By Edward Attwood
Dubai retail giant has 'strategic view' for two or three malls in Gulf state, says CEO
Majid Al Futtaim (MAF) Properties, the firm behind three of Dubai’s biggest malls, is eyeing an expansion into the Saudi retail market.
“We have a strategic view on Saudi that one day we would like to have two or three malls there,” CEO Peter Walichnowski told Arabian Business.
“But it’s not in the current pipeline, because of a number of things including the appropriate site, being confident on the market at this point in time, our funding requirements etc.”
MAF Properties is currently in the middle of a $3.5bn plan that will see four new malls delivered in the MENA region by the end of 2013.
The firm will open another mall in Fujairah to add to its current UAE portfolio of Deira City Centre, Mall of the Emirates and Mirdif City Centre, in the first quarter of 2012.
It will launch Beirut City Centre by the end of the same year, together with Mall of Egypt in Cairo and Khams Shamat in Damascus, both of which are expected to come online before the end of 2013.
Walichnowski also said that MAF Properties was looking at the lucrative but highly competitive Abu Dhabi market, but that it had been hard to find the right site for a mall location.
“We’ve had some discussion in Abu Dhabi, but it’s very difficult to get the land that suits us,” he said.
“We’re very cautious and specific about what we will do and what we will not do and we haven’t yet come up with a site that matches our requirements. If it does, great, but if it doesn’t, we’ve got a big enough agenda anyway. It’s nice to have, but it’s not a must have.”
Last week, real estate consultancy Cushman & Wakefield predicted that Abu Dhabi is set to overtake Dubai’s saturated mall market in the next five years with one of the heaviest concentrations of retail space in the world.
“With limited pipeline supply in Dubai and Abu Dhabi shopping centre supply set to more than double, the focal point for retail in the UAE may well be set to shift,” the agency’s report stated.
It's a mad, mall world after all -not just here in the UAE, but in the rest of the GCC as well, it now appears, if MAF has its way! How much more retail space can the UAE afford? Agreed, there does not seem to be much else at this point in time that could make a great USP for the region, but it definitely seems that diversification from oil to a dependence n retail, may not be the best way forward, for a young nation and economy, that could utilise its resources much more efficiently and sin a more sustainable manner, to develop a knowledge economy, improve its manufacturing expertise, and use this interim time, as a learning experience to strengthen its market and prepare a competitive labour market for posterity.