x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 September 2017

MAF plans doubling residential communities’ portfolio

The company is looking to develop more commercial projects and manage urban retail portfolio

Majid Al Futtaim's Waterfront City complex in Lebanon. The company is on track to deliver the first 200 units this year. Majid Al Futtaim
Majid Al Futtaim's Waterfront City complex in Lebanon. The company is on track to deliver the first 200 units this year. Majid Al Futtaim

Majid Al Futtaim (MAF), the UAE-based conglomerate whose business interests includes owning and operating shopping malls and developing mixed-used residential communities, plans to double the number of units it is constructing across the region in the next three years, a senior company official said.

“We currently have 10,000 units in different phases of development across the region and in three years, we want to double that number,” Hawazen Esber, the MAF Communities chief executive told The National at Cityscape Global in Dubai. The firm also intends to grow its portfolio of communities from the current three to six by launching new projects in Dubai, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

MAF earlier this week announced its plans to build a mixed-use community in Dubai, its first in the emirate. It is in discussions with global and regional contractors to unveil the master plan in the first half of 2018. Mr Esbar said its project in Dubai, which will built in Dubailand, will be a “typical MAF development”. However, he declined to give the size and scope and estimated cost of the project.

“We are working on several launches,” he said. “We are not only working in the UAE ... we are looking at Saudi and potentially at Egypt.”

The launch of project in Saudi Arabia could take place in 2019 and the firm is already in talks with its partners in the kingdom. However, a timeline for the project in Egypt, the biggest North African economy, has yet to be decided he said.

“Egypt is a great market and we are looking at the growth potential and I think the economy is doing fine,” he noted.

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The company has already delivered phase two of the Al Zahia residential community in Sharjah. It will have a second release in a third neighbourhood, Al Lilac, this month. MAF’s community in Muscat, which is expected to be complete in 2019, is now 40 per cent built and the firm is looking to launch the second edition of luxury apartments in the development by the end of 2017, Mr Esbar said.

In Lebanon, the company is on track to deliver first 200 units in 2017, he added. MAF has sold 76 per cent of the units in the first two phases of the Waterfront City development.

MAF, which last year announced its 10-year, Dh30 billion investment plan for the UAE, is also looking to expand its commercial offerings in the region.

“We are expanding our commercial offerings and we have already started the construction of our office park in Lebanon. We are further exploring office developments in Oman and the UAE,” he said.

The company, like other regional developers, is trying to build its recurring revenue lines and strengthen its balance sheet amid slowing economic growth. MAF has expanded into a new asset class it calls “urban retail”, which includes providing and managing all the amenities and retail facilities to its current and future developments.

“This is an asset class we are looking at extensively,” Mr Esbar said. “We want really to have everything ready from the first resident [moving in] rather ... than having to wait three to five years.”