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Face to Face: Ahmed Alhatti, CEO, Cayan

by Yamurai Zendera on Feb 16, 2014




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When you design and build a $272mn (AED1bn) skyscraper like Dubai’s Cayan Tower – the world’s tallest twisted building – you clearly want people to sit up and take notice. That’s certainly what happened when Saudi Arabian developer Cayan Investment & Development’s high-rise residential tower in Dubai Marina began to spiral upwards.

The 75-storey tower was delivered in June last year after a series of delays. Initially it suffered from engineering problems when the site flooded and it was later caught up in the 2008 financial crisis.

But you won’t hear Cayan Group chairman Ahmed Alhatti talking about regrets, even though the project did go over budget. He’s buoyant, in fact, as he speaks about the building while sitting in the boardroom of the company’s Dubai office in Tecom. He’s in town for a quarterly meeting and to check on the progress of potential deals.

“This project had so many challenges. The collapse of the diaphragm wall to start with, then the financial crisis,” says the Saudi national. “Yes, it went above budget but we made something that I never regretted.”

The problem is that when you construct something as eye-catching as the Cayan Tower, initially named the Infinity Tower, everyone expects you to repeat the trick. Alhatti is acutely aware that people are wondering if the company can recapture that magic formula.

“This is the reason why I’m taking my time in the UAE, because everybody’s waiting to see what we will do after the Cayan Tower. We want to do something unique; we can’t do just a normal building anymore,” he says.

There are several sites within the company’s $40.8mn (AED150m) UAE land bank, including plots at Downtown Dubai and Jumeirah Village Triangle, and others it doesn’t own that Alhatti is exploring for future projects. Teaming up with a joint venture partner is also being looked at.

Sentiment among property developers in Dubai is rising following a strong 2013 where rental values and sale prices increased, with average values rising by 22% year-on-year. Dubai winning the rights to host the World Expo 2020 has also boosted confidence.

Alhatti agrees that positivity is returning to the market.

“I think there are lots of options in Dubai. I believe after Dubai winning the Expo 2020 there will be good demand for investors to come back and invest,” he says. “Now, I think there is a good market for serviced apartments.”

Fears still persist that Dubai could be headed for another property bubble if the Government doesn’t introduce further measures, such as tighter controls of off-plan sales, to suppress property price rises. Alhatti, however, has confidence in the Emirate not repeating the mistakes of yesteryear.

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