How do you see your project portfolio evolving in the near future and how does this evolution fit into Bloom Holding's expansion plans?
In terms of diversification in the real estate sector, Bloom has embarked on a sustained path of growth, both vertical and horizontal, offering luxury and middle-income properties. Our diversification is visible across the region as we continue our development activities in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. We have close to 2,000 units in the pipeline and three projects under development. We are also looking at diversifying internationally, with a number of countries on our radar. For instance, we have appointed consultants in Europe, particularly Portugal, which has become an attractive destination for Europeans. Furthermore, we have identified three possibilities that we are studying carefully. We also have a large plot of land in Bucharest in southern Romania. Notably, in the US, we have two projects in the pipeline in Rochester, Minnesota. Apart from the hotel we are building there, the second project under development has become an attractive proposition due to its exclusivity and our collaboration with the Mayo Clinic, along with a number of components that make it a sought-after property. We will have the final green light to commence the construction works on the senior living part in 2018, and we hope to break ground in 4Q2018.
How has your education portfolio developed in the last few years?
In 2017, we accomplished major achievements, such as partnering with premium education providers. After the success story of our Brighton Colleges in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain, which received the best results of any school in Abu Dhabi, we are opening a new campus for Brighton College and Dwight School, a high-profile private school out of Manhattan, in Dubai in September 2018. Dwight was the first US school to offer the International Baccalaureate (IB) and is an inclusive school with high rates of acceptance to top global universities. Both schools have a third component called a center of excellence for Arabic, where the focus is on out-of-the-box approaches to teaching Arabic language, culture, and arts. The third partnership on the education front is with Mindchamps Singapore, the largest pre-school nursery in Singapore. We have opened our first nursery here in Bloom Gardens, which is now operational, and we will open the second one in Dubai in April and the third in Al Ain, with more locations underway.
How do you seek to enter the healthcare market, and what demands have you identified in Abu Dhabi's healthcare sector?
We are in the process of opening our first public clinic. Moreover, we are building an ophthalmology hospital in Dubai in collaboration with Spain's Barraquer Ophthalmology Center. We have also branched into fertility clinics, where we have one center in Al Ain and two planned in Saadiyat and Dubai. Our entry into healthcare is a well-calculated step given that it offers us the ability to learn as we progress and expand. Instead of foraying into a sector where there is considerable competition, we would rather focus on what is lacking and what adds value to society.
What is your perspective on the efforts of local authorities in terms of urban planning?
In Abu Dhabi, the Urban Planning Council (UPC) plays a fundamental role, and it does a sanity check on everything that is taking place in the Emirate. It is concerned about congestion, traffic, and volumes, which helps keep developments reasonable. In Dubai, there are 167,000 units in the pipeline to be delivered over the next five years, which is a big challenge for urban planners and the market, especially in terms of generating demand. In Abu Dhabi, things are more balanced. We work closely with UPC, and it is supportive of our idea to enter into community retail. We are not building mega malls, but talking about communities that need a small supermarket, hair salon, pharmacy, and so on within a 1km radius.