ACI to acquire Define

ACI Real Estate, a German property developer building a number of celebrity-endorsed projects in Dubai, is in talks to buy Define Properties.

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ACI Real Estate, a German property developer building a number of celebrity-endorsed projects in Dubai, is in talks to buy Define Properties. Define was established in Dubai in June last year, just months before the global credit crunch started to impact on the emirate's property market. Having acquired 12 plots of land at Nakheel's Waterfront development, the company pledged to spend Dh8 billion (US$2.1bn) on a range of residential and commercial projects in the emirate. "We have entered negotiations for the sale of Define Properties with ACI," said a spokeswoman for Define, adding that the talks centred on the sale of land at Waterfront and other assets. Walid Abdel Latif, the director of sales and marketing at Define, confirmed the move and said the sale could be finalised within a month. A spokesperson for ACI said "talks were ongoing". Define was also responsible for delivering a commercial project endorsed by the former Formula One racing driver, Niki Lauda, in Dubai's Business Bay. But the Niki Lauda Twin Towers have now been taken over by ACI, which launched and marketed the project originally, after Define struggled to finance the construction. Saqer Engineering and Contracting Enterprises was awarded a Dh305bn contract last month to build the project and is expected to start construction soon. "We've already mobilised to the site and are waiting for the local authorities to finalise the permit," said Mahmoud Younis, the company's managing director. "ACI is the client now, Define is out." The spokeswoman for Define said the future of staff employed by the company was a key point of the sale discussions. "As with any merger or acquisition, it could mean layoffs in order to be able to best right-size the company." The potential deal is a further sign of a trend towards consolidation in the property sector, something that will be a major feature of this year as cash-strapped developers struggle in a tougher economic environment. "We'll see significant consolidation in the industry," said Blair Hagkull, the managing director in the Middle East for Jones Lang LaSalle, an international property consultancy. "We'll also see a coming of age in the Dubai property market. Values have changed and there will be a flight to quality." ACI, which was formed in 2004, has 16 projects on its books in Dubai, several of which are under construction. The former tennis champion, Boris Becker, and the former Formula One driver, Michael Schumacher, have given their names to two commercial towers that ACI is building. Boris Becker also owns a share in the Boris Becker Beach Resort and Tennis Academy, a Dh3bn resort planned for development by ACI on Al Marjan Island in Ras al Khaimah. In August, ACI signed a deal worth Dh165 million with Ferretti, the Italian yacht company, to provide eight boats for the Ferretti Luxury Beach Residence and Pershing Luxury Beach Residence, two properties planned at Waterfront for a total cost of Dh6bn. The yachts will be for the sole use of residents.