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Thu 28 Feb 2008 10:05 AM

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Gulf developers target Syrian property market

Diar and Emaar to invest $450mn, part of emerging markets expansion.

Two large Gulf property companies plan to invest $450 million in Syria as part of their expansion in emerging markets, executives said on Wednesday.

Qatar's state-owned Diar will build a $350 million resort on the Syrian coast while Emaar Properties of the UAE signed a $100 million venture with Cham Holding, which is controlled by Syrian tycoon Rami Makhlouf, on Wednesday.

Diar Chief Executive Ghanim Al-Saad gave no start date for the project on a 244,000 square-metre beachfront plot. He told reporters construction would take three years to complete.

Diar has issued a tender for building marine works for the resort near the city of Latakia.

Al-Saad said Diar had $30 billion invested in property worldwide, which it planned to double with expansion focusing on the US, Singapore, Vietnam and Cambodia.

Gulf investors announced a number of megaprojects in Syria in the last three years that have not started as the 2006 Israeli invasion of southern Lebanon and a 2007 strike on Syria raised the level of political uncertainty in the region.

Emaar laid the foundation stone in June 2006 for a $500 million residential complex near Damascus but construction has not begun. UAE construction company Arabtec was awarded a contract in January of this year to build part of the project.

Emaar's new project aims to develop neighbourhoods in Damascus where illegal housing was rampant.

Investors have also struggled to clear regulations and bureaucratic hurdles in Syria, although the government has relaxed laws restricting private investment.

Syria's economy underwent heavy nationalisation when the ruling Baath Party took power in a 1963 coup. Gradual liberalisation measures have helped attract a limited inflow of capital, mostly from the Gulf and Syrian expatriates. (Reuters)

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