Emaar chairman hopes for better year after tough 2016 for Dubai developer

Mohammed Alabbar said he remains 'cautiously optimistic' about Dubai’s property market in the coming years.

Mohamed Alabbar, chairman of Emaar Properties, said 2016 was a difficult year for the property sector. Pawan Singh / The National
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Mohamed Alabbar, chairman of Dubai’s largest listed real estate developer, Emaar Properties, said on Monday he was hoping for a better year after a tough 2016.

The Arabian Gulf construction sector has slowed since mid-2014 after the slump in global oil prices forced governments to rein in spending.

“We hope 2017 will be a better year. 2016 was tough for us,” Mr Alabbar said at an investment conference in Dubai.

Emaar Properties, developer of the world’s tallest tower, the Burj Khalifa, reported a 56 per cent rise in fourth-quarter profit though that was partly because of an insurance payout related to a hotel fire.

Its separately listed Emaar Malls subsidiary reported a 3.9 per cent rise in fourth-quarter profit.

Emaar has a project backlog of US$11.4 billion, Mr Alabbar said, down slightly from the $11.7bn it said it had on February 14.

This year will see the reopening of Emaar’s landmark The Address Downtown hotel in Dubai that was gutted by a fire on New Years Eve 2015. Its latest Dubai hotel The Address Boulevard opened this month.

However, shares in Emaar Properties performed well last year, gaining 25.3 per cent, versus 12.0 per cent for the Dubai Financial Market’s benchmark index. So far this year the shares are up 6.7 per cent while the benchmark is basically flat.

Mr Alabbar, who said he remains “cautiously optimistic” about Dubai’s property market in the coming years, has diversified his interests in the past 12 months with investments in e-commerce, technology and logistics firm Aramex.

Mr Alabbar is planning to launch a Middle East e-commerce site called Noon with Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund the Public Investment Fund. Noon missed its planned launch date of January. The company has not commented publicly about the delay.

* Reuters