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Developers with large portfolios in Dubai are increasingly setting their sights on other regional markets with potential for growth. Abid Junaid, executive director, ETA Star, tells Conrad Egbert about the company's existing projects in Dubai, why he thinks Abu Dhabi is ripe for a real estate boom, and potential new developments in Qatar and Turkey.

Can you tell us about your project that will be launched next year?

IIn the first quarter of 2007, we will be launching our second project in Business Bay. We launched our first project there in 2006. The new project will consist of 40 storey twin towers — one being a commercial tower and the other a hotel joined by a business podium. The project is still under design and we will tender the project as soon as it’s finalised.

Are you planning to launch any new developments soon and do you think it’s important to time them with property exhibitions in the city?

We launched many projects this year and are looking to announce some more in early 2007. Exhibitions are mostly to reinforce one’s presence and to meet new people in the region. It’s a marketplace for exchanging views and to get new ideas. We are not targeting investors who are swayed on the spur of the moment and snap up a property. People who have invested in us are very knowledgeable and have got a lot of trust in our brand. They’ve been associated with the company in some way or the other for the past 30 odd years. We don’t need to launch projects to time them with events.

Will you be expanding to other emirates? Is Abu Dhabi of any interest to you as a developer?

We have more projects on the anvil in Dubai. We haven’t made our mark in Abu Dhabi as yet; we’ve had several offers from various people but nothing has happened so far. We are planning to take up some land in Abu Dhabi but we haven’t finalised anything as yet.

How do you think Abu Dhabi will move into the construction boom?

Just like Dubai has experienced a population growth, Abu Dhabi is going to experience one as well. The people who are living within Abu Dhabi will want to move to newer and more modern buildings so I think that will be a big reason for demand in property. And also when Abu Dhabi comes up, it will attract more people from outside, the way Dubai has. So even if Abu Dhabi does not experience the same pace of development as Dubai has seen, it will surely see a substantial pace of development in the near future.

Are you teaming up with any Abu Dhabi developers? And if so, who?

We are talking to a lot of master developers so we are deciding which master development we want to be a part of. We will soon decide and then take a substantial holding in one of those master developments. We are currently assessing who will be the best for ETA Star. We are talking to the developers on Reem Islands (Sorouh Investments, Tamouh Investments and Reem Investments) and we will try to finalise one of them.

Do you feel the value of land in Abu Dhabi will be higher than in Dubai?

The pre selling activity in Abu Dhabi is not as strong as it is in Dubai, and if the pre selling is not strong it eventually affects property appreciation. And the value of land will not appreciate that much or that quickly because there is not much speculative activity. However, I do believe that once a building is completed in Abu Dhabi and ready for delivery, there will be a big appreciation. Now, that appreciation may not happen in the short run, but it will certainly be seen in the long run.

Are you looking to invest elsewhere within the Middle East?

We already have a sizeable presence in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka and we’ve just signed MOUs with developers in Turkey and Qatar. In Doha, we just signed an MOU with a major property developer and will soon have a big development there, the details of which we will announce in the middle of 2007. We are also looking at the CIS countries and Eastern Europe.

What is the project you are looking at in Qatar?

The Qatar project will be a 460,000 m² mixed-use development. Once we finalise things in mid 2007, we will know exactly what it is going to be. We are still assessing our options and are looking at various master plans at the moment.

And what is the development in Turkey?

We are looking at developing property in Istanbul and Ankara with some property developers. We have already selected a plot of land in Istanbul. It will be just under 46,450m² in size and will be a mixed-use development.

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Saturday, December 23, 2006 - 04:00
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