Abu Dhabi’s National Investment Corporation targets future growth in regional malls

Bank negotiations ongoing to finance planned expansion of Marina Mall Abu Dhabi

The chief investment officer of Abu Dhabi mall owner National Investment Corporation (NIC) said the company would look to develop entertainment-based projects elsewhere in the UAE if its planned expansion of Marina Mall Abu Dhabi is successful.

Abu Dhabi state-backed NIC on Monday announced a Dh3 billion (US$816 million) project to expand the Marina Mall – currently its only mall in the Arabian Gulf.

The plans include a new 546-metre waterfront promenade, domed restaurant tower and 123,000 square metre leisure and entertainment space, which will house Abu Dhabi’s first skate park.

NIC chief investment officer Rami Chehabeddine told The National the group aims to tap into the Middle East's expanding entertainment sector, as mall growth increasingly hinges on the provision of lively F&B (food & beverage) and leisure options for visitors, in addition to retail.

“We see tremendous growth in the community retail, entertainment and leisure sectors in the coming years,” he said.


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Mr Chehabeddine added that the group would consider “the possibility of looking elsewhere in the UAE” for new mall and entertainment projects, once the Marina Mall expansion is complete.

He added that no talks had taken place as yet but that a 3-4 per cent increase in footfall recorded at Marina Mall in the past year had given the company cause for optimism.

“Our expansion plans are 80 per cent focused on F&B and entertainment as that is where growth is coming from at present,” Mr Chehabeddine said, adding that the F&B sector in particular had witnessed annual growth rates of around 30 per cent in recent years.

The UAE’s F&B market is forecast to reach $13.2bn by 2018, according to KPMG’s 2015 UAE Food and Beverage Survey.

The expansion of Marina Mall willbe funded by a mixture of equity and bank financing, with talks ongoing with banks at present, Mr Chehabeddine added.

It hopes the funding will be secured by the end of this year, so the 300,000 sqm expansion can begin in the second half of 2018.