Interview: Lloyd Budd, Majid Al Futtaim Properties

Majid Al Futtaim Properties on the art of planning estates

INTERVIEWS, Projects

 Handover of the first phase of the $1.36bn (AED5bn) Al Zahia development in Sharjah, by Majid Al Futtaim Properties, is due to take place in the first quarter of 2014.

And it forms one-third of a triumvirate of projects the company is currently involved in, which has been billed as three projects in three countries, totaling over four million square metres of land size.

As well as Al Zahia, Majid Al Futtaim is also playing a key role at Waterfront City, in Beirut; and at The Wave, Muscat.

Lloyd Budd, commercial director, communities business unit within Majid Al Futtaim Properties, said: “We’re very excited about 2014. For us, the story continues. With the addition of more projects under the Majid Al Futtaim banner, we will see a more regional approach reaching out to more customers; reaching out to those markets where we see synergies with our projects and our partners.”

A former rugby player for the UAE, Budd, who is a graduate of the Harvard Business School Executive Education Programme, can certainly not be accused of dropping the ball when it comes to his working life.

He has achieved over $540m (AED2bn) in property sales from over 400 customers across 14 different countries. He has also established a network of 70 brokers in seven countries. And he is currently extolling the virtues of Majid Al Futtaim’s latest three offerings at a series of presentation events across the region.

Referring to Al Zahia, a strategic partnership with the Government of Sharjah, which began 18 months ago, he told CW: “We’ve had fantastic interest in the first phase through our network and without going to market we’ve sold out the majority of the first phase and handover of that phase is expected in the first quarter of this year.

“The subsequent phases will be launched in line with that. In total, we’re talking about 2,000 homes, villa townhouses, primarily, but there may be some other products coming on later.”

The project, which will be delivered over an eight-to-ten year period, involves over 1.3m square metres and will create the first and largest gated community in Sharjah.

There will be a Majid Al Futtaim city centre included within the masterplan as well as parks, mosques, walking tracks, community amenities and small retail offerings.

“We’ve been given the time to secure the market research, to listen to the customers and get a product that meets their requirement. And with this unique greenfield nature, we’ve been able to build a community the way it should be built,” said Budd (above).

Meanwhile, the Majid Al Futtaim DNA is coursing through another development, at Dbayeh seaside, 15 minutes north of Beirut in Lebanon.

The Waterfront City project is a strategic partnership between Majid Al Futtaim Properties and Joseph Khoury Group, involving some 250,000m2 of land.

The mixed-use community surrounds the 700-berth La Marina Joseph Khoury and comprises 1,600 homes. It will also see the development of a shopping mall, two hotels with 350 rooms and a business park.

Budd revealed that, in the last six months alone, over150 deals had been done, while 80% of the buyers have been Lebanese.

He said: “The team has worked really hard ensuring that the key community elements, the value adds that will really benefit the tenants/residents, should be delivered in line with the first phase of the community.”

There is also a business park – 12 buildings in campus style layout, 60,000m2 of space, housing some 8-10,000 tenants; Majid Al Futtaim city centre, another retail offering following the same template of the one launched in Beirut in April; and the company is currently on the lookout for operators for two hotels.

“We’re all very proud of this community,” said Budd.

Handover to customers is scheduled to take place at the end of next year.

From the three, the final project is at The Wave, Muscat – another strategic partnership with the Government of Oman.

Budd waxes lyrical about the 400-berth marina, Greg Norman-signature golf course, 18 landscaped parks and the 1,000 homes that have already been handed over – with a further 2,500 still to go.

He said: “At the communities business unit, we’re finding great opportunities around the region for some great sustainable developments. We’re constantly looking to push the boundaries, to listen to our customers and what the market demands.”

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