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Thu 19 Apr 2012 11:48 AM

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EXCLUSIVE: Mall developer mulls 'Ski Riyadh' project

Majid Al Futtaim could develop Ski Dubai type attraction in Saudi capital Riyadh

EXCLUSIVE: Mall developer mulls 'Ski Riyadh' project
Coming soon... Ski Riyadh?
EXCLUSIVE: Mall developer mulls 'Ski Riyadh' project
(Bloomberg)

Middle East mall developer Majid Al Futtaim (MAF) could follow up Ski Dubai with a major ski slope attraction in Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh.

In an exclusive interview with Arabian Business, the firm's CEO of property Peter Walichnowski said the company is targeting Saudi Arabia as a potential market for its next mega mall, as it strives to double its number of shopping centres within the next five to seven years.

“We don’t have any more ski slopes planned yet, but who knows, we’ve been planning on some of our larger malls, maybe in Saudi Arabia,” he said.

“It’s a concept we know works, and how to run it profitably, so it could pop up again.

“Saudi is where we believe that the market is right for us to go in and build a number of malls, particularly in Riyadh. That is where we’re likely to see the first projects announced. We would certainly want to secure at least one regional mall or super-regional mall, and on the back of that we would look at the some of the smaller malls.”

Majid Al Futtaim currently operates 11 shopping centres across the Middle East, and is embarking on a 10-year expansion plan during which time it aims to double the size of its business.

Its existing portfolio includes six malls in the UAE, including Mall of the Emirates, home of Ski Dubai, in addition to two centres in Oman, two in Egypt and one in Bahrain.

The company's newest mall, Fujairah City Centre, was opened earlier this month.

Projects under construction include a mixed-use community with a shopping district in Damascus in Syria, as well as a third mall in Egypt, set to house the firm’s second ski-slope, Ski Egypt.

Over the next three years, it plans to invest around US$1bn annually on new mall developments, which will include a mix of super-regional, community and neighbourhood concepts.

Asked about target locations, the developer said key markets will be Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Abu Dhabi, whilst smaller projects could also occur in emirates such as Ras Al Khaimah and Umm al-Quwain.

In Abu Dhabi the Dubai-based firm is hoping to secure a site before the end of the year. 

Kuwait and Qatar will also be on the radar, Walichnowski said, though these remain difficult to penetrate due to the high price of land, lack of available space and existing competition.

“The GCC is a big market for us, it is clearly attractive for us to be in every city in the GCC, but that’s at the macro level,” he said.

“At the micro level you’ve got to see what’s already there, the planning restraints, what land is available, the price of land. When you overlay those kinds of filters, Kuwait is quite a difficult place to get into for a large mall. Qatar is also difficult, there are a lot of malls already there, and the price of land is quite expensive. So we continue to talk search and meet people in those markets but they’re more difficult for us to plan.”

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GCC resident 8 years ago

Copy, copy, copy. First the Burj Khalifa, now Ski Dubai.

zooey 8 years ago

Who is copying? Do you really think Riyadhis want to go skiing? Here? Tell Majid al Futtaim that we do NOT. Where will they bring the snow from? (only joking) We don't even have enough WATER, never mind snow. Ecologically wasteful of our pitifully small resources.