Jan. 12, 2015

George Kostas

UAE, Dubai

George Kostas

CEO, Majid Al Futtaim Properties


George Kostas was appointed as the CEO of Properties at Majid Al Futtaim in June 2013. Properties develop, own and manage world-class shopping malls throughout the MENA region. These are supported by best-in-class hotels and fully integrated communities. Prior to joining Majid Al Futtaim, Kostas was the Managing Director of Brookfield Multiplex Australasia. In this role, he oversaw the Construction and Development and the Engineering and Infrastructure divisions operating in Australia. Kostas sat on the board and was the Deputy Chairman of, Urban Taskforce Australia as well as a National Director of the Property Council of Australia. Kostas has a degree in Economics from the University of Sydney and is a Fellow of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors.

Can you describe the new shopping mall in the media production zone?

It is an exciting project for us from a number of perspectives. Firstly, it is our first new mall in Dubai since Mirdif City Centre, which opened its doors about three years ago. This mall is different in being a smaller community scheme; this is a new product for us and one we are very keen to rollout across our entire network. It is our first new investment in Dubai for a number of years, and not what we are traditionally known for. This speaks volumes for what we believe are the opportunities here for the UAE and the broader Middle East as the market evolves and continues to mature. This is an emerging region and ours an emerging economy, where as a whole there is a pronounced growth of an emergent middle class. This social group is starting en masse to enjoy the benefit of their newfound wealth and tend to spend on upgrading homes, cars, and overall lifestyle, with a fondness for retail purchases. As this continues to mature, you then find an increased demand for more convenience retailing, and this is what we think is going to be an exciting development across the whole region for us to exploit.

How is your business strategy focusing on the middle class?

Our strategy actually has a broad focus. Branding for us is an opportunity to state to the world what we ultimately stand for. Our vision is very simple and succinct: to create great moments for everyone every day, and is a very strong consumer-centric vision. Everything that we do, whatever business we are in, whatever property we open, has to be about the customer. It is bringing forward a promise about how we approach our business, which is consumer-centric. It has to be about what people want. This is what we see people want here in Dubai, and we are responding accordingly.

What new projects are you planning for 2014?

Across the board, we have strong aspirations to grow in diverse sectors, both with malls and hotels. In the UAE itself, and specifically in Dubai, we have already committed to AED3 billion worth of projects. We are undergoing an extensive expansion, refurbishment, and remerchandising of Mall of the Emirates. We completed Phase I in February of 2014, and are well into Phase II, which will open in March of 2015. The next phase is to add another luxury hotel to the mall to further strengthen its position in the market and improve customer experience. In addition to that, we have expansion plans for Sharjah City Centre. We are also at the advanced stages of planning to expand Ajman City Centre. We have a further site in Sharjah, where we are currently planning to develop another super regional mall. That will be delivered in stages, and we will probably start with a mall of 50,000-60,000 sqm, and over time we expect it to reach 150,000 sqm.

Which sector yields the greatest profit and opportunities?

Our malls business clams the lion's share. It has been established the longest, and is how set out originally. Our aspiration for the other businesses, however, is to match the growth of our malls arm. We have been growing the overall business over the past 22 years at an average of 46% annually. Of course, that slows down as you get larger, but we are still growing by at least 12%-14% per annum, and we expect this to continue over the next couple of years. Our hotels business has also seen very strong growth, as has tourism. I expect it to remain strong up until 2020, and we are patently benefiting from this. In fact we foresee double-digit growth across our portfolio. We are getting to the point where we cannot accommodate any more people at our hotels. We are running at 95% occupancy across our entire portfolio of 11 hotels.