By Alexander Dziadosz
Saudi market offers 'significant opportunities and is driven by good fundamentals.'
Jones Lang LaSalle Inc, a property investment and advisory firm, plans to double its staff in Saudi Arabia within a year as it expands its Middle East business, an executive said on Wednesday.
The firm, which opened an office in Cairo this month, will also build up its Casablanca office and sees potential in Jordan and Syria, its Middle East and North Africa chief executive Thierry Loue told Reuters.
Though complex bureaucracy and scarce mortgages hinder property markets in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, their young and growing populations have been viewed as an opportunity for Gulf developers that saw projects halted after the financial crisis.
In an interview, Loue said: "We believe the Saudi market offers significant opportunities and is driven by good fundamentals ... We will probably double our operation within the next 12 months."
The Chicago based firm has its regional headquarters in Dubai and offices in Abu Dhabi, Riyadh and Jeddah. This month it said it would open new offices in the region without specifying where.
Property prices in Dubai have plunged some 60 percent since their peaks in 2008 and billions of dollars worth of projects have been put on hold or cancelled.
Asked how long it would take for the emirate's real estate market to recover, Loue said: "It's going to vary significantly depending on the asset class and type of products and so forth, but we're talking years."
Nevertheless, Dubai will continue to appeal to regional developers thanks to its relatively developed infrastructure and legal framework, Loue said.
Loue, on a visit to Cairo, said it was unlikely big developers stung by the financial crisis would enter Egypt soon, but investors such as sovereign wealth and pension funds were showing more interest in Egyptian commercial space.
Swelling demand for offices and industrial space in Egypt, fuelled by an influx of international firms over the last half-decade, is a boon for Jones Lang LaSalle, which leases and locates commercial property for clients, he said.
Egypt's real estate market hosts regional developers such as Emaar Properties as well as Egyptian firms like Sixth of October Development and Investment Company (SODIC), Palm Hills Developments and Talaat Moustafa Group.
Loue said Jones Lang LaSalle aims to run its Sudan and Libya work out of Cairo within about a year.
He said: "We've been working in Sudan quite a bit,"
He added: "Khartoum is evolving, believe it or not." (Reuters)