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UAE, Dubai 2013 | REAL ESTATE & CONSTRUCTION | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Ali Rashid Ahmed Lootah, Chairman of Nakheel, on recent performance and the company's philosophy, as well as its portfolio.

Ali Rashid Ahmed Lootah
BIOGRAPHY
Ali Rashid Ahmed Lootah currently holds various senior positions, including that of Vice-Chairman of Mashreq Bank. He has 27 years of experience in the Federal Government, with his last post being Assistant Deputy Minister of Public Works, where he handled several infrastructure projects, government facilities, and housing projects in the Northern Emirates. He also is a Member of the Board of Osool, Member of the UAE Civil Engineers Society, and an ex-Member of the Board of the Emirates Banks Association.

Nakheel made a net profit of AED491 million in 1Q2013, a 36% increase on 2012, with 1Q2013 revenues standing at AED2.19 billion, up 62%. How do these numbers reaffirm the ongoing support of the government, and the success of your restructuring plan?

The new Nakheel has been in business since 2010. Under our new, sustainable business plan we are focusing on customer delivery, while launching new projects and diversifying our business portfolio. We have successfully launched a number of new projects this year, and you will see a lot of activity on them from now throughout 2013, and well into 2014. We anticipate that all projects will be streamlined and ready for contractors by year-end. There will also be further announcements throughout 2013 and subsequent years.

The history of Dubai itself is not complete without Nakheel. What is the spirit behind it?

Of course, Dubai was here before Nakheel was. Nakheel benefited from being a part of Dubai, and we play a pivotal role in Dubai's real estate market. Addressing business matters at Nakheel helped to revive the entire real estate sector here. Investor and contractor confidence in Dubai real estate and in Nakheel is back. We continue to launch new projects and deliver on existing ones. We are on track to hand over 3,000 units to customers over 2013. We also continue to meet our financial obligations, as per our restructuring agreement. Additionally, we find the same people coming back to purchase from the new projects.

What is the value of Nakheel, and how does it reflect in the company's philosophy?

Nakheel is back and here to stay. However, let's not forget that the support and cooperation of the government was crucial for us to survive the crisis. The government of Dubai acknowledged the importance of Nakheel and made the decision to put the real estate sector back in business. People are now more careful and focused, which is good for stakeholders in the real estate sector. What is also helping the recovery is our move into the tourism sector. We have created a new hospitality and leisure division to focus on our growing number of hotels, beach clubs, and community recreation clubs. What makes Nakheel so special is its ability to put Dubai back on the map. Dubai is both a name and a brand, and we are honored and proud to play such a major role in helping that brand to grow.

“Investor and contractor confidence in Dubai real estate and in Nakheel is back."

Dubai is developing its brand through this Vision 2020 and capitalizing heavily on tourism. What kind of synergies do you think will be created by expanding into the leisure sector?

We announced our hospitality division after recognizing the business opportunities in this sector. The government's emphasis on tourism will give us even more encouragement. We have already announced the Dragon Mart Hotel, which is currently under construction, and the Nakheel Mall and Hotel on Palm Jumeirah.

Why are Nakheel's products attractive for those investors seeking high-end projects?

Many people want a second home; they see it as a long-term investment and a place to settle down with their families. Dubai has a clean, safe environment with excellent infrastructure. Many families are moving here, with some people commuting to and from other GCC countries for work, while choosing to live in Dubai. We are identifying niche markets in the residential sector, expanding our retail assets and moving into the leasing of residential properties. Our strategy is to increase our assets to ensure our business is strong, solid, and sustainable.