The Man Behind Damac
Gulf Business|December 2017

Following a two-year period that has seen his fortunes increase dramatically, Hussain Sajwani details the path ahead for Damac as it looks to projects in Dubai and abroad.

While much of the focus in the Dubai real estate market over the last 18 months has been on stagnant or slumping residential property prices and rents, one man that has been left with something to smile about is the founder and chairman of Damac Properties, Hussain Sajwani.

On the back of the historic election win of US President Donald Trump and a surge in the company’s share price, Sajwani was ranked the richest new billionaire in the UAE last year.

And his – and Damac’s – fortunes have only risen steadily since then after the opening of the company’s first golf club in partnership with the Trump Organisation in February at its Damac Hills mega project, and its addition to index compiler MSCI’s UAE index in June.

The company’s share price on the Dubai Financial Market has increased from Dhs2.69 at the start of January to around Dhs3.4 in November. Sajwani’s net worth has in turn increased significantly over the last six months from $3.7bn to $4.3bn, according to Forbes.

Speaking from the company’s Barsha Heights headquarters, he describes 2017 as a “good stable year” for Damac amid expectations it will exceed it targets for sales and handover by December 31.

“We had forecast Dhs7bn ($1.9bn) of sales, and I think we’re going to exceed that. We are on target with our profitability, we are very much on target on our handover,” he says.

Sajwani’s optimism is indicative of Damac’s dramatic turnaround. The company itself was founded in 2002 after the businessman, who was previously in the catering business through his venture Draieh Management Services Company, saw an opportunity in the opening up of the Dubai real estate market to foreign investors. It was then almost laid low like hundreds of other developers by the bursting of the city’s real estate bubble in 2008, which saw prices decline up to 60 per cent.

Since then the company has – in his own words – focused “heavily on delivery”, handing over 50 per cent more units than its peers during the 2010–2011 recovery period before launching its first new project for years in December 2012. This momentum continued in 2013 with the launch of the 42–million–square–foot Akoya, later renamed Damac Hills – a mega development featuring apartments, villas and branded mansions surrounding a golf course built in partnership with the Trump Organisation. Even larger, the 55million–square–foot Akoya Oxygen was launched the following year.

“One of the key things that makes me and makes the company very different and has contributed heavily towards our success is our ability to see the changes and react to the changes very quickly and accept any realities of markets and life and deal with it,” he says.

“After the 2008 crisis, out of the dormant companies we were the only survivor because we saw the crisis at the early stage and immediately took severe actions to fix things.

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