Construction Week's Top 50 GCC Developers 2018: Dubai

This year's top developers from Dubai include the top bosses of Emaar, Azizi, and Damac

Check out the list of the top Dubai developers of 2018.
Check out the list of the top Dubai developers of 2018.

Dubai impressive pace of growth would not have been possible without the continued activity of the emirate's real estate developers. Ahead of Construction Week’s Top 50 GCC Developers 2018 list, which will be published in print on 29 September, 2018, CW rounds up Dubai's most active developers who have made an impact this year. 

22. Nadia Zaal
Al Barari and Zaya Living

Al Barari and Zaya Living completed two projects in the past 12 months: a luxury collection of villas called the Nest, and Sunset Villas on Zaya Nurai Island in Abu Dhabi. The number of developed units is expected to increase from 55  last year to 277 in 2018, while the number of units delivered in 2019 will be 182.

Chief executive officer, Nadia Zaal, said the company was ready to meet the growing demand in the region for “well-designed, well-planned, and high-quality homes” by developing real estate community projects that would help to “foster wellness, engagement, and connection” for residents.

She admitted that, given the “challenging economy” in the UAE at present, it is easier to sell smaller residential units, but she added that Dubai will continue to attract families going forward, and this will create “demand for larger housing [units]”.

She said, however, that differentiating these projects  – and  delivering them on time – will be a challenge.

READ: Al Barari names retail leasing partner for Phase 2 of Dubailand project

21. Faris Saeed 
Diamond Developers

Since establishing Diamond Developers in 2003, Faris Saeed has conceptualised and delivered a portfolio of premium developments that includes Dubai’s 46ha Sustainable City, the first net-zero energy development in the emirate. It has a residential area of 500 townhouses and courtyard villas inspired by Dubai’s old Bastakyia district.

Touted for its green credentials, the development will be powered by 5.5ha of solar panels. January of this year saw Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority and the Sustainable City development sign a memorandum of understanding to operate autonomous vehicles within the community. The step will be implemented in support of the Dubai Government strategy to convert 25% of public transport services to driverless by 2030. 

As chief executive officer and co-founder, Saeed ensured that Diamond Developers was one of the first Dubai companies to enter into freehold property ownership in 2002. 

READ: Shurooq, Diamond Developers to launch mixed-use project in Sharjah

20. Rizwan Sajan
Danube Properties

The founder and chairman of Danube Group, Rizwan Sajan, will be able to look back on a busy year when 2018 draws to a close. 

The developer, which owns Danube Properties as well as several other construction-related subsidiaries, launched its most recent project in Dubai in June 2018: Lawnz. Located in International City, construction of the $150m (AED550m) gated complex is expected to start later this year, and the project is due to be finished in 2020. 

The launch of Lawnz – the 11th Danube project with a name ending in ‘z’ – brought the value of the developer’s 4,700 units to more than 
$1bn (AED3.6bn).

Lawnz is Danube’s biggest project to date, and is the second one for which plans have been unveiled this year, following the announcement of a 463-unit development called Jewelz. Located in Arjan, next to Dubai’s Miracle Garden, the Jewelz project is valued at around  $81.7m (AED300m). Construction on Jewelz is expected to start this year, but Danube Properties was yet to award a construction contract for the project as of June 2018. However, even though construction is yet to begin, at least 393 of its 463 units – equivalent to 85% of its studios, one-, and two-bedroom apartments – have already been sold.

Danube Properties’ portfolio of residential projects includes Dreamz, Bayz, Glamz, Glitz, Resortz, Starz, and Miraclz.

READ: Dubai's Danube to start construction of $81m Jewelz this year

19. Nabil Akiki
Five Holdings

Dubai-based Five Real Estate Development, the company behind the Five Palm Jumeirah Hotel, invested in building information modelling (BIM) and AutoCAD last year, as part of ongoing digitisation efforts. A budget of $250,000 (AED918,125) was set aside to invest in the implementation of BIM and AutoCAD, as well as property management software, according to the firm’s chief executive officer, Nabil Akiki. This will bring the company’s total technology spend in 2017-2018 to $460,000 (AED1.6m), following its $210,000 (AED771,225) technology  outlay in 2017. 

The company said it expects to complete one project between August 2018 and July 2019. 

READ: Five Holdings drops Viceroy hotel brand in UAE

18. Abdulla Bin Sulayem
Seven Tides International

Having been ranked at number 27 in last year’s Top GCC Developers list, Abdulla Bin Sulayem, chief executive officer of UAE-based Seven Tides International, said value-based market propositions will be key opportunities for GCC developers in the next 12 months, particularly for projects related to Expo 2020, such as Dubai World Central and the Dubai South area in general. 

In March, Seven Tides International completed the Dukes Dubai Sky Collection on the Palm Jumeirah. 

“Focus is shifting towards diversified economies largely driven by trade, travel and tourism, real estate, and infrastructure construction, he told Construction Week. 

“This should present numerous opportunities for developers, especially along Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coast, albeit over the longer term,” he added

17. Saleh Abdullah Lootah
Lootah Real Estate Development

Lootah Real Estate Development’s executive director, Saleh Abdullah Lootah, has been central to the developer’s recent  handover progress. Earlier this year, the the company confirmed that three G+2 buildings in its Ewan Residences development would be handed over in May 2018. Two residential buildings comprising the developer’s The Waves project were set to be ready for delivery by August 2018. Lootah acquired a B+G+7 residential building in Phase 3. 

Among the buildings that have been handed over is Lootah Residence II, which includes 38 studios, 48 one-bedroom apartments, and 14 two-bedroom units. The project has covered parking and access to the amenities of International City. 

READ: Lootah Real Estate adds more features to Ewan community in Dubai

16. Ahmed Kouri
Union Properties

Led by managing director, Ahmed Kouri, Dubai-based Union Properties’ portfolio includes Motor City and Index Tower, Uptown Mirdiff, and the Green Community.
While the company is, first and foremost, a real estate developer, its expertise has broadened during its 30-year history. Its specialisms now include fit-outs, interior design, and facilities-management services.

READ: Dubai's Union Properties denies merger reports

15. Alain Bejjani
Majid Al Futtaim Group

The chief executive officer of Majid Al Futtaim, Alain Bejjani, is spearheading a major  upgrade of the company’s technological capabilities. 

In addition, the first half of this year saw the group inaugurate its first Vox Cinemas facility in Saudi Arabia. This was part of a plan to open 6,000 cinema screens in the kingdom over the next five years.

READ: Dubai's Majid Al Futtaim reports 13% H1 revenue hike

14. Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor
Al Habtoor Group

Al Habtoor Group is a diversified UAE conglomerate with interests in cars, hospitality, real estate, and publishing.
Led by chairman Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor, its property portfolio in Dubai includes the Residence Collection – a trio of towers called Noora, Amna, and Meera. The set includes two 73-storey towers and one 52-storey tower, consisting of more than 1,400 apartments ranging from one to four bedrooms. 

It is also the developer behind the eponymous Al Habtoor Polo Resort & Club located in Dubailand. 

The conglomerate recently entered into a franchise agreement with Hilton to rebrand three hotels at  its mixed-use development, Al Habtoor City. Al Habtoor said the agreement increased its partnership with Hilton from five to eight hotels. 

READ: Hilton to operate Al Habtoor City's three hotels

13. Rahail Aslam
Select Group

While tightening liquidity and oversupply have created challenges for real estate developers, Rahail Aslam, group chief executive officer of Select Group, says the conditions are an “ideal opportunity for savvy developers to increase their land bank and negotiate better contracts with contractors and suppliers”. 

Select Group is now motoring ahead at full speed with its core development work, having recently acquired a 3.4km² prime waterfront land bank for a community development in Business Bay. The transaction has helped the company to secure its development pipeline for the next eight years, Aslam explained.

As Select Group is aiming to generate approximately $500m (AED1.8bn) in revenue for 2018, the company is building up a head of steam for its projects: Marina Gate 1 was handed over this year, while Marina Gate II, No 9 Dubai Marina, and Studio One are set for completion in 2019.

The development firm’s top-priority segments remain the residential, hospitality, and retail real estate sectors.

By the end of 2017, Select Group had delivered 1,376 new units across all of its geographies, which include Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah in the UAE; and the UK cities of Birmingham, Liverpool, 
and Nottingham. 

Aslam said that Select Group is always involved in the selection of facilities-management providers for its projects, with energy-efficiency capabilities being a key factor when it comes to awarding these contracts.

READ: Select Group begins handover of The Residences project in Dubai

12. PNC Menon
Sobha Group

The number of units developed by Sobha Group will rise year-on-year between 2017 and 2019. Up to 1,380 units will be finished in 2018 and 2019. This is good news for the founder and chairman of Sobha Group, PNC Menon, who said Dubai’s property sector will “ramp up in 2018, thanks to a growing demand for new apartments”.

However, Menon warned that the cyclical nature of the market is hard to understand, and this could create challenges. To counter this, good financial discipline is required. He suggested that developers should adopt a debt-to-equity ratio with a 40:60 split, to “help during the pressures of the negative cycle, and protect business”.

READ: Sobha to award infra package for Firdous project by June

11. Saeed Humaid Al Tayer
Meydan Group

Led by chairman and chief executive officer, Saeed Humaid Al Tayer, Meydan Group has been a strong player in the real estate, property investment, development and management sectors.
The group’s portfolio of commercial, residential, and mixed-use real estate projects includes the Meydan One Mall, which is being built for $435m (AED1.5bn) by Italy-headquartered civil infrastructure and construction giant, Salini Impregilo. The project is expected to be complete before Expo 2020 Dubai begins in October 2020.

Meydan Group is also behind the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum City, which spans approximately 4.3km² and features several development projects. The company was established by HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President, Prime Minister, and Ruler of Dubai.

10. Gurjit Singh
Dubai World Trade Centre

The main focus for developers in the GCC over the next 12 months, will be “the competitive price point for all the various real estate asset classes”, according to Gurjit Singh, the senior vice president for real estate at the UAE’s Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC).

His comments came after a year of solid performance by the group. Total economic output in Dubai created by large-scale events held at DWTC in 2017 amounted 
to $6.1bn. 

With a land bank of 50ha by the end of 2017, DWTC has said that it expects the size of its land bank to increase threefold to 150ha. However, Singh told Construction Week that over the next 12 months, the biggest challenge for GCC developers will be “rising interest rates and the impact on cost of funding and financing”.

READ: DWTC reduces licensing, incorporation fees by 70%

9. HE Abdulla Al Habbai

Meraas, led by group chairman HE Abdulla Ahmed Mohammed Al Habbai, has unveiled plans for several noteworthy developments during the past three months. These include a strategy to transform the mountainous area of Hatta into an eco-tourism destination. Meraas also recently launched the concept for Port de La Mer. 

READ: Meraas launches four new hotel brands in Dubai

8. Saeed Al Qatami
Deyaar Development

Deyaar Development saw its half-year profit for 2018 decline by 2% compared to 2017 figures. However, chief executive officer, Saeed Al Qatami, said he was not overly concerned by the drop in profitability, because the developer was making “significant progress on The Atria, Midtown, and Millennium Deyaar Hotel and Apartments in Al Barsha”. 

READ: Construction of Afnan and Dania at Deyaar's Midtown 50% complete

7. Raed Al Nuaimi
Dubai Properties

Raed Al Nuaimi, group chief executive officer of UAE-based master developer Dubai Properties, has had a good year. Having taken the helm in February 2018, Al Nuaimi oversaw the launch of the Middle East’s “biggest-ever living green wall”, which will offset 4.4 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year. He also signed a strategic partnership with the Dubai Land Department to promote the emirate’s real estate market. Al Nuaimi also appeared for the first time on the 2018 Construction Week Power 100 list. 

One of Dubai Properties’ major projects that is making rapid progress is the minimalist, $272m (AED1bn) 1/JBR tower, which is on track to be completed in 2019. The developer recently awarded mechanical, electrical, and plumbing contracts for its Amaranta and La Quinta homes, as well.

READ: Dubai Properties reveals details of energy-saving plan

6. Talal Moafaq Al Gaddah
MAG Lifestyle Development

Government-sector discussions about introducing a mandatory quota for affordable housing have been a “wake-up call” for developers, Talal Moafaq Al Gaddah, chief executive officer of MAG Lifestyle Development (MAG LD), told Construction Week.

Al Gaddah said that the Dubai-based property developer expected to have awarded construction contracts worth almost $400m (AED1.4bn) by the end of this year, and would also have built 528 units in six buildings within its MAG 5 Boulevard affordable-home residential community. 

In 2017, the company introduced Oracle IT platforms for sales, marketing, projects, finance, and customer relationship management. Adrenalin HR and Docusign systems were also introduced at that time, as was a blockchain network.

So far this year, General Contracting has won an $82m (AED300m) agreement to build the MAG 230 residential project in Dubai, and Dutch Foundation has been appointed as the enabling contractor for MAG 318 in Dubai’s Business Bay. 
MAG has also issued an infrastructure tender this year for MAG Eye, a $1.2bn (AED4.7bn), master-planned community development located in Mohammed Bin Rashid City Meydan District 7. This project is scheduled for delivery in Q3 2020.

MAG LD’s core focus remains residential developments in its core market of the UAE, although the company has also launched projects in Cyprus, and in Texas, US. It has longer-term plans to expand in Asia and Europe, as well.
Commenting on MAG LD’s future plans, Gaddah says: “It is important is to keep two steps ahead of the curve when it comes to innovation, and to stay true to delivering what customers want.”

READ: MAG to redesign, rename Shoumous project in Sharjah

5. Hussain Sajwani
Damac Properties

Heading up Dubai development heavyweight Damac Properties is its founder and chairman, Hussain Sajwani. He recently told Construction Week that the amount of land that the firm held for development by the end of H1 2018 stood at $166m (AED610m) – a significant increase on the $147m-worth (AED540m) it held at the end of 2017. The group’s top-priority market in terms of value remains Dubai, and this is followed by the Saudi cities Jeddah and Riyadh.

In the last 12 months, Damac has completed handovers on projects such as Damac Esclusiva in Riyadh, The Heights in Amman, and Damac Heights in Dubai. During the next 12 months, in Dubai alone, the company expects to hand over Damac Towers by Paramount, Privé by Damac, and Ghalia.

In 2017, the value of construction contracts awarded by Damac topped $953m (AED3.5bn). 

As a developer that is focused on the luxury segment, Damac works closely with facility management (FM) companies. Sajwani said Damac always involves FM companies in the design and construction process of its projects, and is involved in the selection of FM providers for all its buildings, either directly or through owners’ associations. 

Looking ahead, Sajwani said the diversification of the economies of GCC member states “poses the most lucrative opportunity for the real estate sector in the coming months”. 
“The introduction of the 10-year visa for investors in the UAE will also be a big boost to the country’s real estate sector,” he continued.

However, he added the “lack of an evolved public-private partnership model to help absorb the cost of development” is a challenge the market must overcome in the next 12 months.

READ: Damac's first Sharia-compliant property set for 2018 delivery

4. Ali Rashid Lootah

Ali Rashid Lootah leads master developer  Nakheel as its chairman. The company has handed over 451 units to its customers in H1 2018. 

Nakheel’s non-development businesses – including retail, leasing, hospitality, and asset management – also “performed strongly” during this period. Annual revenues from these sectors combined stood at $707.8m (AED2.6bn), three times higher than in 2010. This accounted for 38% of the firm’s total revenue.

The developer revealed in August that it will spend $4.1m (AED15m) to develop two marinas at its Palm Jumierah development. Upon completion this year, the marinas at Nakheel’s Azure Residences complex and The Pointe will accommodate 44 boats and yachts. 

Then, in early September, Nakheel awarded a $9.5m (AED35m) construction contract to GBH International Contracting for a sport, health, and leisure hub at its Jumeirah Park Community. The Dubai-based contractor is expected to start building the 8,639.98m2 sports centre in October. 

Featuring an Olympic-sized swimming pool, a gym, a clubhouse, a spa, and a medical centre, the hub will combine sports facilities with a range of restaurants, shops, and other services.

Also in September, UAE-based Ali Mousa & Sons Contracting won a $150.3m (AED552m) construction contract for a twin-building residential complex, Dragon Towers, at Nakheel’s mixed-use Dragon City community in Dubai.

Under the terms of the contract, mobilisation will begin immediately, with completion anticipated in 2021. Connected to the China-inspired Dragon Mart retail and trading complex, the 37-storey Dragon Towers will be made up of one- and two-bedroom apartments, in addition to retail spaces.

READ: Dubai's Nakheel to boost $16bn project pipeline at Cityscape Global

3. Hesham Al Qassim
Wasl Asset Management

Hesham Al Qassim is the chief executive officer of Dubai-headquartered Wasl Asset Management Group – one of the largest real estate developers in the UAE. Operating in several real estate verticals through three subsidiaries – Wasl Properties, Wasl Hospitality, and Dubai Golf – the company recently launched what it says is one of the largest new projects on Dubai’s Sheikh Zayed Road. The 1.2km² master development, Wasl Gate, was announced in September.

Wasl Gate will be a freehold, mixed-use development featuring 257 townhouses, 6,500 apartments, an Al-Futtaim shopping centre, Dubai’s second Ikea outlet, and a hypermarket, as well as dining, retail, and entertainment venues. Ikea and Al-Futtaim’s hardware store, Ace, will be located in Festival Plaza, which is scheduled for completion in Q4 2019.

This June, Wasl Properties made 190 units available in its UAE heritage project Wasl District, a development that aims to evoke the aesthetics of traditional Dubai. Block A, included within Phase 2 of Wasl District, was launched by the subsidiary of Wasl Asset Management Group. The block includes apartments that range from 77m² to 251m² in size.Phase 1 of Wasl District was delivered in December 2017, and featured 166 units, all of which were leased within a week. 

Wasl District features a souq, residential units located in several small tower blocks, a hotel, and a museum. The project combines traditional Emirati building architecture with modern amenities and facilities, such as a high-quality finishes, swimming pools, and gyms.

Wasl is also developing  a beachfront resort in Dubai – the Mandarin Oriental Jumeira hotel – which is set to open in early 2019.

READ: Wasl unveils one of Sheikh Zayed Road's 'largest' projects

2. Mirwais Azizi
Azizi Developments

A long-term principal player in the UAE’s development sector, Mirwais Azizi has overseen a busy year for Dubai giant Azizi Developments. The company is occupied with its $3.3bn (AED12bn) Azizi Riviera waterfront development, and this August the project reached an important milestone as  construction work passed the 20% completion mark. 

First-floor construction is now under way, with structural work on the second and third floors expected to start in late September. The developer has continued to report steady progress on the mixed-use residential development, which counts several local contractors among the firms on the site.

September also saw an announcement from Azizi that his company was mulling the launch of an initial public offering (IPO) for its hospitality and development businesses.

The founder and chairman of Azizi Developments told Arabian Business that an audit report was due by the end of this year, adding: “When this is finished, we will see whether to apply.”

Azizi Developments’ pipeline includes projects worth $12bn (AED), with more than 200 schemes ongoing around Dubai. This March, Azizi told Construction Week that his team was planning to build the world’s fifth-tallest tower on Sheikh Zayed Road. He added at the time that the project would complete sometime between 2021 and 2022, and would be developed at a cost of about $816m (AED3bn), including land values.

Earlier this year, the company also revealed that it would deliver seven projects starting in Q4 2018, which would add a total of 2,268 units in various Dubai locations. These planned handovers include units in Shaista Azizi, Samia Azizi, Azizi Star, Farishta Azizi, and Azizi Plaza in Al Furjan.

READ: Azizi Dubai skyscraper to be world’s fifth-tallest

1. Mohamed Alabbar
Emaar Properties

Having spearheaded the growth strategy of Emaar Properties, Mohamed Alabbar continues to be a leading light in the UAE development space, helping Emaar to cement its position at the pinnacle of the country’s – and the Gulf’s – property markets.

The developer enjoyed a positive start to this year, with the group seeing its revenue grow by 37% in Q1 2018, rising to $1.5bn (AED5.6bn) from $1.1bn (AED4.1bn) in the same period last year. 

The developer’s net profit, meanwhile, increased by 20% compared to Q1 2017’s $377m (AED1.4bn), standing at $453m (AED1.7bn) – before taking into account the impact of Emaar Development’s initial public offering (IPO).

The company revealed in a statement that with the IPO factored in, its net profit for the first three months of this year was valued at $409m (AED1.5bn), an 8.5% increase from the first quarter of 2017.

This March, Abu Dhabi’s Aldar Properties and Emaar created a joint venture (JV) worth $8.1bn (AED30bn). The JV will initially build a project each in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and its pipeline is also reported to include international projects.

Commenting on the JV at the time, Alabbar said: “We are drawing on our proven competencies in delivering high-quality, master-planned communities that have not only redefined lifestyles but also created tremendous economic value for our country. This partnership sends a powerful message that the UAE is at the forefront of shaping global real 
estate trends.”

READ: Emaar Development names Bader Saeed Hareb new CEO

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