Why does Emaar not want anything to do with Lebanon?

Why does Emaar not want anything to do with Lebanon?
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Published November 5th, 2014 - 05:55 GMT via SyndiGate.info

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The property developer is instead focused on completing projects in Dubai, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
The property developer is instead focused on completing projects in Dubai, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Lebanon’s security woes coupled with a sluggish economy make investment in the country hugely disadvantageous, chairman of UAE-based construction giant Emaar Properties Mohamed Alabbar told The Daily Star.

“The economy in Lebanon is so slow and you know investors are hesitant,” he sighed. “Emaar prefers to operate in expanding markets.”

In Lebanon, Emaar is currently in the final stages of executing their single project in the country, the Beit Misk residential community, which spreads over 655,000 square meters in the Metn area above Beirut. But Lebanon does not figure on Emaar’s agenda in the short term at least.

The property developer is instead focused on completing projects in Dubai, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

“The situation in Syria has certainly had an impact on our projects not only in Syria but also in Lebanon,” Alabbar said. “But thankfully [we also operate in markets] witnessing steady growth.”

The war in neighboring Syria and the ensuing refugee crisis have taken their toll on Lebanon’s already frail political and economic landscapes.

Speaking to The Daily Star on the sidelines of last week’s second edition of the “Vogue Fashion Dubai Experience,” an event that brought together celebrities from the fashion world and 28 emerging young designers, Alabbar did not completely rule out new investments in Lebanon, saying turmoil has long been a characteristic of the Lebanese market.

Founded in 1997, Emaar specializes in creating value-added, master-planned communities that meet the full spectrum of lifestyle needs. Dubai’s new Downtown area, which comprises landmarks such as Burj Khalifa and the gigantic Dubai Mall, demonstrates the firm’s philosophy.

“Of course we hope that the [security situation] in Lebanon becomes permanently stable but in Lebanon instability is the norm,” he explained. “We are willing to start new projects in Lebanon but it all depends on the conditions surrounding the project.”

Unlike with talk about the situation in Lebanon, the real estate mogul shifts moods when enthusiastically enumerating the multibillion dollar projects his group is currently undertaking in his hometown of Dubai. Emaar Properties and Dubai Holding revealed Friday the master plan of their new mega-development, Dubai Creek Harbor at The Lagoons.

Spread across 6 million square meters, the development will feature the Dubai Twin Towers, a mixed-use development tipped to be the tallest twin towers in the world. Located close to the Ras al-Khor Bird Sanctuary, Dubai Creek Harbour will also include environmentally sustainable ecosystems, integrated transportation systems and green open parks, the developers announced.

Alabbar also cites expansion near the Burj Khalifa area and Emaar’s joint venture with Dubai-based development company Meraas Holding to construct the premium lifestyle community, Dubai Hills, the largest real estate development of its kind in the Middle East region.

“We are talking here about millions of square meters of land,” he added. “We are also expanding in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and India. We work in large markets.”

But will Emaar ever stop construction in Dubai? Alabbar is categorical: “Not in the near future.”

“Emaar’s projects are long term and we don’t make plans for the next five years but for the next 50 years, 100 years and 150 years,” the businessman noted.

“As long as the country [is witnessing economic] growth we will pursue our projects. We are very optimistic about the future.”

About whether he fears a repeat of the 2008 property crash, the ever-optimistic Alabbar said downturns were a normal stage of the economic cycle. “You’ll witness rainy days and you’ll witness sunny days.”

“You just need to stay alert and weigh your options,” he continued. “When the market is calm you slow down your drive but when it’s booming you move full force.”

As for simmering tensions between GCC countries and neighboring Iran, Alabbar said business projects were so far unaffected by the friction, while excluding investment in Iran for the time being.

“This region [Middle East] has been tense since the day I was born and it will continue to be,” he said. “We cannot wait for all tensions to end to start working.”

Alabbar even hails the historic ties between Iran and the United Arab Emirates, saying that although Emaar is not present in Iran, future cooperation was highly likely.

“You cannot change geography, you know. It’s impossible.”




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