Damac to launch 'plenty more' projects after 'best performance on record'

Ali Sajwani tells The National about the Dubai-based developer's plans and the direction he sees the market taking

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. 14 November 2019. Interview with Ali Sajwani, Operations Head at Damac Properties about global their plans. (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National) Journalist: Michael Fahy. Section: Business.
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Damac Properties has enjoyed its best year on record and expects the performance to continue into next year amid a booming Dubai property market, Ali Sajwani, managing director of operations and technology at Damac Properties, told The National.

"We have seen the highest amount of sales since we founded the property group in 2002 and I can tell you we have done more than 100 per cent over our 2021 performance," he said.

He said there were a mix of reasons why the Dubai market has performed so well, that has created a "perfect storm" amid global economic headwinds and high oil prices.

"The biggest catalyst was the way Dubai handled Covid," he said. "The city shut down for a month and then it opened up to the world and while everyone else was panicking, Dubai was attracting the wealthy.

"Those wealthy usually go to Europe in the summers and skiing in the winter and because it was shut down, they had two options — Dubai or the Maldives. So, a lot of people visiting were surprised at what the city has to offer.

"Then if you look at Europe today, crime has gone through the roof, security is a big concern for those who want to drive their nice cars and wear expensive watches, whereas in Dubai you can walk the city at 3am and feel reassured. That's a big benefit. The infrastructure in Dubai is world class, the visa policies are giving people flexibility and comfort."

Damac, which delisted from the Dubai Financial Market this year, has been busy in the prime sector of the market with a number of luxury launches in recent months, including Cavalli Couture, a 14-storey building featuring 70 units comprising three, four and five-bedroom duplex sky villas and duplex penthouses along Dubai Canal.

Prices of prime properties are expected to end the year about 50 per cent higher than last year, Knight Frank said, while they are projected to grow by a further 13.5 per cent next year.

Dubai property transactions reached their highest for the month of November since 2011, according to Property Finder, as the market continued to surge.

While Mr Sajwani expects the luxury sector to continue to do well, he believes the biggest price increases will come in the upper-mid segment.

This is because there have been all of these wealthy people moving to Dubai and moving their businesses here and as they do that their employees are moving here too," he said.

"These employees are not going to be going for the Dh50 million villa, they will be going for the apartments in Business Bay and Dubai Marina. In those areas, the prices have increased but not as much as the super luxury market. So, we see a big uptick there and we are positioned to take advantage with our great selection of inventory in Business Bay."

He said a lot of Damac's recent launches have targeted this type of client and are selling out on the day, "which tells you there is a huge pent-up demand for that mid-segment which we are capitalising on".

"There will be plenty of launches in 2023, including our first beachfront property, more clusters at Lagoons and a few special products," he said.

Branded residences have been a key part of Damac's portfolio, with link-ups with the likes of Cavalli and de Grisogono.

"The Cavalli Tower in Dubai Marina has seen price appreciation of more than 30 per cent, while de Grisongono sold out on launch, so there is a huge demand for these products and we are going to continue down this route," Mr Sajwani said.

The Damac Towers Nine Elms project in London — the developer's first in Europe — was completed this year and has, with its "Dubai-like amenities", created a niche product in that market, according to Mr Sajwani.

Damac Cavalli Couture on Dubai Canal will have duplex sky villas and duplex penthouses. Photo: Damac

The developer also entered the US market having won a $120 million bid to acquire land in the upscale Miami district of Surfside, where it plans to build a luxury Cavalli-branded condominium project.

The property, set on 1.8 acres of land, will offer residents 61 metres of seafront and access to South Beach and Bal Harbour.

"We are currently working on the designs and hope to launch soon, and for it to be a trophy asset for us in Miami," Mr Sajwani said. "We want it to define the beachfront of Miami and are confident we will be able to do so."

He added that Damac is active in Toronto and is looking at all global cities for new projects.

"When it comes to global cities to put a vertical tower in, of course, we would love to see a project in New York, LA, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Germany, the major global hubs."

In April, Damac announced plans to invest $100 million to build "digital cities" in the metaverse.

It launched its first metaverse product alongside the launch of units at Cavalli Couture last week, offering customers a more immersive experience.

"Sales have always been done through brochures and CGI renderings. What we are doing is giving you that final product before it is ready and experience all of the units," Mr Sajwani said.

"Once the entire range is ready, it will be called Damac World. We are building a full ecommerce platform and hopefully by the end of next year there won't just be the metaverse ready but you have an ecommerce platform that shows all of Damac's inventory which connects you to our metaverse platform and you see what will be delivered. We want to provide that end-to-end experience."

It also started accepting cryptocurrencies for property transactions as part of efforts to offer more flexibility to investors. It enables the conversion to fiat and the sale of property to holders of Bitcoin and Ethereum.

The slump in cryptocurrency markets this year has resulted in a slide in the number of customers paying with this method, Mr Sajwani said.

"Having said that the crypo payments were never a big part of our sales - maybe 1-2 per cent from crypto associated, but the overall market has more than made up for that drop in sales," he said.

Updated: December 14, 2022, 6:28 AM