UAE's Damac Group to invest $100m in metaverse digital cities

The move is part of company-wide ambitions to expand into digital assets and non-fungible tokens

Damac Group's investments are divided into seven core areas; real estate, capital markets, hotels & resorts, manufacturing, catering, high-end fashion and data centres. Photo: Damac Group

Damac Group, parent company of Damac Properties, plans to invest $100 million (Dh367m) to build "digital cities" in the metaverse.

The project will be run under a unit called "D-Labs", and will be led by Ali Sajwani, who as well as being Damac general manager will also be D-Labs' chief executive.

Damac said in a statement that the initiative forms part of the company-wide ambitions to move into digital assets and non-fungible tokens (NFT).

"We are keen to pioneer the possibilities that the metaverse offers in ways which allow us to be more connected and involved with our customers," said Hussain Sajwani, founder of Damac.

The company delisted from the Dubai Financial Market in March and went private last month as it struggles to remain profitable. Maple Invest, a vehicle fully owned by Hussain Sajwani, submitted a notice last year for the mandatory acquisition of all its shares to take the company private.

Damac Properties narrowed its net loss for the 2021 financial year to Dh531m from Dh646m recorded a year earlier.”

Since last year, Damac Properties has been offering prospective homebuyers 3D virtual tours of properties that use virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technology.

Damac Group aims to branch out to virtual homes, digital property, as well as digital wearables and digital jewellery through the company’s acquisitions of Swiss jewellers De Grisogono and Italian fashion brand Roberto Cavalli, according to the statement.

Mr Sajwani said last month he will invest $1 billion to build a global network of cloud data centres as the conglomerate diversifies its operations to include the fast-growing digital sector.

The metaverse and property

The metaverse is a digital space where participants, represented by three-dimensional digital representations called avatars, interact.

In other words, it is an online equivalent of a person in a virtual world — performing, interacting and transacting.

No one owns the metaverse, not Meta (formerly Facebook), even if it named itself as such.

Like the internet, there is no defined owner and the metaverse can be expanded under internationally-adopted regulations.

Sales on the four major metaverse platforms for "property" reached $501 million in 2021 and are expected to double this year, according to MetaMetric Solutions. Property in the metaverse is, for now, bought and sold through NFTs — which serve as a proof of ownership — that one has claim to a certain space on a given metaverse platform. This is a contract with the metaverse provider which is not subject to the same property laws or rights of traditional real estate.

The size of the metaverse real estate market is expected to grow at a compound annual rate of 31.2 per cent during 2022-2028, Brandessence research said.

In February, what was thought to be the world's first metaverse mansion was put on sale in the form of Hampton Hall in England.

Dubai property brokerage Union Square House said this week it plans to sell the region's first “metaverse mansions”, where buyers can own a non-fungible token (NFT) with and without the bricks and mortar asset.

The brokerage is looking to capitalise on Dubai's “high level of familiarity” with the virtual world, it said.

Updated: April 27, 2022, 9:26 AM