TBY talks to Nasser Al Sheibani, CEO of Al Mouj, on key projects, attracting investment, and marketing strategies.

Nasser Al Sheibani
Nasser Al Sheibani was recently appointed CEO of Al Mouj Muscat, Oman’s pioneering Integrated Tourism Complex (ITC), after serving as CFO of the Company since 2014. Al Sheibani has over 15 years of experience in property development, hotels, banking, and oil and gas sectors. He is also the Non-Executive Director of Oman Investment Finance Company and an Audit Committee Member. Graduating with a bachelor’s degree in finance from Sultan Qaboos University, Al Sheibani attended various executive education and leadership programs, and has recently graduated from the National CEO program delivered by IMD & McKinsey.

Al Mouj announced contracts worth USD80 million for the development of The Gardens project. What are some of the details and plans in place for this new development?

The Gardens and Marasa are Al Mouj's latest apartment developments, consisting of of 474 high-end residences next to Al Mouj Marina. The projects are currently under construction and will be ready by the end of 2017. These two precincts are not only unique because of their lush green surrounds, but also because they are close to Almouj Marina, Almouj Golf, and The Walk. Located in the heart of Muscat, it will be a high-end shopping and dining hub bringing unmatched value proposition for investors and home-owners. At Al Mouj we always try to innovate and break the boundaries with our work. Our focus is on lifestyle and not only selling brick and mortar.

How is the Kempinski Hotel development progressing and how will the addition of this hotel bring new benefits to Al Mouj?

The Kempinski Hotel is set to open in 2017 and it is a 400-room hotel and service apartment development. We also have the Shaza Hotel adjacent to Al Mouj Marina, a 200-room development which will also open in 2017. Hospitality is the last component of our project; we have leisure, sports, retail, and shopping centers alongside our premium residential complex. The hotels are the last part of the mix, and they will support all our other assets, as well as increase the tourism sector.

What steps has Al Mouj taken to attract more buyers from outside Oman?

Al Mouj is an integrated tourism complex (ITC); its key differentiating factor is its ability to sell to non-Omanis. Since 2005-2006, we have been actively marketing the project in Oman and have been successful selling around 2,200 properties. In 2016, we took the step of actively marketing the development outside Oman in Africa, the GCC, Iran, Iraq, and India. We have held roadshows in each of these markets and have been successful. We sold the most expensive villa of the complex in East Africa and the most expensive apartment, a penthouse, to an Indian buyer. The real estate market has receded a bit due to economic factors like low oil prices. Despite that, at Al Mouj we have seen a 30% increase over 2016 sales. This is partly due to our brand and the quality lifestyle we provide, but it is also because of our new strategy of going outside Oman to find clients. This means we are not reliant solely on the local market and this is what all ITC projects across the country need to do. We have found that it is a learning process for clients, too.

Do you find business primarily coming from international investors or mostly locals?

Our ratio of local and international investors has been 50-50. Previously, many of the non-Omanis buying from us were residents. Now, we start to market Oman abroad. For example, we had one German buyer who bought an apartment after seeing our roadshow in Kenya and subsequently coming to Oman to see the development. As of 2016, 30% of our sales have been to people who have never been in Oman before. Al Mouj is the first developer to go out of the market to sell its properties. Oman is beautiful, and buyers are looking for high-quality assets like the ones we are building. More marketing about the country and Muscat is required.

What are your expectations for the next 12 months?

In general, the real estate industry has seen a challenging year in 2016 and this is expected to continue in most parts of 2017, with an expectation of a starting rebound in the last quarter of next year. Al Mouj will continue to rely not just on the local market, but also on regional markets.