With a government looking to establish an economy on core businesses and mass tourism, it is a good time to be a developer in the Middle East. Those who showed the prescience to enter the market are being rewarded with strong investment and a flourishing real estate sector.
Looking closer, a handful of companies are quite literally reshaping the emirate of Dubai and the wider region. Some of these companies are responsible for some of the most audacious developments seen, not just in the Middle East but internationally. Certainly the attitudes of major developers such as Emaar and Nakheel are abundantly clear. The media frenzy that was generated when the latter launched the first of its Palm projects demonstrated not just how innovative developers were willing to be, but also the level of interest such projects would create. And Emaar, with its $20 billion Downtown development responsible for the world's tallest tower, merely added fuel to fire.
Five years on since the boom started, and the established developers are being complemented by new companies such as Limitless, ALDAR and Sama Dubai, who are looking to consolidate on the attention and steady flow of investment with significant, city-sized projects such as Al Raha Beach, Downtown Jebel Ali and The Lagoons. For residents in Dubai, such projects remain an integral part of life in the GCC at present.
Such international attention, properly channelled, has had a noticeable impact on safety regulations and labour conditions for those working on the high-profile projects. The aim now is that standards will trickle down to those operating on the less conspicuous sites and developers here too have a responsibility.
While questions have been raised and will continue over environmental and ecological implications, whether the pace of development is sustainable, of the bubble bursting and inflation, confidence remains high. Developers do not appear unduly concerned, and, as long as they continue to attract backing for their projects, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and the Middle East in general will remain a playground of opportunism.
A major Kuwait real estate developer, Abyaar formed in 2005, specifically to enter the UAE market with plans to invest up to US $2.2 billion (AED 8 billion) in Dubai; but it has since decided to double its level of investment by the year 2010.
Founded with a capital value of $121 million - Abyaar is a joint venture between Kuwait's Aayan Leasing and Investment Company, a leading investment player and Al Rashdan Group, a major real estate developer, and other investors.
Abyaar's portfolio will be a collection of freehold initiatives, firstly in Dubai and then throughout the GCC. Investing in real estate in compliance with the rules and provisions of Islamic Shariah, Abyaar intends to build residential, commercial, retail and hospitality projects finished to high European standards, with innovative architecture and aspirational interiors.
Abdul Elbilly, COO said: "Overall we are doing about AED 10billion worth of development in Dubai over the next two years, which is our prime market, but we are trying to diversify a bit and take the brand offshore and start to develop it globally."
‘Building Excellence' is the company's guiding principle. Taking inspiration from the literal Arabic meaning of ‘Abyaar'- a ‘well', the source - the company's vision is to develop stylish and contemporary destinations that enhance lifestyles. Abyaar aims to be a developer committed to creating business growth and prosperity.
Elbilly added: "Every developer believes they are unique or different and are better. We don't talk about our product much because we want people to see it, so this is the difference. Those who want to know about us should come and look at our finishes. Our interior designers are world class, our architects are the best."
Abyaar's property product portfolio includes The Acacia Avenues, which is the only freehold development on offer in the Jumeirah district. Stage one will provide a range of accommodation including ‘Olgana' - 137 freehold one, two and three bedroom apartments - and 50 five- and six-bedroom villas. The subsequent phase, ‘Hilliana', will house approximately 137 freehold serviced apartments.
The company is also building The Business Centre, a six-storey commercial development at Dubai Investments Park. In addition to these, Abyaar has nearly completed its Venti Quattro (VQ) furnished apartments project in Dubai Marina, which is expected to be ready by the end of the year. Abyaar has signed a deal with Radisson SAS at Cityscape to hand over the project to the five-star hotel management company.
Vice chairman and managing director Marzooq Al Rashdan said: "Abyaar was established to deliver a new standard of quality in Dubai to cater for people who are used to being indulged in five-star opulence and the finest service standards. The two VQ properties are typical of the type of projects that we are building."
The 20-storey Radisson SAS Residence has 153 studio, one bedroom and two bedroom apartments. The project has separate gymnasiums and swimming pools for men and women, a children's play area and retail outlets as well as restaurants and cafes besides secure underground parking.
A second VQ furnished suites building being developed by Abyaar on the opposite side of the marina is due to open in 2009. The 40-storey residential project will have 234 apartments including studios, one-bedroom and two-bedroom flats as well as three townhouses and two penthouses.
Abu DhabiInvestment House
Established in 2005, Abu Dhabi Investment House (ADIH) has continued to grow to such an extent that this year will see the company open a representative office in Bahrain and also a new office in Geneva.
The company has also just launched a newly established department for research; KYC - Know Your Customer. It is another reason ADIH believes it has a competitive edge.
One of the company's latest major projects, Bahrain's The Lagoon, a commercial complex at Amwaj Islands, has recently been successfully handed over to tenants as part of phase 1. Two more phases plan to be handed over by the end of this year.
The US$ 90 million (AED 330million) development is now ready for tenants, and ADIH's Kuwaiti strategic partner, Al Shaye'a Group, will open international brand outlets in the complex. The masterplan for The Lagoon was designed drawing reference from other internationally acclaimed retail and lifestyle properties such as London's Covent Garden and Sydney's Cockle Bay Wharf.
The Lagoon consists of eight low-rise sea-front blocks, which will house restaurant and retail outlets to residents and visitors to the islands, a 2.75 million m2 development in Muharraq.
Rashad Janahi, CEO, ADIH, said: "We witnessed substantial demand by commercial investors for the Lagoon's units, and are pleased to start welcoming our clients to this important project.
"With a strategy to provide optimal lifestyle options to Amwaj's customers, ADIH has partnered with world-class retail providers, ensuring that residents and visitors alike can enjoy a convenient one-stop experience in a premium atmosphere."
ADIH, which is one of the leading financial institutions in the Middle East, also announced the strategic set-up of its 100 % ADIH-owned European office: Abu Dhabi Investment House, Geneva, Switzerland.
Also, the $100 million Sunset Hills development project, which is a joint venture between ADIH and Kuwaiti investment firm Sorouh Investments, located at the $1.3 billion Al Areen project in Bahrain, has successfully completed enabling works and site leveling, paving the way for infrastructure works to be started.
Scheduled for completion in 2009, Sunset Hills occupies a land size of 44,000 m2 and, when completed, will house 300 real estate units, including villas, town houses and luxury apartments. Multipurpose buildings are also planned for the development. Additionally, future Sunset Hills' residents will benefit from the facilities and attractions around the project such as the renowned Banyan Tree Resort, the Delmon Waterpark, and the Bahrain International Circuit.
Shaikh Mohamed bin Daij Al Khalifa, the newly appointed chairman of Sunset Hills, said: "We launched Sunset Hills in 2007 with an ambitious timeframe for completion. This latest milestone places us well on track for meeting our targets.
"The interest we have received so far is encouraging and we are confident that Sunset Hills will not only leverage Al Areen's success, but will further enhance its value proposition."
Damac Properties is the largest private developer in the Middle East offering freehold and investment property across the UAE, with further projects in Oman, Qatar, Lebanon, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. Part of DAMAC Holding, which has now grown into a global conglomerate with over 6,000 employees in 18 countries, DAMAC Properties was the first private sector company to make a commitment to Dubai's real estate market.
The developer has therefore launched a number of major projects across the region with towers spread across the UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Lebanon. In total the company has announced 79 towers across the region over the last five years. Its projects are in master developments such as Business Bay, Dubailand, TECOM Zone, Jumeirah Village and Dubai Marina.
"We see ourselves as part of expansion plans across North Africa and the Asian subcontinent, and last year we announced a joint venture development with the regional government of Tianjin in China," says Peter Riddoch, CEO, DAMAC.
And, while Riddoch says that Dubai presents considerable growth opportunities, the company, in its quest to be a master developer, is looking to the wider Middle East region. "We see Dubai continuing to have a major share of our turnover as we grow. But the other challenge in Dubai is we cannot be a ‘masterplan developer' - that is the remit of the government. All of the land here is given to Emaar, Dubai Properties or Nakheel. So in wanting to be masters of our own destiny, we are going further afield."
This philosophy is illustrated though the company's Gamsha Bay project - DAMAC's first and largest project in Egypt. Taking place on an area covering 30 million m2 on the Red Sea, this mega leisure development offers residents a 39 km coastline. Total investment is expected to reach over US$16 billion (AED 58 billion) over the next ten years.
Gamsha Bay will be divided into 9 distinct zones - Gamsha Marina, Marina Park, Coral Golf Course, Sea View Crescent, Creek Retreat, Gamsha Bay, Peninsula Luxury Villas, Downtown Gamsha and Extreme Sports World Theme Park. The township will be built in five phases over 10 years, with the initial components of the first phase completed within the next five.
In Jordan, the developer has strengthened its presence in the country by launching a fifth project called ‘Business Gate', an eight-storey tower, which follows its first commercial tower ‘Business Heights' a 20-storey building to be constructed in Jordan's Abdali master planned development.
With the Business heights project, DAMAC became the first real-estate company to launch a commercial tower in the Abdali area. It was also the first to introduce residential projects to that area with the launch of ‘The Heights', a 35-storey tower last year.
DAMAC Properties won three prestigious awards at the CNBC Arabian Property Awards 2006. The property developer bagged the best development award for ‘Oceanscape', best architecture award for ‘Ocean Heights' and the best website award for the company's website.
Founded in 2004 and with 1,000 employees, Dubai Properties, a member of Dubai Holding, is responsible for some of Dubai's most high-profile developments such as Business Bay and Jumeirah Beach Residence.
In addition to freehold master developments, Dubai Properties' portfolio comprises a variety of leasing projects including diverse residential complexes, labour camps and retail developments like The Walk at Jumeirah Beach Residence and Bay Avenue at Business Bay. It also includes joint ventures and partnerships within the educational, facilities management and real estate sectors.
One of the company's most ambitious projects is the Culture Village development currently under construction on Dubai Creek. Located south of Garhoud bridge, on previously unused land, the project, worth an estimated US $14 billion (AED 51 billion) is being specifically designed to re-establish culture to the city that has embraced progression over tradition.
It will be completed in three phases. Phase one will be a mix of residential and commercial and phase two is commercial plus entertainment, with Dubai Properties trying to vary the footprint. Each phase will be approximately 1.2 million m2.
"Ideally, the project should try and educate people about the local culture through museums and art galleries, but this shouldn't overlook the part outside influence has played in its development," says Farhad Seddiq, project director, Dubai Properties.
Construction on the site began approximately a year ago, with infrastructure works currently underway and expected to be completed by the first quarter 2008. Besix is the contractor for both the infrastructure and marine works, with Halcrow the consultant and masterplanner.
Due to the developer's sheer size and range of developments underway, the company has an advantage in approaching contractors, as Seddiq explains. "Strategically, we are one of the biggest developer's. In terms of appointing contractors, we have our own strategy, which is well studied and we don't do it blindly. For such a major development, we have our own strategic partners and contractors, which we can rely on for quality and duration. We start ‘sounding them out' well in advance, and and once we float the tender, they are ready and we give them an incentive."
Business Bay is being built to establish a centre for business in Dubai, creating the emirate's own version of Wall Street or City of London. It covers 6 million m2 along the extended creek and will offer world-class infrastructure.
The Villa at Dubailand is a residential retreat spread over 3 million m2 and offers Spanish-style villas in hacienda-style residential communities. And Tijara Town covers 1.8million m2 and offers integrated offices, showrooms, warehouses and apartments integrated into one unit to improve operational efficiency.
Mudon incorporates five individual cities - Baghdad, Beirut, Damascus, Cairo and Marrakech - within one large city, covering an area of 6.7 million m2.
In 2006, the company was granted freehold status under the articles of the Dubai Property Law, Article (4). It specifically states that non-GCC citizens are able to purchase freehold property in areas designated by HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Makhtoum, UAE Vice President and Prime Minister, the Ruler of Dubai.
Established in 1997, Emaar Properties is one of the world's largest real estate companies.
A Dubai-based company, Emaar is listed on the Dubai Financial Market and is part of the Dow Jones Arabia Titans Index. Awarded the ‘Best Property Developer in the UAE' for the second consecutive year in 2006, the company's global growth also saw it debut on the Financial Times Global 500 ranking this year, which provides an annual snapshot of the world's largest companies.
The company announced revenue of US$3.8 billion (AED 14 billion) and net profits of $1.74 billion for the financial year ending 31 December, 2006. This corresponded to an increase in annual revenue by 68% and net profit by 35%.
Emaar posted a net profit of $893 million for the first half of 2007 - an increase of 7% over half-year 2006 results. The revenue for the first six months of the year was $2.2 billion, an increase of 59% over the first half of 2006.
Its current projects include Dubai Marina - a luxurious waterfront project and Arabian Ranches - a desert-themed residential development; while Emirates Living, which comprises Emirates Hills, The Meadows, The Springs, The Greens, The Lakes and The Views - all community neighbourhoods - is complete.
Fred Durie, executive director, Emaar Properties said: "The works for the Dubai Marina villa's are nearly complete, with only 200 left to finish, and the Lakes near Ghadeer."
At Cityscape in October, Emaar announced a joint venture with Bawadi - a member of Tatweer to develop 6.5 million m2 of land in Bawadi, the massive hospitality project in Dubailand. The $16 billion project will include six hotels totalling over 5,000 rooms and 1,200 serviced apartments.
Emaar is also on schedule with its most ambitious project within the UAE, the $20 billion Downtown Burj Dubai development, which comprises Burj Dubai - the world's tallest free-standing structure; The Dubai Mall - one of the world's largest shopping destinations; Burj Dubai Boulevard; Burj Dubai Square; The Lofts; Burj Dubai Lake Hotel; The Old Town; The Old Town Island; The Residences and South Ridge - all set amid lakes, parks and gardens.
Emaar also recently developed The Polo Homes, a community exemplifying the lifestyle and equestrian heritage of the Middle East.
Saif Al Mansoori, sales director, Emaar Properties said: "The Polo Homes celebrate the equestrian heritage of the region and have a unique identity, which will appeal to discerning home-owners. The luxurious build, the elegant surroundings and the array of facilities are a big draw."
In line with its Vision 2010, Emaar is charting a new course of growth through a two-pronged strategy of geographical expansion and business segmentation.
With six business segments and more than 60 active companies, Emaar has a collective presence in over 36 markets spanning the Middle East, North Africa, Pan-Asia, Europe and North America.
The company has established operations in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Morocco, Algeria, Libya, India, Pakistan, Turkey, Indonesia, USA, Canada and the United Kingdom.
Emaar's international projects include Uptown Cairo, a residential community in New Cairo City; Cairo Gate, a commercial-cum-residential development in Egypt and the Eighth Gate project in Damascus.
The company's flagship development in Saudi Arabia is the 55 million m2 King Abdullah Economic City, a mixed-use project located on the Red Sea coast.
The $26.6 billion project will extend along a 35km-shoreline strategically located between the Holy Cities of Makkah and Madina and the commercial hub of Jeddah. It is hoped the City will present employment opportunities for up to 500,000.
Durie concluded: "There will be some announcements on new projects soon. We're working on masterplans and new designs which will be announced in time."
ETA Star Property Developers is the property development arm of the ETA-Ascon Group.
The company's prime objective is to harness the growing commercial opportunity in Dubai's freehold market. Developments of over 900,000 m2 of built-up area are already underway and many more are planned over the coming months.
ETA Star's portfolio currently includes commercial and residential properties such as 23 Marina, Liberty House, Goldcrest Executive, Goldcrest View-2, The Belvedere and The Palladium. In addition, the company is developing commercial and hospitality projects at the DMC complex, Palm Jumeirah Crescent, Port Saeed, Salahuddin Road and other prime locations in the UAE.
"Our project at the Palm Jumeirah is something we're really looking forward to. We like to do projects that people can enjoy - not just four walls and a ceiling," said Rayomand Dastur, COO, ETA Star.
At this year's Cityscape Dubai, ETA Star announced plans to develop a $1.4 billion mixed-use project at Dubai Waterfront, which is set for launch early next year. The firm also launched a $680 million low-rise residential community, called La Italia, at Falcon City of Wonders in Dubailand. The projects will take the company's portfolio up to around US $7 billion.
"We shall roll out some of our new projects during the second quarter of next year," added Dastur.
"We are planning something special to try and offer a project that will add value to the city and also give the customer a sense of owning property that is really worth the money."
The establishment of ETA Star Property Developers marks the transition of the group from a contracting firm to a full-fledged property developer which not only builds but also markets its projects under its own banner.
The company is also developing projects in Southeast Asia, India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.
"From being Dubai-centric, ETA Star Property Developers is now operating across India and is involved in developing major residential projects, special economic zones and IT parks," said Shyam Sunder, the company's general manager of marketing.
Plans are also underway for a move into Oman early next year, followed by North Africa, Turkey and Saudi Arabia.
"We are definitely interested in moving into Saudi Arabia, but it's a bit premature right now. We're beginning with Oman, and plan to announce a fairly large development there within the next six months. It will be a mixed-use commercial and residential project in a good location," added Sunder.
The philosophy behind First Qatar Real Estate Development Company's investment in the Middle East market is simple: build a strong brand backed by a reputation for quality through its first project before entering into new deals and markets.
The Kuwaiti company could be one to watch for the future. Its first major development is a three-phase residential project that will form part of the massive Pearl Qatar project, a reclaimed island masterplanned by United Development Company.
First Qatar has three projects on the development: Porto Arabia, Viva Bahriya and Abraj Quartier.
Porto Arabia, which comes under phase one, is currently under construction and is expected to be completed in October 2008. Qatar Arabian Construction Company is the main contractor, Projacs International is the project manager and EHAF is the project supervisor.
In October, the US $8.2 million (AED 30million) piling contract for phase two, Viva Bahriya, was awarded to AMCO.
The main contract package, which will involve the construction of two residential towers, will be awarded by the end of the year.
Seven contractors have been shortlisted for the job, which has been estimated at $109 million. They include Contraco, Midmac Contracting, Harinsa Contracting, American Qatari French, Afrina Trading Company (all Qatar-based), Kuwait's Al Hani Trading & Construction and Ascon.
First Qatar was recently given the land for phase three of the project - Abraj Quartier -which is currently undergoing a redesign.
"The original designs were based on the local rather than international market, and even though the local market is keen on investing, the international market prefers smaller appartments, so we had to come up with something to accommodate this," said Fahad Al Ghunaim, chairman and CEO of First Qatar.
At this stage, the company is limited with the investments it can make in Qatar.
"If we want to go outside of the Pearl, we have to go with a Qatari partner - which has limited us from expanding in Qatar at this stage. We are waiting for the new law to rectify this - once this is in place, then we will continue our investment in Qatar."
In the meantime, the company has made significant investments in Oman and Kuwait.
In Oman, land has been bought for a potential mixed-use development, with an initial cost of $10 million. While in Kuwait, land has been acquired for $18 million, and will also be used for a residential development.
"Because we are a newly established company, we are very ambitious in making sure we go for business opportunities that are attractive to us," added Al Ghunaim.
"We've been offered many - in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia, for example. But the first thing we're trying to do is build our GCC brand. The second thing we'll do is find prime locations with a high appreciation value."
First Qatar is waiting on the outcome of a freehold property law in both Oman and Kuwait before going ahead with construction.
"Both countries are still unclear on their freehold law - so until this is made clearer, we will use the investment as land appreciation," added Al Ghunaim.
"The location of our investments is very important - we did feasibility studies on both plots and found that these two were the most prominent."
Al Ghunaim believes that Oman and Kuwait are prime areas for investment in the GCC.
"Oman is a virgin market. Even though it's not going at the ‘full throttle' pace of Dubai, it has a fantastic tourist climate," he said.
"And if you look at Kuwait, it's getting similar to Hong Kong; land appreciates there so quickly - you don't even have to build, you just have to wait for the right opportunity to sell the land."
Al Ghunaim added that Morocco and Egypt are also good investment opportunities.
"We are still new to the market. But when we do look into new markets, we assess the country's climate, political situation and return on investment - if all these factors are good, then we invest."
The real estate arm of KM Holding, KM Properties is a fully-fledged real estate developer with a portfolio of residential, commercial and freehold properties; and is strengthening its position as a market leading developer by focusing on the core business of property development locally and internationally to achieve high returns.
The company currently has three projects in various stages of development in Dubai, with numerous more in the pipeline.
Construction began on TAMANI Hotel at Park Lane, Business Bay in July this year.
The mixed-use development brings another addition to Dubai's skyline in the Business Bay development.
Designed by architect Carlos Ott, the aerodynamic glass and steel skyscraper features 33 storeys of commercial, recreational and hotel facilities. Floors seven to 21 will provide office, recreational and commercial space, while a TAMANI hotel will take up floors 23 to 30.
"Construction is now well underway and we are on schedule to complete Tamani Hotel and Offices at Park Lane, Business Bay in early 2009," said Sanjeet Joher, group chief operating officer, KM Holding.
TAMANI Exclusive at El Matador Tower - a Spanish-style condominium tower offering modern studios and apartments - is also scheduled for delivery in 2009. The 43-storey tower is being built in Jumeirah Village.
Meanwhile, construction is also due to start on B2B Tower, a 20-storey tower offering a unique fusion of contemporary glass and chrome materials. B2B Tower is also designed by Carlos Ott.
KM also announced a new cluster devolpment at this year's Citiscape. The TAMANI Arts Cluster, which is being built in Business Bay, will include an office tower, hotel, commercial and recreational facilities. The ground plus 20-storey glass and steel tower will provide the very latest in cutting edge technology to provide a seamless business platform.
"Located in the Artisan Cluster in Business Bay, TAMANI Arts Offices will offer easy and convenient access to some of Dubai's most notable landmarks and recreational destinations, including Burj Dubai and Sheikh Zayed Road. It is going to be the most significant address for business for those who are thinking of opening or setting up office in New Dubai," said Joher.
Coupled with the adjacent TAMANI Arts Hotel, the TAMANI Arts Office creates a new mixed-use development in the Business Bay area. In July this year, KM Properties set up a facilities management subsidiary, Tamani Exclusive.
The company will provide FM services to all of KM's residential and commercial buildings as well as to other property developers and building owners.
Tamani Exclusive is an extension of KM Holding's Tamani Hotels and Resorts.
Other facilities management systems are not linked to a hotel service; whereas Tamani Exclusive is linked to Tamani Hotels and Resorts," said Joher.
The service includes valet parking, room service, housekeeping as per requirements, daily garbage removal, restaurant, reception and concierge, all for a nominal fee that is already built into the maintenance fee for the building.
"TAMANI Exclusive is a new brand specifically created and developed to assist developers in providing a level of unsurpassed services and facilities. Services are tailor-made based on the physical aspect of the property and the facilities available/location and business segmentation," added Joher.
KM Properties also became the first developer to register for the new Dubai Land Department's Law 8 when it became licensed to develop and sell real estate in August.
Following hot on the heels of the Dubai Land Department's passing of Law 8, KM Properties established its own Escrow account at the beginning of October to protect all its existing and future property owners and investors, making it one of the first developers to fully adhere to the new legislation.
A Dubai World company, Limitless announced itself on the Dubai scene with its massive Downtown Jebel Ali project. Stretching 11km down Sheikh Zayed Road, Downtown Jebel Ali will be a 2 million m2 urban centre situated between Jebel Ali Free Zone, Techno Park and Dubai Waterfront. It is estimated to house 235,000 people, with 70,000 residents. Work is scheduled to be completed within seven years.
Limitless was set up in July 2005, with the key objective of diversifying and globalising Dubai's portfolio of leading development companies by leveraging the know-how and exposure gained by Dubai World's real estate initiatives through Nakheel.
Its main competencies lie in masterplanning of large-scale urban development projects, conceptualisation and execution of waterfront developments and the execution of large mixed-use projects.
This was illustrated when it recently announced it will manage the design and construction of the Arabian Canal - the largest, most complex civil engineering project ever undertaken in the Middle East. The US $11 billion (AED 40 billion) project involves the creation of a 75km man-made waterway, which will flow inland from Dubai Waterfront, passing to the east of the new Dubai World Central International Airport before turning back towards Palm Jumeirah. Up to 150 metres wide and six metres deep, it will be able to accommodate boats up to 40 metres long.
Saeed Ahmed Saeed, CEO, Limitless, said: "It is now just over two years since Limitless was launched with the philosophy of delivering distinction. We are growing day by day, and adding more people, projects and places to our global portfolio.
"Our first project, Downtown Jebel Ali, is rapidly taking shape along Sheikh Zayed Road, and now has two new Plazas to its name. Our Arabian Canal project - the biggest civil engineering project the region has ever seen - will reshape New Dubai and create life in the desert. Overseas, we will soon start to create India's biggest new community - Bidadi Township near Bangalore. And Halong Star, our first project for Vietnam, will take luxury accommodation on the country's north-east coast to new levels."
The $220 million, mixed-use project in Vietnam is a 125 hectare development at Halong Bay on the country's north-east coast, and is a joint venture between Limitless, Phuong Hung Joint Stock Company and International Property Investment Partners.
In pursuing its stated objective of globalising its portfolio, the company also announced it has set up two new companies in the Far East, where it is eyeing a number of large scale, balanced urban community projects. Limitless World China has been set up in Hong Kong, while Limitless Consultancy Company is based in Shanghai.
And at Cityscape Dubai this month, the company announced plans for a $12 billion urban development in Saudi Arabia. Al Wasl will be developed on a 1.4 million m2 site north of the capital Riyadh.
"Limitless is striving to become a leading global real estate master developer," added Saeed. "We have made a remarkable start - and, with many more projects to come in Europe, South Asia, the Far East and elsewhere in the Gulf Region, there's an impressive future ahead of us."
Six years after the first grains of sand were laid, the end of 2006 saw the first residents move onto Nakheel's signature project, the Palm Jumeirah. The end of 2007 will also see the handover of the first phase of the Palm's 4,000 apartments and villas.
Nakheel has also completed a number of other key projects including the world's largest themed mall, Ibn Battuta Mall, and the world's largest inland man-made island residential community, Jumeirah Islands.
With a portfolio of projects ranging across 185 million square metres of land worth more than US$30 billion (AED110 billion), Nakheel is changing the map of Dubai and is playing a key role in shaping the city's future with a portfolio of landmark developments.
Manal Shaheen - director of sales, marketing and customer service, says: "Nakheel is one of the world's largest and most innovative real estate developers. It is a major player in the transformation of Dubai and the creator of some of the world's most iconic developments.
"We have already achieved more than what many companies achieve in a lifetime: the first residents have moved onto the Palm Jumeirah and The World is more than 90% reclaimed. However, there are many milestones ahead, and the numbers are pretty outstanding: 1,000 kilometres of new waterfront; building homes for more than 3 million people and increasing the number of hotels in Dubai by more than 50%."
Shaheen is aware, however, that the Palm Jumeirah will only truly come into its own when it becomes a tourist destination: "This is just the first of many more milestones on The Palm Jumeirah, which will see it establish itself as not only one of the region's, but also one of the world's leading tourist destinations." The Palm Jumeirah will be home to more than 30 hotels along its 70km of beachfront - in one go increasing the number of beachfront hotels in Dubai by almost 150%.
One of the first of the hotels to open, in November 2008, will be Atlantis, The Palm; the centrepiece hotel of The Crescent is a 1,500 room hotel and resort, featuring more than 65,000 marine creatures and 2km of interconnected rides at what will be the region's largest water-park.
Many more hotels on the island are scheduled to open from 2009, and all should be completed by 2012, including the Palm Jumeirah's centerpiece hotel, Trump International Hotel & Tower, a 61-storey mixed-use hotel and residential building.
The Palm Jebel Ali and The Palm Deira will add 300km more coastline to Dubai. The first phase of reclamation on the Palm Jebel Ali is already complete, with the palm shape visible from space, while reclamation is progressing well on the Palm Deira - a project that, when complete, will be four times the size of the Palm Jumeirah, and home to a million people.
Then there is The World - reclamation is due to be completed on the project by 2008, with the first resorts opening by the end of 2010. There are more than 300 islands in the development, which will feature some of the world's most unique resorts; offering an island lifestyle, yet only a 20-minute boat ride from Dubai.
"Nakheel is increasing the amount of beachfront by 1,000km over the coming decades; we're not only changing the face of tourism in Dubai, we're transforming the very map of Dubai on that journey."
National Properties is the real estate subsidiary of National Bonds Corporation (NBC). Its aim to create communities and grow the fabric of those communities within their developments.
It is committed to develop properties offering a distinctive lifestyle built around unique communities. Their vision is to become a trusted brand name through high quality real estate developments that set the standards. They believe in providing a unique multicultural community experience for residents that enhances and enriches their life in a variety of enjoyable ways.
NP believes that their values are rooted in what they do to impact the lives of people and the kind of legacy they leave for future generations.
They like to respect the rights of the people working for them, and to provide good and safe conditions of work, believe commercial success depends on the commitment to their people.
They seek mutually beneficial relationships with contractors, suppliers and in joint ventures and to promote the application of these principles.
National Properties likes to develop low-rise and low-impact buildings. CEO, Adel Lootah said: "We as the developer just see what's on offer in the market and where we can get good value property, but we hope that the overall controlling authorities would see to it that we bring out more low-rise and low -density buildings, as these help the environment; they use less energy, and it affects traffic flow."
He also told Construction Week that sustainability is something National Properties are taking seriously: "That's definitely on our agenda. We are looking at the recollection of condensed water from air conditioning units, for irrigation. In places where we are close to the sea using solar energy for reverse osmosis, rather than desalination process."
Lootah added that they are trying to keep away from committing themselves to LEED certification: "We are trying to stay away from whether or not we will be going for LEED certification, but our main objective is to build something that will save on energy and save on water, and makes it easier to work with. Any building we put is going to stay there for at least 50 years so we want to make sure it's not harming the environment and is sustainable"
National Properties partners include the government of Dubai, Dubai Bank, Dubai Holding, and Emaar Properties.
The company is capable of managing complex real estate investment and development projects throughout the entire value-adding chain and projecting life cycle with a multi-disciplinary, international team of experienced professionals.
National Properties made a spectacular debut with Skycourts, the ﬁrst residential project from NBC. A 2,300-unit apartment block of six towers in the residential complex of Dubailand, the upcoming leisure and tourist destination in Dubai, Skycourts was a huge success. All the apartments were sold out when they were offered to holders of National Bonds in 2006.
Mohammed Al Shaibani, chairman NBC said: "Skycourts is an example of the broad commitment of National Bonds Corporation to providing more lifestyle choices to the people in the UAE. We will fulfill this commitment by encouraging people to save for the future and by showing them the positive impact their saving can make on their lives as well as on their community."
Since its inception two years ago, Omniyat Properties has launched five commercial towers and two residential projects with a value of over US $1.33 billion (AED 4.9 billion). This figure is set to rise to $2.75 billion by the end of 2007, making it one of the region's fastest-growing property companies.
The inclusion of state-of-the-art technology is of primary concern for the company, with many of its buildings featuring such features as voiceover internet telephony, radio frequency identification, biometric access, intelligent lighting and energy management systems.
The OYSTER concept for office design, developed by Omniyat's in-house team, is a good example of their ethos. OYSTER, an acronym for Offices Yielding Superior Targets through Efficiency and Relaxation means that buildings based on this concept focus on the integration of state-of-the-art lifestyle elements combined with technologically advanced working environments which are designed to allow people to ‘escape the rigors of the office in set up relaxation zones' to aid employee relaxation, productivity and efficiency.
"The company is developing five commercial towers in Business Bay: One Business Bay, Bayswater, The Binary, The Gemini and The Opus, along with two residential projects; The Square and The Pad," said Mehdi Amjad, president and CEO, Omniyat Properties.
"The Pad is set to be the most technologically advanced building in the world. It was designed by James Law, of James Law Cybertecture International. It was first revealed during Cityscape Dubai 2006 and generated huge interest and excitement from around the world," added Amjad.
All apartments in The Pad will feature real-time projection feeds, where residents can change their view of the outside world by up to 60 separate live videocam feeds of, for example, the New York skyline or Sydney Harbour Bridge, transporting your home to any location in the world. They will also feature bathrooms fitted with health monitoring equipment embedded within the floor, which can measure and monitor your temperature, weight and blood pressure; devices that can be given to family and friends that allow you to ‘have dinner with them' in a totally separate location via a video conferencing link projected into your dining room; rotating living and dining rooms giving you 360 degree views of Dubai and Business Bay; walls that can be automatically opened to link rooms together and reactive lighting that responds to incoming phone calls, SMS text messages and emails.
The company has also recently revealed The Opus, designed by Zaha Hadid, the world renowned British/Iraqi architect, which will be a symbiotic mix of art and efficiency. The building will feature a fluid-form void in the middle, which the company hopes will make The Opus a distinctive landmark in Dubai's emerging skyline.
The Binary, meanwhile, is the first to be based on the company's OYSTER concept of office design.
India's Sobha Group is embarking on a period of rapid expansion in the Middle East, as the company aims to bring its quality driven construction to a host of developments in Dubai and across the region.
The US $2 billion Group, which has business operations in real estate development, civil and MEP contracting, factories for aluminium, façade glazing, joinery and concrete products, has been the driving force behind many of India's leading residential and commercial developments in recent years.
The company has developed over 0.93 million m2 of real estate in India, with a team of over 25,000 people.
The Sobha portfolio includes Kerala's first integrated township - Sobha City in Thrissur - and the Sobha Lifestyle Presidential Villas in Devanahalli.
The company has also been behind the development of the many Infosys offices and commercial buildings, including the pyramid-shaped Infosys Studio in Bangalore.
Sobha Group has had a presence in the Middle East since the 1970s, when the company Chairman, PNC Menon, established the Services & Trade Group in Oman, specialising in interiors outfitting.
Today, the company's workforce of over 1,500 makes it one of the largest in project management and turnkey solutions in the UAE.
Sobha Group now has operations in Doha, Dubai, Bahrain, Germany and the USA.
Sobha (Indeset) UAE has been behind the implementation of a number of interior projects, including Sphinx Restaurant and the Pyramids Health Club at Wafi Centre.
The company has also been involved in some of the most prestigious palaces, mosques and five-star hotels in the Arabian Gulf and continues to operate a 10,219 m2 manufacturing facility in Muscat.
Recently, the group decided to expand into real estate development in the Middle East.
"We have had a presence in the Middle East market for years, with interiors operations in Qatar and Dubai. But now the time is right to push forward with our real estate expansion plans for this region," said Ajay Rajendran, vice chairman, Sobha Real Estate.
Sobha Group launched its first two commercial projects in Dubai earlier this year, both of which are already sold out.
The two commercial towers, Ivory I and Ivory II at Business Bay, are mirror images of each other. Each tower offers 15 storeys of high-tech office space with world-class construction, contemporary design, optimum space usage, ultra-modern amenities, high speed connectivity and premium retail space.
Retail and commercial space has also been provided for the lower floors.
"Our success with the commercial developments in Business Bay tells us that the Sobha Group name is already making a mark in Dubai. We are confident that our future plans, which will include residential developments in the centrally located Jumeirah Village, will prove equally successful," added Rajendran.
The company launched its first residential project for Dubai at this year's Citiscape.
Sobha Daffodil at Jumeirah Village south is a mixed-use residential development comprising of a four-storey front podium and 10-storey tower podium, housing 178 apartments.
"The Sobha name is known for luxury, quality and creating a lifestyle. We will bring the same standards of quality and on time completion to our developments in Dubai and the Middle East," said Rajendran.
Sobha Daffodil will offer a range of studios and one, two and three-bedroom apartments.
Recreational facilities will include a clubhouse, barbeque area, children's play area and a rooftop health club featuring a swimming pool and gym.
The Sobha Group expects to have announced a regional portfolio of over $544 million by the middle of 2008, which will include another development in Business Bay, some waterfront properties as well as developments on Palm Jebel Ali.
Sungwon Corporation is one of South Korea's largest integrated real estate, construction and engineering companies, and has built a solid reputation as a property developer and contractor of high-rise residential and mixed-use developments.
In 2005, Sungwon completed over 52 commercial and residential projects, and has over US $3 billion (AED11 billion) worth of projects under construction. Sungwon is also playing an active role in construction and property development projects in several other countries outside South Korea including the Middle East, Kazakhstan, and other parts of South East Asia.
The $1 billion diversified Sungwon Corporation, which has its headquarters in Seoul, has been listed on the Korean Stock Exchange since 1990. The company employees over 2,000 people in its offices around the world.
In the Middle East, the CEO and general manager, Dubai Branch, is Chang-Pyo Park while the vice president is Richard Lee, followed by David Kim as the managing director.
"We bring with us 30 years of experience," says Richard Lee. "We are a developer that undertakes its own contracting work as well. And this is one of the main reasons why are standards are so high."
The company is pursuing strategic alliances with key local partners in the Middle East. It has already earmarked over $1.2 billion of investments over the next three years for the property development sector in the region.
Since entering the market just over a year ago, Sungwon has formed a strong mutually beneficial arrangement with Dubai Properties - its first major investment in the Middle East, worth over $450 million, is for building lifestyle developments in Dubai - Santevill at Business Bay and Santeview at Culture Village, two landmark property hubs being developed by Dubai Properties.
The company further strengthened its presence in the market in May this year after striking a $5.5 billion deal with Deira Investment to redevelop an area of ‘old' Dubai, and earlier this month announced plans to build a $700 million project at Sama Dubai's The Lagoons.
To execute the projects, Sungwon is seeking the help of contractors back home.
Earlier this year, the company invited around 30 South Korean subcontractors to its sites at Business Bay and Culture Village, along with key construction areas in Dubai where it plans participate as a main contractor.
"Our key aim is to ensure that the South Korean contractors, who will be working closely with us in the UAE, understand the country, its conditions and the different demands of each project so that they are able to help us deliver the best construction services in a cost-effective manner in line with our motto ‘quality on time'," said Chang-Pyo Park, general manager of Sungwon's Middle East headquarters.
Sungwon has also signed a strategic memorandum of understanding with Al Fattan Properties, which allows it to market and sell the projects of Al Fattan Properties to prominent investors and figures in South Korea, starting with the Palm Jumeirah Al Fattan Resort and the Al Fattan Currency House in Dubai International Financial Centre.
The company has raised the bar in terms of transparency within the UAE construction industry by opening up its construction sites to buyers and investors to allow them to see the construction process.
An ‘observation deck' has been built by the company on the site of Santevill.
"It is not common for developers in the region to allow their buyers to get inside the construction site to check on the progress of their building. Our buyers and investors own this building and they deserve the right to be involved in the construction process," added Park.
"We have nothing to hide because we are a confident construction company that builds its own buildings. And this will further enhance Sungwon's credibility in the region, as a trustworthy property developer and construction company."
In addition to its regional headquarters in Dubai, Sungwon has opened an office in Bahrain and Qatar, and plans to open offices elsewhere in the region, to support its expansion in the Middle East.
Sungwon has signed separate strategic alliance agreements with Amlak Finance and HSBC Middle East to provide prospective buyers of homes developed by Sungwon a range of home financing solutions.
Starting in 1991 as a company with various business interests, Tameer diversified its business model after purchasing land in 1997, and ventured into real estate by the end of 2002. It now has construction projects totalling US $11 billion (AED40.4 billion), and in June this year, sales hit $327 million for the month alone.
One of the key turning points was in 2005, when Tameer entered into a joint venture with the Al Rahji Investment Group of Saudi Arabia, enabling the company to develop a collection of high-profile developments, which has raised the investment portfolio. Tameer has demonstrated a savvy approach to real estate with high-profile early projects such as the Princess Tower, currently under construction in Dubai Marina.
"We are confident of ourselves and our strategy. Among other companies in the region, we are the only one operating and working in five different emirates: Umm Al Quwain, Sharjah, Dubai, Ajman and Abu Dhabi," explains Omar Ayesh, President of Tameer. "And we are the first company to build a complete city - Al Salam City. This will be the most unique project in the region, if not the Middle East. You cannot find it anywhere else."
The project, which is expected to cost $8.2 billion and built over 67 million m2, is designed to accommodate 500,000 people. It will be executed in three phases, with each expected to cover five years. The first phase will include the development of the infrastructure of the whole city, including the ‘Downtown' area, housing a main hotel tower, 20 towers of 20-25 floors and the first residential district of 1,000 residential villas.
There is a precedent for this development, says Ayesh, as Tameer's second project was the Modern Industrial City in Umm Al Quwain, which was built over an area of 2 million m2 incorporating commercial industries, including shops, warehouses, labour camps and factories. But this is just the beginning of a range of mega cities the company has planned. Further projects have been signed or are underway throughout the Middle East in Saudi Arabia, Libya and Jordan.
In August, Tameer International finalised the design and masterplan of Madinat Al Majd in Jordan, a 2 million m2 integrated residential development designed by Sigma Consulting Engineers. The development will include 15,000 residential units, along with 70% of apartments, villas and semi-villas designated for limited income groups. The first phase will include 8,500 apartments, which is valued at $350 million, and the infrastructure is also complete. The project is located on the Amman - Al Mafraw Highway, near Zarqa Private University. Project manager, Projax, distributed the tender documents for the first phase of the project to qualified contractors during August to compete for the implementation of the building. It is expected that work will begin next September, with 2,000 residential units.
The project in Libya will be the largest Arab investment in the country to date and the largest single development in North Africa. Ayesh adds that other countries have been approaching the company for city developments. "The president of Senegal invited us to build a new capital on the waterfront, but until now we have not had an opportunity to get there."
The same applies for the company's interest in Libya. Madinat Al Hanaa is a $20 billion project, 25km from the capital, Tripoli. It is being developed through Tameer International and the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development through a joint venture Tatweer Property Company.
Union Properties PJSC (UP), one of the United Arab Emirates' leading property investment developers, started as Union Property Private Limited in 1987 and floated as a public limited company in 1993.
Celebrating 20 years in business, UP has completed projects for public institutions, multinational corporations, the business community and also the private sector. In 1987, UP's net assets were worth US $270,000 (AED one million; as of 2006, the company represented an annual turnover of more than $680 million, with net assets of more than $1.2 billion.
The company has grown and contributed to the changes in the city's skyline with innovative residential and commercial projects, and the success of UP is reflected in the company's steady growth, aided by a workforce of over 17,000 employees in all fields.
With over 24 projects, the company has created a portfolio of iconic landmarks in commercial, residential and leisure developments, from high-rise towers to multi-use complexes, hotels and theme parks. Green Community, UPTOWN Mirdif, Net. community and The Tower are a few of UP's developments. Projects under construction are worth $4.7 billion and are still growing rapidly.
Major current projects under construction include MotorCity, Index and Limestone House; all of which aim to set new standards of property development.
MotorCity is ‘a city within a city' that includes five project components: Dubai Autodrome that caters to motor sport and race enthusiasts; F1 Theme Park in Dubai, an ‘edutainment' destination that targets the entire family; Business Park MotorCity that is set to be the regional hub for the automobile industry and businesses; and two residential areas, UPTOWN MotorCity and Green Community MotorCity.
Index is an 80-storey multi-purpose tower with state-of-the-art offices designed for multinational corporations and luxury apartments. The construction of Index started in 2006 and is planned to be completed in 2009. It is the first of a new era of ‘intelligent buildings' that has been designed by the award-winning architects Foster & Partners, from the United Kingdom.
Limestone House features a blend of architectural décor influenced by ancient Arabia and the exotic Mediterranean, and has been designed to the time-honoured specifications of the master stonemason.
With its focus on growth at a global level, the company has strategically branded its developments in the UAE with brands such as Green Community, UPTOWN and MotorCity to generate local and international recognition as well as brand awareness for its projects. With international professionals working alongside architects, engineers, planners and consultants, UP aims to identify and invest in the business opportunities beyond the UAE.
Last year, the company signed an international agreement with Formula One Administration (FOA) to develop F1 Theme Parks worldwide.
UP's range of services include properties investment and development, project management, interior design and fit-out, property management, facilities management and MEP contracting.
UP's subsidiary companies include Dubai Autodrome, The FITOUT, Edara, ServeU, Thermo, GMAMCO, Nautilus and EMICOOL; and UP associates consist of Regus, Marriot Executive Apartments and Courtyard by Marriott.For all the latest business news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
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