Abu Dhabi's Makani Real Estate plans to buy and build new malls in expansion push

The company currently owns shopping and community centres worth $408 million in Al Ain and Abu Dhabi

Makani Real Estate's new project Khalidiya Garden Community Centre is set to open this year. Photo: Makani Real Estate
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Makani Real Estate, which is owned by Abu Dhabi Cooperative Society, is aiming to acquire and build new malls and community centres in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain as part of its expansion plans, its chief executive has said.

The company currently owns malls and community centres worth Dh1.5 billion ($408 million) in Al Ain and Abu Dhabi. It is also building a new community centre with space for retail stores and restaurants in the Khalidiya area of Abu Dhabi that is set to open in the fourth quarter of this year.

“Our vision is to expand the retail presence of our business, to design a customer-centric experience for our shoppers and community,” chief executive Ashba Al Ghfeli told The National in an interview. “In addition to this, (we aim) to maintain and enhance and grow the asset value.”

The company plans to build two more malls in Shakhbout City and Mohammed bin Zayed City in Abu Dhabi in the next two years with 10,000 to 11,000 square metres of gross leasable area at each of them.

It is also working on “a big redevelopment plan,” for existing malls including Makani Zakher, Al Ain Mall and Shamkha Mall as well as two other small community centres. It acquired Makani Zakher and Al Ain Mall for Dh1.03 billion last year.

“So we are working on both developing the new and re-enhancing the old assets to reach the expectations of our clients,” Ms Al Ghfeli said.

The company aims to finance new projects through a mix of debt and equity.

“Sometimes we do funding through the bank, sometimes we build [with] project cash,” she added. “It depends on the size of the project, it depends on our strategy.”

She, however, did not reveal details on how much the company plans to spend on future expansion.

The demand for retail space continues to rise in the UAE as the Arab world's second-largest economy recovers from the coronavirus pandemic.

In the second quarter of 2023, the total number of retail rental contracts registered in Abu Dhabi reached 7,494, up 7.4 per cent compared to the same period last year, amid higher demand from clients, according to a report from CBRE.

During this period, new registrations increased by 1.9 per cent while renewed registrations rose by 10.2 per cent, the data showed.

In Dubai’s retail market, a total of 17,463 rental contracts were registered in the second quarter, marking a growth rate of 1.3 per cent compared to the previous year.

“There is a demand for convenient retail [closer to neighbourhoods] … I believe retail should be part of any community developed in UAE,” Ms Al Ghfeli said.

She added that malls should offer a mixture of entertainment spaces for kids and families along with retail stores to boost demand.

The company is focusing on Abu Dhabi but is open to expanding to other emirates, she added.

“We are not closing our door, if we find a suitable opportunity in other emirates or in another region in the future [we will expand],” Ms Al Ghfeli said.

Makani is providing support to local brands as well as small businesses that are growing, she said.

“We consider the retailer as a partner with us. There is no point in building a mall or community centre without supporting each other.

“Our growth strategy is to serve the community … whether it is [building] a regional [mall], whether it is a convenient community centre … this depends on the catchment, depends on the location itself, how much population [is] in the location … all of those studies will give us or lead us into which size we should build,” she said.

Updated: September 22, 2023, 3:35 AM