Sheikh Ahmed in control at Dubai Holding, Meraas

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A model of the Port De La Mer luxury residences by Meraas on display at the recent Cityscape Global in Dubai. The Meraas portfolio houses an eclectic collection of projects
Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Dubai: Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of Dubai Civil Aviation and Chairman and Chief Executive of Emirates airline and Group, will “temporarily oversee” the operations of Dubai Government owned Dubai Holding and Meraas. In this new responsibility, he takes over from Abdulla Al Habbai.

The latest responsibility adds to an already onerous portfolio that Sheikh Ahmed holds — apart from Emirates, he is also Chairman of Emirates NBD and President of DIFC Authority.

Industry sources say that a tighter integration of Dubai Holding and Meraas and the subsequent removal of all overlaps will be the priority for Shaikh Ahmed. In this regard, they point to his presence after the Emirates Bank-NBD merger. He assumed the chairmanship in June 2011.

According to Firas Al Msaddi, CEO of fam Properties, “When you have someone with Sheikh Ahmed’s track record come in, it definitely means something. It shows a hands-on interest in the management of two of the biggest real estate entities by the Royal Family.”

Already on integration path

Under Al Habbai, a lot of integration had taken place at Dubai Holding and Meraas, notably at the management levels. Many of the areas where there were overlaps were streamlined, or the process is continuing.

On the off-plan launch side, Dubai Holding and Meraas had recent successes, with Madinat Jumeirah and the Cherrywoods residential community, respectively.

In statement confirming Sheikh Ahmed’s new role, a Dubai Government statement said: “The move is part of a fresh strategy to explore new expansion prospects for both groups, and identify further opportunities to maximise growth by leveraging their diverse assets and investment portfolios.

“The appointment seeks to further consolidate the strong brand profile and leading position of the two groups in the Arab world and globally. The move is also aligned with Dubai’s evolving growth strategy that seeks to constantly create new value through innovation.”

The mentions about “brand profile” and regional and global aspirations are telling. In September, Meraas announced a tie up with Canada’s Brookfield Asset Management to jointly operate and own retail assets in the UAE and Gulf markets. The potential value generation from that deal? A whopping Dh5 billion.

Dubai Holding has interests beyond real estate, extending into financial services, telecom and hospitality. “The Group foresees strong growth over the next five years and continued financial success, driven by recurring revenue assets and new projects,” the dubai Government statement adds.

“Dubai Holding is set to play an important role in the staging of Expo 2020 Dubai through its hospitality and real estate offerings, which is set to further boost the Group’s performance.”

The Group’s investments now span 10 countries in the region and beyond. Subsidiary companies include Jumeirah Group, the Tecom Group, Dubai Properties, Dubai Asset Management and Dubai Retail, and employ around 20,000 employees.

Whether its “Ain Dubai”, billed as the world’s tallest observation wheel, Bluewaters island, or a 40,000 square metre “central park, the Meraas portfolio houses an eclectic collection of projects. It now comprises 80 million square feet plus of total developed land, more than 3,500 homes and 2,000 retail units across 15 landmark destinations.

“Meraas has a mission of building a creative urban culture where thriving communities can take root,” the Dubai Government statement says.

It will now be Sheikh Ahmed’s task to manage the transformation.

Dubai Holding was established in 2004 to develop and manage a portfolio of companies focused on investments, financial services, real estate, specialised business parks, telecommunications and hospitality. It has played an “instrumental role in Dubai’s diversification programme across multiple industries, and is at the front lines of Dubai’s strategy to build a sustainable, innovation-driven economy in line with the UAE Government’s Vision 2021”.



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