Dubai-based Al-Futtaim group , a leading diversified conglomerate operating through 100 companies across 30 markets, said it has signed a joint venture agreement with a tripartite consortium with Moroccan and Portuguese entities to drive the development of one of the region’s biggest superregional retail and leisure destinations. As per the deal, Al-Futtaim and Marjane Holding, Morocco’s leading developer of retail destinations and modern retail, will jointly lead Zenata Commercial Project S.A. joint venture, said Omar Al-Futtaim, the group vice chairman after signing the agreement with Mohamed Lamrani, the president of Marjane Holding, during a ceremony held at Casablanca. The new joint venture also includes international shopping centre specialist Sonae Sierra , owner of 49 shopping centres and responsible for the management of 85 malls and Société d’Aménagement Zenata, a subsidiary of CDG group in charge of the design and land development of Zenata New City. CDG group is a public financial institution and the country’s leading domestic institutional investor. The deal was signed in the presence of joint venture partners including Saleh Al Homaizi, the chairman of Homaizi Group, IKEA’s Morroco franchisee, José Mena, the director of EMEA Services, Developments/New Business/Expansion and Mohammed Amine El Hajhouj, the head of SAZ. Designed to span a total gross leasable area (GLA) of 120,000 sq m, the mall will spring out at the heart of the First Development Zone of Zenata Eco-city, totalling 800 hectare of land strategically located on the eastern border of Casablanca, on the fringes of the Casa-Rabat highway, the country’s busiest road artery.
The mall is one of four high value-added activities to be developed within Zenata Eco-City.  The mall will be anchored by market-entrant IKEA  as the globally renowned Swedish furniture retailer will open for business in 2015. By 2017, the two-level mall will comprise the 26,000 sq m IKEA store, a 8,350 square-metre Marjane hypermarket, a 10,000 sq m leisure and fun zone and a 3,400 sq m cinema complex as well as a comprehensive portfolio of stores featuring apparel, cosmetics, electronics, household appliances and sports brands. Eventually, the mall will straddle across Zenata Eco-City’s (1,830 ha) master-plan to become home to 300,000 inhabitants, as part of a strategic plan to reduce socio-economic unbalances between the East and West of Greater Casablanca and to raise the economic capital among great international metropolis. “This is a major milestone for Al-Futtaim group’s inaugural foray into Morocco’s 32 million-strong market as we continue our regional expansion drive in the African continent,” said Al Futtaim. “With roughly 15 per cent of the country’s total population concentrated in the immediate catchment area of this development, our investment promises to yield the right returns,” he noted. “We have strong faith in this project as it will be developed in synergy with best-of-breed experts in the respective fields of retail space developers and operators,” added Al Futtaim. 2013 has been a milestone year in Al-Futtaim group’s regional mall expansion strategy, said the UAE company in its statement. In November, Al-Futtaim inaugurated Cairo Festival City Mal l anchored by IKEA Egypt, introducing the iconic Swedish brand to Africa, it stated. In Qatar, the Emirati group has completed the first phase of Doha Festival City, which also includes the country’s first IKEA store. The group has also signed an MoU with local governmental entities in Oman for the development of the Sultanate’s biggest shopping mall, anchored by IKEA, it added.