DISTINCT ADVANTAGE

Saudi Arabia 2017 | CONSTRUCTION & REAL ESTATE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Yasser bin Faisal Al-Sharif, CEO of Jabal Omar Development Company (JODC), on new developments on the Jabal Omar Project, preserving Makkah's heritage, and future plans.

Yasser bin Faisal Al-Sharif
BIOGRAPHY
Yasser bin Faisal Al-Sharif has served as CEO of Jabal Omar Development Company (JODC) since March 2016. He chaired a number of companies, and also assumed leadership positions in the investment and financial risk field, in addition to boards of directors and committees of several listed and private companies. Al-Sharif holds a master’s degree in risk management from New York University (NYU) and a bachelor’s degree in finance from King Abdulaziz University (KAU).

What is the significance of the recent approval by the Makkah Region Development Authority to expand the construction area of the fifth, sixth, and seventh phases of the Jabal Omar Project?

The total construction area will increase to 1.66 million sqm, compared to its previous size of 1.17 million sqm. Jabal Omar will take advantage of this increase to introduce new development concepts across those phases in order to add architectural and financial values and achieve the company's growth strategy YoY. JODC is the largest real estate developer in Saudi Arabia. Founded in 2006 with SAR9.2 billion in capital and a current market cap of SAR60 billion, Jabal Omar is the sixth-largest company on the Saudi Stock Exchange (Tadawul). Currently our flagship project is in Makkah, located at the edge of the Al Haram. Our mixed-use project consists of 40 towers with a build-up area of 2.1 million sqm, including 15 five-star hotels, over 100,000sqm in malls, and approximately 3,000 residential units. Our vision is to make Jabal Omar the main destination for pilgrims and visitors of Makkah by creating innovative concepts and introducing new spaces and uses that will positively impact the pilgrimage experience.

How does JODC meld the demand for landmark, commercially viable real estate projects that are open to foreign investment with the sacred and traditional nature of Makkah?

Foreign investment is a cornerstone of driving the Saudi economy to the next level. Direct international investments, considering compliance, will fuel demand in the real estate markets and enhance liquidity and contribute to the overall growth of non-oil sectors such as residential, hospitality, and retail. In addition, such foreign investment can also contribute to an array of real estate assets and portfolios across Saudi Arabia. Our shareholders include government entities, charity foundations, large institutional investors, as well as high-net-worth individuals, a base that gives JODC a distinct advantage to attract international and regional operators. This in turn allows us to consider our strategic position and prepare for the future. Nonetheless, the JODC Board of Directors and management take into consideration the sensitivity of the location and consider sharia compliance in all situations. In addition, we strive to maintain the touch of our local culture in the architecture of Jabal Omar project. We recently conducted a limited architectural design competition between four of the world's top architectural firms for our upcoming seven-star Four Seasons Hotel adjacent to the Holy Mosque. Foster + Partners won the competition with a superbly contextual design that fully respected the sanctity of Islam's most holy site. Moreover, we worked closely with the architects to achieve a design solution founded on providing guests with “luxury with humility.”

What does the future hold for JODC?

We completed Phase I of the project in 2Q2017 with the opening of Jabal Omar Hilton Convention, offering more than 2,700 five-star rooms, two shopping malls located on Ibrahim Alkhalil Street, and the largest convention center in Makkah. We always aim high; our strategy is to be the national, world-class urban developer. Our strategy has proven successful this year, and we registered the highest profit in our history and in record time. With expansion in mind for our business, we have our eyes on other potential areas in Makkah, Medina, and surrounding areas. In addition, Jabal Omar is working on several investment packages that will attract the most astute buyer. We will soon announce the launch of Al Bawaba-Jabal Omar, which is a hotel operated by The Address, allowing buyers to invest in what is arguably the best investment on earth, based on real estate fundamentals. We currently have two showrooms, Jeddah and Riyadh, with interactive models that allow interested parties to look at and experience the project and select and reserve their property with confidence and ease. Our Chief of Sales and Marketing Officer David Nezar Awayda welcomes early registration in this project; this will allow buyers to select their preference no matter if it is for investment or personal use.