Homegrown success boosts regional reach

Christopher Sell meets Omar Ayesh from developer giant, Tameer.

Omar Ayesh
Omar Ayesh

As the sole owner of what has become one of the region's fastest growing real estate companies, the past few years have been ones of vindication for Omar Ayesh, president, Tameer. Starting in 1991 as a company with various business interests, the firm diversified its business model after purchasing land in 1997, and ventured into real estate by the end of 2002. It now has construction projects totalling US $11 billion (AED40.4 billion), and in June this year, sales hit $327 million for the month alone.

Ayesh explains that the initial foray into the market revealed, quite clearly, the financial opportunities that were available. "Before that our activities in real estate were very limited. But we decided to focus and the results were very impressive for us. When we did the first deal, it was better than any we had done in the previous 13 years. So we said 'ok, it seems like the right business'," he says.

We are confident of ourselves and our strategy ... we are the only one operating and working in five different emirates.

A key turning point was in 2005, when Tameer entered in a joint venture with the Al Rahji Investment Group of Saudi Arabia, enabling the company to develop a collection of high-profile developments, which has raised the investment portfolio. Tameer has demonstrated a savvy approach to real estate with high-profile early projects such as the Princess Tower, currently under construction in Dubai Marina.

But with an increasingly competitive market, is it difficult to stand out amongst the Emaars and Nakheels of Dubai?

"We are confident of ourselves and our strategy. Among other companies in the region, we are the only one operating and working in five different emirates: Umm Al Quwain, Sharjah, Dubai, Ajman and Abu Dhabi. And we are the first company to build a complete city - Al Salam City. This will be the most unique project in the region, if not the Middle East. You cannot find it anywhere else."

The project, which is expected to cost $8.2 billion and built over 67 million m2, is designed to accommodate 500,000 people. It will be executed in three phases, with each expected to cover five years. The first phase will include the development of the infrastructure of the whole city, including the ‘Downtown' area, housing a main hotel tower, 20 towers of 20-25 floors and the first residential district of 1,000 residential villas.

There is a precedent for this development, says Ayesh, as Tameer's second project was the Modern Industrial City in Umm Al Quwain, which was built over an area of 2 million m2 incorporating commercial industries, including shops, warehouses, labour camps and factories.

But this is just the beginning of a range of mega cities the company has planned. Further projects have been signed or are underway throughout the Middle East in Saudi Arabia, Libya and Jordan. Ayesh adds that Tameer is in the process of signing a deal for a mega city development in Bahrain but cannot reveal any further details.

Just last month, Tameer International finalised the design and masterplan of Madinat Al Majd in Jordan, a 2 million m2 integrated residential development designed by Sigma Consulting Engineers. The development will include 15,000 residential units, along with 70% of apartments, villas and semi-villas designated for limited income groups. The first phase will include 8,500 apartments, which is valued at $350 million, and the infrastructure is also complete. The project is located on the Amman - Al Mafraw Highway, near Zarqa Private University. Project manager, Projax, distributed the tender documents for the first phase of the project to qualified contractors during August to compete for the implementation of the building. It is expected that work will begin next September, with 2,000 residential units.

The project in Libya will be the largest Arab investment in the country to date and the largest single development in North Africa. Ayesh adds that other countries have been approaching the company for city developments. "The president of Senegal invited us to build a new capital on the waterfront, but until now we have not had an opportunity to get there yet. We want to evaluate the offer, study its economy, stability and its demand for housing."

The same applies for the company's interest in Libya. "In the last 20 years there has been no development there, so there is a big shortage. Now regulations are changing in the right direction and they are keen to open the market to support and develop the country," he says.

Madinat Al Hanaa is a $20 billion project, 25km from the capital, Tripoli. It is being developed through Tameer International and the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development through a joint venture Tatweer Property Co. The development, like Al Salam City, will contain a population of approximately half a million on an area exceeding 40km2.

Factor in these projects, including the $1.6 billion Ajmakan mega project in Riyadh, and it is clear Ayesh's vision for the future is not limited to the UAE. While the Emirates represent sizeable opportunity for the company, (Abu Dhabi, in particular, where Tameer has projects on Shams Abu Dhabi), Ayesh says his aim is to establish Tameer as one of the world's foremost real estate companies by 2011. With his attention not being drawn to Europe, the Middle East, Far East and North Africa represent significant real estate opportunities. And as one of the fastest growing real estate companies, Tameer seems well set to take advantage.

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