x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Villas, hotels and a mall ... latest Dh11bn Dubai project ready to roll

Developer behind a US$3 billion project in Dubai's Meydan City aims to start construction work in a matter of weeks.

PNC Menon, the founder and chairman of the Sobha Group of Companies, at his home in Cochin, Kerala State, India. Ravindranath K / The National
PNC Menon, the founder and chairman of the Sobha Group of Companies, at his home in Cochin, Kerala State, India. Ravindranath K / The National

The Indian developer behind a US$3 billion (Dh11.01bn) project in Dubai hopes to start construction work on its development at Meydan City in a matter of weeks.

"We are just waiting for the final permission and we should be breaking ground hopefully in another two months," said PNC Menon, the founder and chairman of Sobha Group.

The final value of the project, spread over eight million square feet of land, is expected to be $2bn to $3bn. "We expect it to take about eight years to develop the whole thing," Mr Menon said.

Sobha has separate operations in India and in the Arabian Gulf. Its Gulf business is based in Dubai and it also operates in Muscat, Bahrain, and Qatar, where it is primarily working on interiors of private palaces. The Indian division is listed on the Mumbai Stock Exchange.

Sobha bought the land from Meydan Group in February last year. The project will include a mall, villas and apartments and hotels. It was one of the first mega projects to be announced in Dubai since the property downturn, during which home prices fell by up to about 60 per cent.

The market in Dubai has improved, with average prices and rents picking up last year.

Many elements of the wider Meydan City development, first announced before the onset of the downturn and designed to be based around a network of waterways, were delayed.

The racecourse and 60,000-seat grandstand and a five-star trackside hotel are the main elements that have been completed,

Funding for Sobha's project is coming from its own finances, as well as loans from banks. It aims to launch off-plan property sales for its development.

"Today, because of the economic prosperity of people in Africa, India, Pakistan, China, all those people are looking at a second home in Dubai. Dubai's population is very small," said Mr Menon.

"Dubai's real estate business is going to be one of the main verticals of the economy and the people will have to necessarily come from [overseas]. According to me, the future of Dubai - with the kind of infrastructure which has already been created - I find it's going to be a story for the next 20 years at least."

The group is also branching out into the hospitality sector.

The plan is to break ground on its first hotel property in Dubai by the end of this year, Mr Menon said.

Sobha has already registered a hotel company known as Strada. Mr Menon described the brand as being in the "three-star plus" category.

"We are looking at [managing] 50 to 100 hotels," said Mr Menon. "Initially, to establish the brand, some of the investments will be done by us, then over a period of time we will only be managing the hotels, which will be built as per our requirements."

It hopes to expand the hotel chain across the Middle East, India and Africa. Mr Menon said that the company was looking at another major property project in Dubai. The details are expected to be announced in a couple of weeks.

"The Indian company is growing very well," said Mr Menon. "If we look at a five-year plan, we expect the growth to be very good for us."