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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 22 July 2018

Exclusive: Thai-listed developer Singha Estate eyes expansion in the Middle East

Company signed marina management deal this week with UAE-based Jalboot Holdings

Caption: Singha Estate is jointly developing the Marina project in Maldives with UAE conglomerate Jalboot Holdings.
Caption: Singha Estate is jointly developing the Marina project in Maldives with UAE conglomerate Jalboot Holdings.

Singha Estate, a Bangkok-based real estate holding company, plans to enter the markets in the Middle East over the coming three to five years, particularly targeting the fast-growing tourism and hospitality sector in the Arabian Gulf region, a company official said.

“We see a lot of opportunities for investments in the region, either through asset acquisitions or joint ventures,” said Thiti Thongbenjamas, the chief operating officer at the Maldives-based mixed-used project Crossroads that Singha Estate is jointly building with UAE conglomerate Jalboot Holdings.

“Thailand and the UAE in particular have a lot of ties between them, in terms of trade links, direct flights and other synergies,” he told The National in a telephone interview this week.

Singha Estate, which listed on the Stock Exchange of Thailand four years ago, has around 40 billion Thai baht (Dh4.43bn) of real estate assets across Thailand, the Maldives, Mauritius and the UK. Its domestic portfolio comprises hotels, luxury residential and commercial real estate, but its international property is purely hospitality related.

Its global portfolio includes 26 Mercure-branded hotels across the UK, acquired in a joint venture with FICO Group for 155 million pounds in 2015, and six hotels in Phuket, Samui, Mauritius, the Maldives and Fiji, acquired for $310m from Hawaii’s Outrigger Group last month.

Singha Estate plans to double the size of its portfolio by 2022, Mr Thongbenjamas told The National. As part of its strategy, it intends to spin off its hotel assets into a new hospitality company next year and list that in Thailand to fund international expansion plans, including in the Middle East.

Hospitality is “the only sector we go outside our own country for” and the Middle East would be no different, Mr Thongbenjamas, who was formerly the chief investment officer at Singha Estate, said. He said the UAE as well as Bahrain and Oman, were his preferred destinations for investment in the GCC.

Hotels made up about 18 per cent of Singha’s total revenue of 5.86bn in 2017, the company said earlier this year.

Singha, in the meantime, is looking for Middle East partners to help it develop projects in the markets in which it already operates. On Tuesday, it signed a deal with UAE-based Jalboot to manage a luxury marina at the Crossroads scheme in the Maldives.

The concession deal, the value of which has not been disclosed, will give Jalboot exclusive rights to operate the marina for a 10-year period from December this year when the development opens to the public.

Jalboot also has exclusive transportation rights to carry visitors by boat across the whole Crossroads development – which spans nine islands and comprises 1,300 hotel rooms, more than 11,000 square metres of retail space, leisure and entertainment, a diving centre and coral preservation centre, under the plans.

“The creative DNA of Jalboot and Singha Estate are very similar,” said Mohamed Roestali, chief executive of Jalboot. “Among our many similarities, Jalboot has trail-blazed the creation of a water transport network in the UAE as well.”