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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 13 December 2018

$2bn luxury homes project in Islamabad launches for sale

‘Eighteen’ is backed by Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris’ Ora Developers, as well as Saif Group and Kohistan Builders and Developers

Naguib Sawiris, the chairman of Orascom Telecom, re-launched his property unit Gemini as Ora Developers at Cityscape Global in Dubai this week Diego Levy/Bloomberg
Naguib Sawiris, the chairman of Orascom Telecom, re-launched his property unit Gemini as Ora Developers at Cityscape Global in Dubai this week Diego Levy/Bloomberg

A $2 billion residential project in Pakistan, backed by Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris’ Ora Developers and two other parties, launched for sale to wealthy Pakistani expatriates in the UAE on Saturday, following the rupee’s second decline against the US dollar in the space of four months.

“Ora, together with its highly respected partners, will be creating a new lifestyle destination in a world-class capital city … It will revolutionise real estate projects in Pakistan,” said Mr Sawiris, chairman of Ora Developers.

The scheme, called Eighteen, will feature 2,000 homes comprising one- to seven-bedroom villas and apartments, a golf course, shopping mall, boutique hotel, medical facilities, educational unit and business district across 2.77 million square metres of land in the 18th District, 20 minutes south-west of downtown Islamabad.

Mr Sawiris, who has made other investments in Pakistan including in Orascom Telecom Media and Technology Holding, holds 60 per cent of a joint venture with local firms Kohistan Builders and Developers and Saif Group, which is owned by Pakistan’s prestigious Saifullah family.

Pakistan’s real estate sector has seen an uplift in recent years as armed conflict has receded. House prices have more than doubled since 2011, Bloomberg reported last month, citing property website Zameen.com.

Meanwhile, a housing shortage of approximately 10 million units, according to the World Bank, together with population growth, is fuelling rising demand for good-quality homes.

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However, South Asia’s second-largest economy has allowed its currency to weaken twice in four months in an attempt to shrink widening trade and current account deficits ahead of a $2.5bn debt repayment in June and national elections in July.

The trade deficit grew 23 per cent to $23.2bn in the eight months to February 2018, according to the central bank, while dollar reserves have fallen to their lowest in almost three years, according to Bloomberg.

With the Pakistan’s external debt rising 15 per cent to $70.5bn in December compared to a year earlier, equating to 22 per cent of GDP, the government has been running down its foreign exchange reserves to shore up the country’s finances.

The Eighteen JV seeks to tap into the wealthy Pakistani diaspora. “The amenities are second to none, delivered in a safe, secure and exclusive location,” said Tarek Hamdy, chief executive of the Eighteen, following a high-profile event at Dubai’s Burj Khalifa where the luxury residential scheme was marketed for the first time overseas.

“Eighteen also offers the rare opportunity for the customer to own the title deed of the property, making it an even more attractive investment,” said Mr Hamdy.

Ora Developers’ has a portfolio of projects in the United Kingdom, Egypt, Cyprus and Grenada, while Saif Group is a Pakistani conglomerate with operations spanning power, health care, textiles, real estate and telecommunications. Kohistan Builders & Developers, has constructed several real estate developments in Pakistan.