Q&A – Farhan Faraidooni

Dubai International Properties, the international real estate arm of Dubai Holding, develops and invests in real estate projects throughout the Middle East and, eventually it hopes, the world. It currently has five projects under development: two mixed-use complexes in Qatar and Turkey, two resorts in Bahrain and Oman and a city in Morocco. An architect by training, Dubai International Properties CEO Farhan Faraidooni speaks here about his firm's focus on large scale developments, his thoughts on the Middle East real estate market and Dubai International's global ambitions.

How does real estate fit into Dubai Holding’s wider investment strategy?
Real estate is a key component of Dubai Holding’s strategy. As is evident everywhere in the city, real estate is booming and contributes in some way or the other to most of Dubai Holding’s projects. Our experience and success in Dubai has been largely driven by our ability to conceptualize, develop, lease and sell unique and landmark projects. Dubai Holding has been successful in developing premium real estate developments in Dubai such as Jumeirah Beach Residence, Dubai Internet City and Dubailand, to name just a few.

As part of our mandate, Dubai International Properties is taking this experience and track record into the Middle East and beyond.

What are you developing right now?
We look at building large scale developments such as corporate towers, business parks, upscale residential communities, resorts, mega malls and industrial parks. And we strive to produce projects that are not only aesthetically unique, but also architecturally renowned.

Right now, we are building high-rise complexes in Doha Qatar and Istanbul Turkey under the “Dubai Towers” brand. These developments will include a number of amenities such as high-end retail, boutique hotels and serviced apartments. In the project in Qatar, for example, there will be a three-story shopping boulevard, a five-star hotel and apartments with 360-degree views of the West Bay.

We are also building a resort in Bahrain, which we are developing under our “Salam Resort & Spa” brand. It is expected to be completed in 2009. Our two other projects are the Yiti Resort & Spa in Oman and Amwaj, a new city that we are building in the heart of the Bouregreg River District in Rabat, Morocco.

Who are your main competitors? Is the market becoming more crowded?
I would not call other regional players in the market our competitors. I see Emaar, UDC and Nakheel more as complementary players. On an international level, we like to think we are in the same league as Hines, Tishman Speyer, HRO and CEC.

It must be remembered that Dubai International Properties is unique in the international real estate development field in the sense that we focus mainly on high-quality, unique and very large developments across the globe.

Today we are developing projects in five different countries, and within the next three to five years we expect to extend our development to over 20 different countries. There are very few companies in the world that have this ambition and the capabilities to perform at this level.

Which sectors and geographies do you focus on?
We are fairly broadly focused but our core competencies are in the tourism, services and the retail/trade sectors.

In terms of geography, we are a global company and will develop and invest in real estate anywhere we can find opportunities that meet our return requirements.

As we are most familiar with the Middle East and North African markets, this is an obvious region for us to start with. We have ongoing commitments in the GCC and Morocco and we are already looking at developing projects outside of this area. We will eventually be investing and developing real estate in Asia, Europe and North America as well.

Why should international investors be looking at the Middle East?
Savvy international investors that are looking for a balanced portfolio should consider the Middle East for one simple reason: there are amazing opportunities to generate wealth in our region.

The whole area is undergoing a transformation and is benefiting from the increase in oil prices through investment in real estate, local stock markets and company acquisitions.

The Middle East is a part of the globe with a large population and it is becoming more and more transparent and sophisticated in regards to investment opportunities. Just take the example of the United Arab Emirates, which has shown time and time again, that it is a location that allows international investors to participate and take advantage of opportunities.

Dubai International Properties will also prove to international investors that outside of the UAE and within the Middle East region there are significant areas of undervalued assets and opportunities. First-movers will be able to exploit this to their advantage.