x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Diesel fires up RAK mall

The long delayed opening finally takes place after the developers install generators to power the centre.

The Dh200 million (US$54m) Safeer Mall in Ras al Khaimah has finally opened after the developers imported a generator from Japan to power the centre and circumvent continuing delays in supply. "The construction of the mall was complete a year-and-a-half ago and we were just waiting for the mall to be powered," said Kevin Luicien, the director of operations at Al Safeer Group's mall division. "But since it seemed like it wouldn't happen any time soon, we were forced to open." Running the generators would add between Dh20m and Dh25m a year to operating costs, the company said. "We really had no choice. Keeping the mall closed meant that we were losing a lot of money on the maintenance and security of the building," said Mr Luicien. "Under normal circumstances the yearly electricity bill to power the mall would be about a fifth of the Dh25m that we are paying now." The generator cost Dh5.4m, which was raised through a bank loan, he said. Retailers in the mall are expected to pay between Dh8m and Dh9m of the total power cost. "The rest of the money is paid by Al Safeer, so you can say we are subsidising electricity for the retailers because we need them to attract visitors," Mr Luicien said. "But in any case, the power bill for retailers is still expensive. For example, if under [normal] conditions they would pay Dh1,000 a month, with this generator they pay about Dh3,000." No one at the Federal Electricity and Water Authority (FEWA) in RAK was available to comment. "We paid FEWA a deposit of Dh5.5 million two years ago to power the mall and personally I don't think it will happen any time soon," Mr Luicien said. "But the way things are going right now, I think it will be two to three years until we have power." Shortages of electricity have left dozens of recently finished buildings in the emirate empty, as entire streets in RAK city are still lacking power. "Power generation, or the lack of it, is now the biggest bottleneck preventing future economic expansion in RAK," said a recent energy report by Oxford Business Group, the London-based publishing, research and consultancy organisation. RAK has long relied on Abu Dhabi to make up its shortfall of electricity, but the capital is now facing its own problems. Earlier this year, the Ras al Khaimah Investment Authority (RAKIA) said the emirate would build four power plants in the next three years to overcome intermittent blackouts. Despite the long delay, the mall's opening last Wednesday attracted 30,000 people and even more visited at the weekend, Mr Luicien said. The mall features a major Safeer hypermarket as its flagship store, about 100 retail outlets, restaurants, a family entertainment centre and 1,500 parking spaces. The total retail space covers 500,000 square metres. abakr@thenational.ae