STRONG AGAIN

UAE, Dubai 2014 | REAL ESTATE & CONSTRUCTION | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Nicholas Maclean, Managing Director of CBRE Middle East, on the resilience of the real estate business in Dubai.

Nicholas Maclean
BIOGRAPHY
Nicholas Maclean joined St Quintin as a graduate in 1987, and following qualification specialized in providing real estate taxation, landlord and tenant, and valuation advice, he was appointed head of the firm’s Professional Services Department in 1995 and made Partner in 1996. Following St Quintin’s merger with Insignia Richard Ellis, he became head of the Rating and Taxation Department and a member of the City Business Team Management Board. Maclean was appointed Managing Director of CBRE Middle East in 2004.

What is CBRE's strategy for 2014?

It should be an interesting year, as we have been enjoying a pronounced recovery in certain Middle Eastern markets. We are aiming to expand our existing team and add new service lines, and we are actively looking at new locations from which to operate during the rest of the year.

In which markets have you witnessed a recovery, and which markets and service lines do you plan to expand?

The most active location is Dubai, where we see significant recovery in terms of rental and capital values and the arrival of investors, particularly from the Far East. Whilst the level of corporate real estate activity is not quite at 2007 levels, 2013 was nonetheless a strong year. I expect this level to be surpassed in 2014.

Construction is expected to have grown by 9% from 2013 to 2014. What is your forecast for Dubai's real estate sector?

The construction sector is likely to enjoy a prosperous period over the next few years, with strong investment in real estate and infrastructural projects from both the private and public sectors. Abu Dhabi and Dubai both have ambitious infrastructural expansion plans proposed and strong business sentiment is stimulating new demand for commercial and residential real estate. Additional events, such as the World Expo and FIFA World Cup, the general growth in population and tourism, and the construction of real estate sectors, are the ingredients for strong medium-term growth.

Which of CBRE's products are the most profitable for you?

CBRE's Middle East business is extremely well balanced between professional services and transactional services, and we are also lucky enough to have an extremely loyal client base across both these divisions. We see strong growth ahead particularly in respect of our commercial agency teams, our property management business, and our project management business. Our valuation and research teams also continue to be hungry for new professionals. Last year was a great one for us as all departments achieved growth, and I expect 2014 to be even better.

What kinds of projects do you undertake with the private sector?

Our client base is split evenly between corporate and public sector work. The work that we do for the government entity is a form of consultancy, whereby we inform them on developments happening in the rest of the world. The fact that CBRE has roughly 500 offices around the world means that if there is a requirement to benchmark, for instance, or to look at some successful markets and at how the model would work in the Middle East, we can do this relatively easily. With regard to the private sector, we take time to look at retail and identify opportunities there. Retail is expending broadly and performing well by international standards. A key aspect of our business is looking at how retail businesses can pursue new routes into the market.

For 2014, what will be the highlight for your investors in Dubai?

We see an increasing number of investors from all over the world targeting Dubai, but this investment capital is partly frustrated by the lack of commercial investment stock available. I hope, therefore, that with Dubai's creation of an inbound investment office there will be a greater number of investment opportunities available to stimulate new capital flows into the Emirates.