Saudi Arabia’s Jabal Omar Development Company returns to profit

The biggest clock in the world with a 45 meters diameter, overlooks the Grand Mosque. (AFP)
Updated 23 October 2018
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Saudi Arabia’s Jabal Omar Development Company returns to profit

  • Developer launches roadshow to promote 'Address' brand
  • Taps into rising occupancy rates in holy city

LONDON: The Saudi developer behind the transformation of the center of Makkah — Jabal Omar Development Company — has returned to profit in the third quarter after a string of losses over the last year.
The change in fortune will be welcomed by the Tadawul-listed company as it pushes forward with its luxury hotel, residential and retail developments being built to meet the anticipated growth in demand from visitors and pilgrims to the holy city.
Net profit — minus Zakat and tax — reached SR469.62 million ($125.13 million) for the three months ending Sept. 30 in a Saudi exchange filing on Tuesday. This compared to a loss of SR593.97 million recorded in the same quarter last year.
Jabal Omar said the improved profits were due to increased revenue from sales of residential units.
Third-quarter revenue reached SR1.32 billion compared to revenue of SR45.52 million in the same time period the previous year.
The developer also cited a “positive performance” within its commercial sector as well as a reduction in some of the company’s financial burdens.
The results come in the same month Jabal Omar launched a three-day roadshow on Oct. 8 to market its new “Address“-branded Makkah luxury hotel development.
It is a project being managed by Dubai-based Emaar Hospitality Group — the company behind the high-end “Address” hotel brand. Jabal Omar said is looking to sell 741 freehold units.
The project marks the first time Emaar’s ‘Address Hotels and Resorts’ brand has expanded into Saudi Arabia. It is scheduled to open in 2019 and it will be just a few steps away from the Grand Mosque.
Market commentators say they expect demand for luxury hotels and other residential projects in Makkah to continue to be “strong” in the coming year — something Jabal Omar Development Co. will be keen to capitalize on.
“Makkah is a unique market and there is strong demand for luxury hotels throughout the year. A large proportion of demand for luxury hotels come from wealthy GCC travelers, who are largely repeat visitors to the Holy City,” said Rashid Aboobacker, director at the Dubai-based tourism consultancy, TRI Consulting.
“There has always been high demand for luxury residences in Makkah close to the Haram, driven by the prestige and special status of the location as well as the limited supply,” he said.
“Once the ongoing expansion works are complete, the visitor numbers are set to increase substantially. Consequently, we do not foresee any risk of overcapacity in Makkah in the foreseeable future,” he added.
He added that alongside the growth in luxury developments, there is also a “growing need” for midscale and economy hotels and apartments.
“We believe that there is also need for upgrade of the existing stock as a large proportion of them do not fully conform to international quality standards and guest requirements,” he said.
Christopher Lund, head of hotels, Mena, at the consultancy Colliers International, noted that the luxury sector tends to perform better than other parts of the Makkah hospitality market.
“The 5-star upper-upscale and luxury hotels in Makkah have outperformed the overall market, achieving a 12 percent higher occupancy level year-to-date September 2018, which is primarily due to the fact that the 5-star hotels are located in the most prime locations in the central area,” he said.
“So far in 2018, hotels in the central area have achieved a 49 percent higher RevPar (revenue per available room than the overall Makkah quality hotel market.”


Dubai property developer Damac on hunt for land in Saudi Arabia

Hussain Sajwani
Updated 18 March 2019
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Dubai property developer Damac on hunt for land in Saudi Arabia

  • Brexit a “concern” for UK property market says Sajwani
  • Developer mulls investing “up to £500 million” on London project

LONDON: The Dubai-listed developer Damac says it is scouting for additional plots of land in Saudi Arabia, both in established cities and the Kingdom’s emerging giga-projects such as Neom.
Hussain Sajwani, chairman of Damac Properties, also said the company would look to invest up to £500 million ($660 million) on a second development in the UK, and that it is on track to deliver a record 7,000 or more units this year.
Amid a slowing property market in Dubai, Damac’s base, the developer is eying Saudi Arabia as a potential ground for expansion for its high-spec residential projects.
Damac has one development in Jeddah, and a twin-tower project in Riyadh — and Sajwani said it is looking for additional plots in the Kingdom.
“It’s a big market. It is changing, it is opening up, so we see a potential there … We are looking,” he said.
“In the Middle East, Saudi Arabia is the biggest economy … They have some very ambitious projects, like the Neom city and other large projects. We’re watching those and studying them very carefully.”
The $500 billion Neom project, which was announced in 2017, is set to be a huge economic zone with residential, commercial and tourist facilities on the Red Sea coast.
Sajwani said doing business in Saudi Arabia was “a bit more difficult or complicated” that the UAE, but said the country is opening up, citing moves to allow women to drive and reopen cinemas.
He was speaking to Arab News in Damac’s London sales office, opposite the Harrods department store in Knightsbridge. The office, kitted out in plush Versace furnishings, is selling units at Damac’s first development in the UK, the Damac Tower Nine Elms London.
The 50-storey development is in a new urban district south of the River Thames, which is also home to the US Embassy and the famous Battersea Power Station, which is being redeveloped as a residential and commercial property.
Work on Damac's tower is underway and is due to complete in late 2020 or early 2021, Sajwani said.
“We have sold more than 60 percent of the project,” he said. “It’s very mixed, we have (buyers) from the UK, from Asia, the Middle East.”
Damac’s first London project was launched in 2015, the year before the referendum on the UK exiting the EU — the result of which has had a knock-on effect on the London property market.
“Definitely Brexit has cause a lot of concern, people are not clear where the situation will go. Overall, the market has suffered because of Brexit,” Sajwani said.
“It’s going to be difficult for the coming two years at least … unless (the UK decides) to stay in the EU.”
Despite the ongoing uncertainty over Brexit, Sajwani said Damac was looking for additional plots of land in London, both in the “golden triangle” — the pricey areas of Mayfair, Belgravia and Knightsbridge, which are popular with Gulf investors — and new residential districts like Nine Elms.
Sajwani is considering an investment of “up to £500 million” on a new project in the UK capital.
“We are looking aggressively, and spending a lot of time … finding other opportunities,” he said. “Our appetite for London is there.”
Damac is also considering other international property markets for expansion, including parts of Europe and North American cities like Toronto, Boston, New York and Miami, Sajwani said.
The international drive by Damac comes, however, amid a tough property market in the developer’s home market of Dubai.
Damac in February reported that its 2018 profits fell by nearly 60 percent, with its fourth-quarter profit tumbling by 87 percent, according to Reuters calculations.
Sajwani — whose company attracted headlines for its partnership with the Trump Organization for two golf courses in Dubai — does not see any immediate recovery in the emirate’s property market, or Damac’s financial results.
“(With) the market being soft, prices being under pressure, we are part of the market — we are not going to do better than last year,” he said. “This year and next year are going to be difficult years. But it’s a great opportunity for the buyers.”
But the developer said Dubai was “very strong fundamentally,” citing factors like its advanced infrastructure, safety and security, and low taxes.
In 2018, Damac delivered over 4,100 units — a record for the company — and this year, despite the difficult market, it plans to hand over even more.
“We’re expecting north of 7,000,” Sajwani said. “This year will be another record.”