Al Hamra Group Builds On Growth Story One Brick At A TimeFriday, February 17, 2012
Ras Al Khaimah: When Dubai's property market softened in September 2008, it also affected the real estate market of the UAE's northernmost emirate — Ras Al Khaimah — at a time when the emirate was developing neighbourhoods and projects as part of its econ-omic diversification.
However, the last three years saw developers, including Al Hamra Real Estate, focusing on core activities — delivering projects they had started.
Today, the emirate can boast a decent stock of luxury housing that offers good value for money.
Al Hamra Real Estate has delivered the highest number of freehold villas to investors at the beachfront Al Hamra Village where a number of hotels and a golf club complement the landscape.
Gulf News caught up with Mark Hawkes, chief financial officer at the Al Hamra Group, to get an update on the emirate's real estate scene and its project delivery.
Gulf News: What is the current state of real estate in Ras Al Khaimah?
Mark Hawkes: We have seen an increase in sales and leasing since the third quarter of 2011. Demands for large waterfront villas are strong with limited availability.
We are also seeing increase in sales activity on The Royal Breeze Residence, which is the latest addition at Al Hamra Village and offers sea and lagoon-facing residential apartments. With its location and stunning views, customers see value for money. Rentals are strong and we have seen increase of 5 to 8 per cent in the rental rates.
With subdued demand, how is your business progressing?
The group is now concentrating on growth through business segmentation and expansion, and is enhancing its expertise in facilities management whilst simultaneously developing new competencies in the fields of hospitality and leisure, which the group sees as future growth areas.
Could you shed some light on the progress of construction of some of your ongoing projects?
Over the past 12 months we have successfully managed to complete most of our projects. In Al Hamra Village, with the exception of one residential tower still under construction along with the Waldorf Astoria, we have now completed all the projects we started.
Al Hamra Village is presently at an occupancy of 84 per cent and we've already sold 81 per cent of the apartments at The Royal Breeze Residence.
Are you building more new projects or the current construction is of the previously announced projects?
The Al Hamra Group has a contracting division which is working on a number of projects at present. These consist of projects for group companies as well as projects for external non-related companies. In addition we do have new projects in the pipeline in various stages of being awarded.
Are you planning to announce new projects?
We are currently exploring a number of opportunities for the undeveloped areas remaining in Al Hamra Village.
Who are your key customers — local, GCC or foreign investors?
The majority historically have been foreign investors mainly from Europe. However we have also experienced a significant amount of local and GCC interest.
You offer freehold properties. How are the visas issued to property buyers?
In line with federal laws, property owners are granted residence visas by the Department of Immigration based on qualifying criteria, which is presently linked to purchase values.
Al Hamra Group retains a centralised visa processing office function to assist investors with the visa process and is constantly in contact with the federal authorities to keep abreast of any changes that may streamline and further simplify the eligibility rules of residence visas for investors.
Could you update us on the realignment between Al Hamra Real Estate and Rakeen?
Al Hamra Real Estate and Rakeen are separate legal entities and managed separately. Where possible to leverage off synergies and capitalise on cost-efficiencies we have established shared services. For example, the sales function for Ras Al Khamiah-based projects.
Do you have a facilities management arm?
The group's real estate division has a facilities management arm and has been working very hard over the past 12 months to further develop its capabilities in this regard through skills development, training and new recruitment.
A call centre has also been recently established along with the implementation of new property management software to better assist investors and residents with their queries and requests.
What are your plans for this year?
The group will be focusing on [the] completion of its remaining residential projects and completion of the much anticipated Waldorf Astoria-Ras Al Khaimah. In addition, the group will begin the conversion of the Al Hamra Fort Hotel into a Hilton resort property.
What is the size of your portfolio?
The group is now concentrating on growth through business segmentation and expansion, and is extending its expertise in managing master-planned communities while simultaneously developing new competencies in the fields of hospitality and leisure.
The group has net assets in excess of Dh1.5 billion and employs more than 3,000 people.
Any plans to grow overseas or acquire assets?
At this stage the group will focus on opportunities within the UAE and within Ras Al Khaimah, which has experienced consistent year-on-year GDP growth and currently has an A long-term sovereign rating from Standard & Poor's.
Ras Al Khaimah has also successfully developed a diversified economy and these strong fundamentals mean that even though these are challenging times, there are a number of growth sectors which are providing opportunities.
Source: Gulf News