x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Majid Al Futtaim looks to double sales through $5bn investment

The UAE developer behind the Mall of the Emirates targets new openings across Africa in countries that include Mozambique, Angola, Kenya and Ethiopia.

Iyad Malas, the chief executive of Majid Al Futtaim. Pawan Singh / The National
Iyad Malas, the chief executive of Majid Al Futtaim. Pawan Singh / The National

Majid Al Futtaim, the developer behind the Mall of the Emirates, aims to double its sales through a US$5 billion investment across the group over the next five years.

The company outlined its investment strategy yesterday as it targets new openings across Africa in countries that include Mozambique, Angola, Kenya and Ethiopia.

The developer, known for its malls anchored by Carrefour, is also targeting Central Asia as it pushes out from its UAE base.

“We have doubled our revenues every five years for the past 20 years and we intend to keep doing that,” said Iyad Malas, the chief executive of MAF Holding. “We can easily handle and sustain an investment plan of $1bn per year over the next five years.

Dubai mall developers are benefiting from rapidly rising tourist arrivals and improving consumer confidence that has triggered a wave of retail spending across the emirate.

“We have had a very good year and our forecast is likely to be double-digit growth on revenues between 9 to 10 per cent and Ebitda [earnings before income tax, depreciation and amortization] will grow 12 to 13 per cent.”

The company’s ambitious schedule builds on its growth in the Middle East and North Africa.

“We are already in 12 countries so we are taking that knowledge into other markets,” said Mr Malas.

“It’s impossible to move into multiple countries without the knowledge of emerging markets. We are still a franchisee of Carrefour and we have the right to use the brand in 38 countries across the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa.

“We have added the Portuguese-speaking countries Angola [and] Mozambique and Ethiopia and Kenya. We are sending teams to these countries to look at the competition and who are the suppliers.”

MAF hopes to repeat the success of its expansion in the Kurdish region of Iraq.

“When we moved into Erbil, northern Iraq, the supply chain was not there, but this year we have the logistics and sales are growing at 25 per cent,” he said.

The booming retail trade in the UAE, where 70 per cent of MAF’s assets are located, is set to continue with upward pressure on mall rents.

“I think there is a very healthy retail market here and the market can more that sustain its current level of rents,” said George Kostas,the chief executive of MAF Properties.

“As an owner I hope rents grow but I also see that it is a balance. Our malls are only successful if our retailers are successful so we have to keep that happening. We need to create thriving malls with a large footfall.”

The group hopes to open its Mall of Egypt in late 2015 and has plans for a major mall in Sharjah that should be delivered by 2017. It is also scheduled to open Waterfront City in Beirut, a mixed-use community development, as well as a mall in Oman.

ascott@thenational.ae