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Tue 16 Mar 2010 07:44 PM

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MAF Properties eyes $817m Syria project - CEO

Developer plans to double its portfolio by 2015, with projects across the MENA region.

UAE's Majid Al Futtaim (MAF) Properties is planning an $817 million shopping mall and office project in Syria, as it seeks new markets in the Middle East and North Africa outside an already packed Dubai.

The firm, famous for building an indoor ski slope in Dubai, and which typically enters markets with French retailer Carrefour as anchor tenant of its malls, will fund the project with its own financing and with banks in Syria, its chief executive said.

Speaking at the sidelines of the opening of the 430 store Mirdif City Centre in Dubai, Peter Walichnowski, chief executive, MAF, said: "It will be a $816.8 million project, 1 million square metres of land, and will have a mall, hotels and office buildings."

Walichnowski said MAF, which is owned by UAE's billionaire businessman Majid al Futtaim, is in talks to build large malls in Yemen and Saudi Arabia. The company launched in Dubai on Tuesday.

The company has ten operating malls in the Middle East and North Africa and plans to more than double its portfolio by 2015 with 14 new projects in the UAE, Oman, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

Walichnowski said the company's malls have shown resilience to the global economic crisis and did not see a significant drop in sales in 2009.

He said: "We'll see more positive sentiment building up this year."

Dubai's retail sales in 2009 are estimated to have dropped up to 30 percent across the emirate. However, no official retail data is available.

The emirate's property slump in 2008 led to project cancellations and job losses. Last November, Dubai announced it would delay repayment on $26 billion in debt owed by state owned Dubai World.

The emirate, part of the seven member UAE federation, is home to 40 malls including the world's largest shopping centre, Dubai Mall, which opened at the height of the global financial crisis in late 2008. (Reuters)

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