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UAE’s Damac eyes project completions, in Iraq talks

Building 12,500 units across Middle East, North Africa.

August 11, 2010 2:01 by



Dubai’s largest private developer, Damac Properties, is focused on completing projects in the Middle East and North Africa but also in talks about work in Iraq after a big project there was shelved, an executive said. “The focus now is not on launching new projects. We have to consolidate what we started,” General Manager Ziad El Chaar told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday.

Its main developments are at home in the United Arab Emirates and Egypt and the company expects to hand over seven projects, totaling 3,900 units of residential, retail and commercial space in Dubai by the first quarter of 2011, Chaar said.

It has delivered 3,500 units this year, he added.

Damac is building 12,500 units across its markets in the Gulf Arab region, Egypt and Lebanon, most set to be handed over by early 2013.

It also has projects in Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

In July, Damac awarded a $120 million contract in Jeddah to Drake & Scull International ,as more UAE property firms tap huge demand in Saudi Arabia.

LUXURY FOCUS

Several developers in the United Arab Emirates have changed their portfolios since the economic downturn to include building homes for middle and low income sectors, but Damac is staying with the luxury segment.

“This is the core competence of the company,” Chaar said.

Dubai, the tourist and business hub of the Gulf, was hit hard by the financial crisis as thousands of jobs were cut forcing expatriates to leave.

Billions of dollars worth of projects were also put on hold or cancelled and property prices slumped some 50 percent from their peaks.

“With prices moving towards a more affordable arena, I think from all the countries where we originally had buyers, we are seeing those buyers coming back,” Chaar said, adding typical buyers were now buying properties for living and leasing purposes rather than quick sales.

Damac cut a number of jobs as a result of the economic downturn but has been hiring “for some time” in the project management department as it looks to complete projects, he said.

IRAQ TALKS

The developer is still in talks with the Kurdistan government in northern Iraq over opportunities in the country, after a 55 billion dirham ($14.97 billion) Damac project there was stopped last year, Chaar said.

Damac announced the Tarin Hills residential, commercial and hospitality development in 2008.

“It was an amicable decision between both parties that the product in its format wouldn’t be feasible, so the licence expired,” said Niall McLoughlin, senior vice president for marketing and corporate communications.

“We are in negotiations about how we can work with the government to bring in a product to the market that fits with customer demands. We are looking at a whole host of possibilities.”

Its key projects in the Middle East and North Africa include The Waves, a two-tower residential project in Dubai Marina, Business Square in Doha, Qatar, and Gamsha Bay, a retail, residential and luxury development on the Red Sea in Egypt.

(Editing by Jason Neely)



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