Carving A Property Niche
Gulf Business|Gulf Business April 2018

As Dubai property developer Omniyat prepares for a number of major handovers over the next two years, executive chairman and CEO Mahdi Amjad explains why staying focussed is the name of the game

Robert Anderson

FOR MANY DUBAI landlords, the last 12 months will surely go down as a period to forget amid a wider downturn in the property market.

Apartment prices and rents decreased 3 per cent and 2 per cent respectively from Q3 to Q4 2017, according to Chestertons MENA with double-digit decreases seen in some areas of the city.

But this doom and gloom does not appear to have shaken Omniyat executive chairman and CEO Madhi Amjad as the company he founded in 2005, with Dhs300m ($81.67m) of capital under Dubai-based conglomerate Al Masa Holdings, crosses a number of major milestones

Most notably there was the recent completion of the office segment of the The Opus, a Dhs2.5bn ($680.6m) mixed-use development designed by late British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid. Last year, the firm also handed over The Pad, a 253-apartment tower just down the road in Business Bay, and made major progress on other luxury residential and hospitality projects elsewhere in the city.

And after what Amjad himself describes as only “quite a successful year” for the firm there is a sense that he expects bigger and better things to follow as the developer pushes ahead with a series of luxury projects due for handover by 2020.

One reason for the Omniyat chairman’s optimism is a surge in demand for off-plan property, which accounted for more than 65 per cent of total sales transactions in Dubai last year, according to CBRE. And his company was certainly a beneficiary of the trend after selling what it claimed to be the most expensive apartment bought in Dubai last year – a Dhs102m ($27.7m) penthouse at its One Palm project spanning 29,800 square feet.

“We’ve gone through very high growth years reflecting all the challenges happening around us in this region,” he says.

“[And now] we’ve seen the market is so strong that despite all the pressures it still maintained quite a stabilised price point environment. Personally, I think the market has room to grow for the next three to five years.”

Amjad is all too familiar with the worst the Dubai market can throw at developers after his firm was among the dozens of companies forced to stall projects in the wake of the Dubai market crash and the financial crisis. The Opus and The Pad were both conceived before 2008 but fell among the reported Dhs8bn ($2.1bn) of projects the Dubai developer was forced to halt.

But the CEO believes regulation in the years after, including limits on mortgage lending and more recently a new off-plan property purchase law, has eased concerns of a repeat episode.

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