather than building their own warehouse premises, there is likely to be a big upsurge in the construction of warehouses, he predicted.

RAK Properties

RAK Properties is planning to sell up to US$2bn of Islamic bonds early next year to finance new projects.

RAK Properties has yet to appoint banks to arrange the sale, chief executive Mohammed Sultan Al-Qadi said. The bond would raise between US$1bn to US$2bn.

Meanwhile, RAK Properties unveiled RAK Tower, a development planned for location at Al Reem Island in the Marina Square development. The 43-storey tower will cost US$81m and will contain one, two, three and five-bedroom apartments alongside penthouses, all of which will be fitted with smart home technology, including 24-hour surveillance.

The company launched its initial project in February 2006. The 43-storey Julfar Towers, a twin unit of offices and residences, is expected to be completed in 2008. This development was followed shortly after by the launch of the US$2.7bn Mina Al Arab in May 2006.

Tameer Holdings

Tameer officially announced the launch of its three newest projects; Platinum Towers in Business Bay, Tameer Towers in Shams Abu Dhabi and displayed models of its latest international project in Jordan, Al Majd City, beginning sales of the 18,500 residential units.

Tameer announced its third venture into Dubai's Business Bay earlier this year with the new Silver Tower, scheduled for completion in 2009.

All units for the Silver Tower were sold out just two weeks after it was launched. Alongside being an office, the tower will host swimming pools and a mini golf course. The development is expected to reach an estimated construction value of US$122m.

Tanmiyat

Tanmiyat promoted its new commercial towers that will be located in the Living Legends area of Dubailand.

Tanmiyat also presented the Ajman Marina.

This will be built next to the Kempinski Hotel in Ajman over the next five years, providing accommodation for up to 21,000 residents. Tanmiyat aims to transform the Ajman coast into a commercial and residential resort.
Al Mazaya Holdings

Al Mazaya's current projects have a total investment volume of US$1.9bn, which is set to grow considerably after this year's Cityscape.

The company showcased its latest electronic technology, while conducting detailed presentations across its various pavilions.

A US$7m contract has just been signed between Al Mulla Group and Al Mazaya for the supply, installation and maintenance of electrical and mechanical parts and equipment for Al Mulla's 7 Zones project - a construction materials city, situated in the Shuwaikh Industrial Area of Kuwait. Al Mazaya has purchased land in Bahrain in order to erect another construction materials city.

The company is also gearing up to bring the concept into Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Jordan.

Plus Properties

Dubai-based Plus Properties launched its initial three luxury developments in the UAE at Cityscape property expo.

The developer and waterfront specialist, established earlier this year, has unveiled two towers on Dubai Waterfront and one on Abu Dhabi's Al Reem Island with a market value of US$231m.

Construction on the Wave Residence on the prime Dubai Waterfront and Al Reem's Sky Garden is set to start in the first quarter of next year.

Sami Maroun, director at Plus Properties. said the two projects are slated for completion by 2010.

Construction of the firm's other Dubai Waterfront development, Pixel Tower, will begin in April next year and is expected to be completed by 2010.

The properties are designed by Hong Kong-based James Law Cybertecture International Architects, known for specialising in futuristic design.

"The unique architectural design of the three residential buildings and their prime waterfront plots are what makes them stand out from other luxurious developments in the UAE," Maroun said.

Commenting on the difference between Dubai and Abu Dhabi as locations for its properties, Maroun said: "Dubai has already picked up the fame of real estate and development but Abu Dhabi is catching up.

"We feel that we have a very specific property in Abu Dhabi that we're being very aggressive with as well.

"The capital has a great future; it's just that Dubai is so much in view that Abu Dhabi is getting a bit late to cash in on the boom, but I think it has a very good future within the next 10 years."

Plus Properties is also in negotiations to acquire more plots on Dubai Waterfront and Reem Island, Maroun said.

"We're looking at one other residential and one commercial plot on Reem Island," he added.

Additionally, Plus Properties is eyeing development opportunities outside the UAE, namely in Saudi Arabia and Lebanon, and is in negotiations that will be finalised within the next year, Maroun said.

Meanwhile, James Law Cybertecture International also announced their design for the Plus Properties Pixel Tower in Dubai Waterfront at Cityscape.

Inspired by moving bubbles within a glass, the Pixel Tower is designed as a 21st generation tower for developer Plus Properties. The residential building consists of 18 floors.

The elevation of Pixel Tower is designed to be a sustainable facade where the geometry of the openings minimise in the southern direction of the sun to lessen heat gain, and maximise in the northern direction of the sun to take advantage of views to the sea.

The building encompasses its own customised high-speed wireless internet communication system, residents are able to monitor and control their apartments through the use of remote monitoring cameras.

James Law Cybertecture International entered the UAE market in 2006, after being commissioned by Omniyat Properties of Dubai to design the The Pad Tower in Business Bay.

The project is known as the world's first Cybertecture residential tower.

Macdonald and Company

Salaries for property professionals in the Middle East have jumped 14.2% over the past year, according to research from RICS and Macdonald and Company.

Recruitment consultants Macdonald and Company released the Gulf Middle East Salary Survey 2007 at Cityscape, revealing the average monthly salary in the property sector at US$9,650.

However, Bahrain topped this average considerably with an average salary of US$12,650.

At the other end of the spectrum was Qatar, with an average monthly salary of US$8,700.

Despite the increase in salary, over half of respondents said they were fairly likely or very likely to change jobs within the next 12 months.

The majority of participants are men, with males making up 86% of the surveyed group.

The group surveyed 850 property professionals in July and August this year, and found the surveyed group was very positive about Middle Eastern economic activity over the next 12 months.

The survey also reveals that health insurance is the most popular incentive among respondents at 80%, followed by annual travel expenses and flights, at 63%.

More than three quarters of the survey participants anticipated that economic activity in their profession will increase over the next 12 months.

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