DEVELOPER OF CHOICE

Abu Dhabi 2019 | URBAN PLANNING, REAL ESTATE & CONSTRUCTION | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Talal Al Dhiyebi, CEO of Aldar Properties, on its growth strategy, its joint venture with Emaar, and creating communities in the Emirates.

Talal Al Dhiyebi
BIOGRAPHY
Talal Al Dhiyebi is the CEO of Aldar Properties, having previously held the position of Chief Development Officer, Executive Director of Asset Management since the merger with Sorouh in 2013. He held a number of senior positions at Aldar and currently serves on the boards of several companies including Abu Dhabi Motorsports Management, Al Jazira Capital, and Aldar Academies. Al Dhiyebi is a graduate of electrical engineering (Honours) from the University of Melbourne.

Can you walk us through the vision and the growth strategy that will drive Aldar in the future?

The essence of our brand is that Aldar is home. We are a multi-sector developer with a rich history that over the years has built everything from residential communities to shopping malls, schools, and hospitality assets. However, for every single one of those assets, it is extremely important that the person feels at home, with the term “home" bearing different meanings according to who one is and what they do. Driven by the desire to create memorable moments and spaces to live, play, and work in, we decided to move from just building and selling properties to also managing communities. Today, the company is split 50% between a lifestyle developer of choice and 50% as a landlord of choice, guaranteeing a strong balance sheet through recurring income on an annual basis. This serves as a buffer to navigate the various economic cycles the real estate sector goes through and to capitalize on opportunities out there in the market to create value for our shareholders. For example, we recently completed a successful AED3.7-billion (USD1 billion) acquisition worth of strategic assets from the Tourism and Development Investment Company, which complemented our offerings in terms of location both under a development and a management point of view, under a 90-day period.

What does Aldar's joint venture with Emaar Properties mean for the broader UAE real estate market?

Dubai-based Emaar is a larger, more experienced entity with a wide global presence, but it had the ambition to develop a flagship asset in Abu Dhabi on Saadiyat Island: a mixed-use retail, residential, and overall lifestyle-led community between the Louvre of Abu Dhabi, the Guggenheim, and Sheikh Zayed Museum on an amazing island surrounded by water. At the same time, our goal was to develop a strategic asset of residential units on the beach in Dubai, across the coast in between that whole Jumeriah Beach Residence and Dubai marina area and The Palm. We saw an opportunity for the two companies to partner and co-develop, co-design, co-manage, co-sell, and co-brand, establishing this JV worth AED30 billion (USD8.2 billion). This deal should send a message that, given the rapid pace at which the world is changing, there is a need to have the best of the best compete on a global scale, whether that comes through developers, architects, project managers, contracts, technology providers, or interior designers. We are extremely excited about the possibilities of this partnership and hope to form further partnerships both with Emaar and other potential partners.

How will the urban landscape of Dubai and Abu Dhabi develop?

There is a huge opportunity to invest in this mid-area, and the key will be to marry the growth of the two cities and target the affordable segment with the concept of creating communities. At Cityscape in 2018, we launched a new Alghadeer community, which currently has over 2,000 homes strategically located between Abu Dhabi and Dubai in a relatively underdeveloped area, but where both cities are growing. Abu Dhabi has been developing Khalifa City, Al Raha Beach, Yas Island, and KIZAD, all of which are moving onto Dubai, not to mention the expansion also coming in the other direction in the western region with the nuclear plant and refineries. Dubai has also been moving that way with the expansion of Jebel Ali, the new Al Maktoum Airport, and the theme parks. From an infrastructure point of view, a further concrete sign of convergence is given by the recent extension of Mohammed Bin Zayed highway, while our agreement with Hyperloop represents the willingness to explore futuristic technology. By connecting infrastructure, mobility, and communities we seek to attract both institutional and foreign investors that have a clear idea of the country's wide economic and urban planning vision.