LIVE: Arabian Business at Cityscape Global 2012

All the latest updates and announcements from this year's edition of Dubai's biggest property showcase
LIVE: Arabian Business at Cityscape Global 2012
By Anil Bhoyrul
Tue 02 Oct 2012 11:41 AM

16:00: Right, that's it folks. Things are starting to wind down now so Claire and Shane are heading back from Cityscape after a long-day filing exclusive upon exclusive. Please check ArabianBusiness.com throughout the evening and over the coming days for more Cityscape-related news.

15:50: More news from Claire Valdini: Kevin Morgan, CEO of Crystal Lagoons, has told her that the firm is looking to announce between US$2bn and US$3bn in new projects across the GCC. If you've not heard of the company, they're known for building mammoth-sized swimming pools/artificial lake-type things. You can see some of them here.

15:45: It's all gone a bit quiet for the time being, so we're just going to rattle through some of today's news announcements outside of Cityscape: sources have told Reuters that Qatar Airways is to join the oneworld alliance, just days after CEO Akbar Al Baker denied the very same; staying with aviation, India's Kingfisher Airlines has suspended all of its flights through to Thursday on the back of a labour dispute; while Abu Dhabi property firms Aldar and Surouh have said they are in "advanced talks" over their ongoing US$15bn merger.

15:25: Another dispatch from Claire Valdini: Falconcity has today announced its new project, Taj Arabia. We can't tell you much more at the moment but we've been reassured full details are on the way very soon. Claire can tell us though she's just received a very nice Falconcity-branded mug. Enjoy it, Claire. She's just about to chat to the chairman so I'm sure he'll tell her all about it.

15:00: Abu Dhabi-based developer TDIC, Shane Mcginley tells us, has proudly announced that its Saadiyat Island project is "booming", with 98 percent of its St Regis apartments currently leased and 80 percent of it Saadiyat villas sold in time for the November 2012 handover. Well done, indeed. This isn't enough for the baying masses, it seems, who are much more interested in what's going on with the much-delayed Louvre and Guggenheim museums...

14:50: Claire Valdini has been taking to execs from Injaz Development Company, who seem to be very excited about the Saudi Arabian housing market. They will sell four clusters in their Al Marina project valued at SAR1.3bn (US$346.6m) by the end of next year, and will start selling plots of land to individuals on their Al Gamra project in the next three months.

They are also in talks with a private land owner in KSA to buy a 4m sq ft plot of land for SAR1.8bn on which they will build 2,000 residential units. They are also expecting the new KSA mortgage law to give the local market a spike.

14:45: Another interesting snippet from Al Khayat. Meydan says it is talking with the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) in Dubai about pushing forward with a metro link for the race course. That'll certainly be handy come the Dubai World Cup.

14:40: In equally important news, Al Khayat says that recent queues for new Nakheel and Emaar projects are a realistic indicator of how demand for Dubai property is hotting up again. Emaar recently began sales on its The Address, The BLVRD, in Downtown Dubai, which consists of both hotel rooms and serviced apartments. Not to be outdone, a few days later Nakheel claimed it was turning people away from its office when it launched sales of 360 new villas at its Jumeirah Park development.

14:30: Mohammed Nasser Al Khayat, commercial director, Meydan, has just told Shane Mcginley that the firm is looking to utilise its venue for more music concerts in order to rival Abu Dhabi's Yas Arena. He says that Meydan has already booked a number of blockbuster music acts, starting with... wait for it... Rihanna. Official announcement regarding the US pop sensation due soon, Al Khayat says.

Coverage continued on next page

14:15: We've just heard that fact sheets about rather swish looking condos at the Palazzo Versace Dubai are being handed out at the event's fancy VIP lunch. Absent though is the nugget of information potential investors are most eager for: when the things will actually be built.

13:55: Another scoop from Mr Shane Mcginley. He's just spoken to Masood Al Awar, CEO of Abu Dhabi-based Tasweek Real Estate Development and Marketing on the sidelines of Cityscape. He said the firm is wrapping up a US$250m distressed asset fund set up in 2009. Al Awar says he's happy as it is set to deliver a return of 15 percent to 20 percent.

In case you're unfamiliar with Tasweek, the company is famous in the UAE for selling the first ever freehold property in the country.

13:40: Things have slowed down a bit at Cityscape itself for the time being, but Nick Maclean of CB Richard Ellis in a recent call with one of the Arabian Business team gave some interesting insights. He said that real estate activity in Dubai for the "third quarter 2012 is running at about twice that of 3Q2011". Maclean also said that "the majority of activity is mainly in five locations: Downtown Dubai, Palm Jumeirah, Emirates Living, Dubai Marina and Jumeirah", with other areas seeing "relatively little momentum".

13:20: We've received several eyewitness reports that Ali Rashed Lootah, chairman of master developer Nakheel, has been spotted at Cityscape and apparently he's not looking happy. Perhaps he's read this morning's story on Nakheel's decision to increase guest fees by 60 percent on the Palm Jumeirah. If you haven't read the article yet, you can do so now here.

13:12: Shane McGinley has just quizzed Qara'a on whether European budget carriers easyJet and Ryanair could at some stage fly to the new terminal at DWC. His answer? Yes he does....

13:00: Rather than be stuck with Kristian for lunch, Shane McGinley has also been out and about, chatting with the COO of Dubai Aviation City, Rashid Bu Qara’a. He has just revealed that they plan to develop part of the new Dubai World Central (DWC) airport as a private jet hub and move the private jet business from Dubai International Airport to DWC. They are, he confirms, in talks with a private jet anchor tenant. Construction of the private jet hub started seven months ago and the first operator is expected on site within five months.

More from Qara’a… he says that Emirates Flying Academy is to train up to 400 new pilots a year and to be operational within 24 months.

12.45: Barwa is also looking at proposals for a theme park in Qatar, which would be based on an existing brand. Hmmm… interesting, any guesses? DohaLand? DohaDisney? QatariButlins?

Coverage continued on next page

12.40: Claire Valdini should right now be treating her husband to a birthday lunch (happy birthday Kristian), but no… she has ditched him for a chat with the Deputy CEO of Qatar-based Barwa. And just as well… Ahmad Abdullah Al-Abdullah has been telling her that house prices in Qatar are up by an incredible 10 percent to 15 percent so far this year. But… and it’s a big but… he thinks prices will stay flat in 2013. Which I guess is a good thing because nobody wants another out of control boom (apart from speculators).

He also says - and this is a very interesting thought - that Barwa may partner with the Qatari government to offer low cost housing for other Arab countries such as Syria, Jordan and Egypt.

12:00: Our reporters are making their way to other interviews so more to come shortly. Rumours are circling that indebted developer Nakheel will announce some new project for 2013. The firm has started Cityscape by slapping visitors to the Palm Jumeirah beaches with a 30 percent hike in fees. You can read the full story here.

Also worth reading the comments in Shane McGinley’s story earlier today which suggests that the demand for commercial property in Dubai is back to 2007 levels.

Really? I’m not convinced. Though I would admit that most experts I have spoken to say it is. In fact, one guy who I won’t name – but is one of Dubai’s most respected property bosses – told me last week that next year will see a boom in off plan sales for new residential developments. I guess Emaar’s project launch last week, which sold out in a day at AED2,650 per square foot, suggests he is right.

11:50: More from Maurizo Grilli, who is bigging up Southern Europe to Claire – he suggests cities like Madrid, Barcelona and Athens are good long term investments. Having said that, Dimitris Papachristou, the chairman and CEO of BuildUp SA has just told Claire that if the Greek government doesn't make the right calls very soon, Europe’s real estate market will tank.

Continuing the European debate, Obama fan Jammal Hammond suggests to Claire that Europe’s real estate market has yet to bottom out, and political issues make it difficult to know where to invest.

11:45: Claire Valdini has been talking to the experts. Maurizo Grilli, senior strategist at Grosvenor UK, says it will be a tough year ahead for the real estate sector but the good news is things could be worse. The US is struggling, emerging markets are slowing down but supply in developed markets is low – which at least means rents are stabilising.

However, Jamal Hammond, director at Milestone Capital, tells Claire that the US market is an improved story right now with construction increasing and home sales rising. “We feel the US has come out of the real estate crisis, and this trend will continue for the foreseeable future,” he said.

I guess it’s fair to say that Jamal will be voting for Obama next month.

Coverage continued on next page

11.40: Well it’s not hugely busy yet in terms of crowd numbers, but that doesn’t mean a lack of big deals. Shane McGinley is at the Meydan press conference, which has announced the launch of the Hadaeq Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid project. This is to be a large “green living” development named after Dubai’s Ruler. It will have canals, lagoons, horse riding trails and resemble gardens in Europe.

Also launched is the Meydan Tower, a new skyscraper which will have Sky Gardens, nine pools and the 'Club House' - a new rooftop nightclub in Dubai with an infinity pool for night owls!

11:38: Right, are you sitting down comfortably? Then get up, get up get up! Yes, Cityscape is back in Dubai!

Okay, it never went away, but let’s be honest, the last few years have been rather grim for the property industry. Back in 2007, you had to queue for hours outside just to get look at all those mega projects that were being launched… Trump International Tower, The Waterfront,  The Universe… ahem, that’s enough about Nakheel for now, let’s move on.

And move on is what the industry seems to have done. Just about everyone agrees the worst is over since the dark days of 60 percent falls in property prices. You want proof? Last week Emaar’s new project The Address, The BLVRD, sold out in a single day - and at around a staggering AED2650 per square foot.

That goes some way to explain the fact this year’s event will see 20,000 participants, with 40 percent more exhibitors crowding the floor compared to last year.

My colleagues Claire Valdini and Shane McGinley are wondering around the halls and will be bringing you live coverage from the event here in Dubai. Apart from four big conferences, the real buzz is over what new projects will be launched.  Meydan has already kicked this off with a big announcement this morning - details shortly.

On top of that, we will have comments from the industry’s top CEOs, experts, analysts and for good measure, a couple of dodgy estate agents. 

So stay logged on for the latest news as we get it…

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