x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Emaar seeks cure for sales drop

Emaar Healthcare Group to hire staff for clinics as other developers also seek relief by adding outpatient facilities as revenues decline.

Omar al Shunnar, the chief executive of Emaar Healthcare Group, is preparing to open clinics across its parent's biggest developments.
Omar al Shunnar, the chief executive of Emaar Healthcare Group, is preparing to open clinics across its parent's biggest developments.

Emaar Properties is set to hire 200 healthcare professionals as it seeks new income streams to counter declining earnings from property sales. Emaar Healthcare Group is preparing to open clinics across its biggest developments in Dubai. Its flagship project, the Dubai Mall Medical Centre, will cover 5,667 square metres inside the region's biggest shopping centre. Other clinics are planned at its Meadows and Arabian Ranches suburban housing developments.

"The Dubai Mall Medical Centre, located in the Dubai Mall, is the largest outpatient centre in the region, and will not only cater for the community but residents in the surrounding areas, too," said Omar al Shunnar, the chief executive of Emaar Healthcare. The Dubai centre will be open to residents and visitors to Downtown Burj Dubai and will offer a range of medical services including paediatrics, cardiology and even plastic surgery.

"To have your medical facility located within easy reach is a good thing," said Vincent Easton, the director of sales of the property broker Engel and Volkers. "Health as a business is big business. It is quite a good move by Emaar." Emaar Healthcare will run the centres with the US private healthcare provider Methodist International. Both companies will develop and manage several hospitals over the next five years in countries including the UAE, Algeria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. The company also plans to expand in the Indian subcontinent and South East Asia.

"It is the first example of this kind in the UAE so far where a developer builds and runs healthcare facilities," Mr Easton said. "A lot of the facilities are usually owned by third parties." Emaar Healthcare was established in 2006 as part of Emaar's efforts to diversify. At that time, the parent company generated about 80 per cent of its revenues from property sales. Other big developers also plan to tap healthcare opportunities within their developments as they come under pressure to sustain revenues swelled by a six-year building boom.

Aldar Properties, the largest property developer in Abu Dhabi, and Mubadala Healthcare last year struck a deal to explore the opening of healthcare facilities in Aldar's UAE developments. Aldar planned to design and develop the facilities and then hand them over to Mubadala Healthcare to operate. The Gulf's rapidly expanding population has boosted demand for new hospitals and clinics across the region and led to an influx of foreign healthcare groups and insurance companies.

When mandatory health insurance was introduced in Abu Dhabi in 2006, the number of insured residents rose to 1.3 million from 150,000. More than 70 per cent of UAE residents would seek medical treatment overseas if they fell seriously ill, according to a survey carried out for The National by YouGov, an international research organisation. It found residents have travelled to other countries for even simple medical procedures.

ngillet@thenational.ae