MALL TOGETHER NOW

Kuwait 2019 | REAL ESTATE & CONSTRUCTION | INTERVIEW

Mabanee aims to build world-class malls, hotels and lifestyle destinations across the Gulf, using the latest in climate control technology.

Waleed Alsharian
BIOGRAPHY
Waleed Alsharian holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering from North Carolina Agriculture & Technical State University. Alsharian was appointed CEO of Mabanee Company in 2006. He has over 31 years of real estate development, operation, manufacturing, project planning, property management, investment, maintenance, sales, and marketing. He is a board member of the Kuwait Metro Rapid Transport Company and a member of the Kuwait Society of Engineers.

What business strategies is Mabanee relying on to maintain its position in the market while increasing its market share?

At present, we are focusing on shopping malls and maintaining diversity by trying to improve our position in the hospitality sector that is linked with the mall business. We are trying to integrate hotels with every mall we build. In fact, according to our research, hotels linked to malls have approximately 25% higher occupancy rates. We are also working to introduce office buildings and residential developments into these projects; the idea is to create a community. Even though we have not operated any hotels yet, we are currently building two hotels in Kuwait City, one in Bahrain, four in Riyadh, and three in Khobar as well as planning to build one in Sharjah. All of them will range from three-star hotels to luxury five-star accommodations.

In what ways is The Avenues differentiating itself from other comparable shopping malls in the region?

The Avenues Kuwait is often compared to the big shopping malls in Dubai or The Avenues in other Gulf countries. In the Avenues, we annually count more than 40 million visitors that come to visit our 1,100 stores. Hence, we are one of the largest malls in terms of visitor and store numbers. In addition, since we opened Phase IV, we have experienced around 20-25% growth in the number of visitors, many of them coming from the GCC region. In addition, in order to differentiate ourselves from the competition, we are creating entertainment and lifestyle projects, not just shopping malls. We want people to go and have coffee, meet up with friends, stay in the hotel, and engage in a certain lifestyle, not just go shopping.

In light of Mabanee's projects in Riyadh and Khobar as well as its introduction to the Kuwait Stock Exchange, to what extent can the company expect increasing levels of investment?

Our project in Riyadh contains one of the largest malls and built up areas in the world at 1.7 million sqm. It will contain five towers of around 36 floors each and a shopping mall of approximately 400,000 sqm of leaseable area. There will be 1,350 stores and a car park with 18,000 spots. Moreover, there will be one office building and four hotels, part of which will be residential. The construction cost for the total project will be USD3.2 billion, excluding the fit out. Our Khobar project is also huge, at around 60% of the size and the cost of the Riyadh project. We would like to introduce a mixed-use project, including an office building, three hotels, residential units, and a shopping mall with approximately 180,000sqm of leaseable area. With both projects, we intend to double our net profit after four to six years, which is something our investors look forward to. In fact, we have a conference with our investors from all over the world after each quarterly financial result. In the Kuwait stock market, investors sometimes only take notice of the cash dividends on their stocks and because we have had projects under construction, our dividends were considered low. This is why our stock has not picked up; however, this is not something to be concerned about because the high amount of capital is tied up in the construction process, limiting the number of dividends ratio. The population around Riyadh will rise to 10 million within the next five years and while there are a few malls, they are not like the project we are going to build.