Matrix looks to buy distressed Gulf properties

The UK financial services company aims to raise US$300 million that will go towards buying industrial, residential and commercial property in Gulf.

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Matrix, the UK financial services company, has set up an organisation in the Middle East to raise funds for buying distressed properties in the Gulf. Matrix Property Middle East, which was formed following Matrix's takeover of the property group Kenmore Middle East, will initially aim to raise US$300 million (Dh1.1 billion) that will go towards buying industrial, residential and commercial property in the UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

The bulk of the money will come from institutional investors and high-net-worth individuals in the UK and Europe. However, the company, which is being registered with the Qatar Financial Centre, hopes to tap into regional investors through its tie-up with ME Alignment, a Qatari property developer and investment company. Will Hean, the general manager and investment director at Matrix Property Middle East, said the firm had been monitoring the region for four years and that there was now "light at the end of the tunnel".

"I think [investor sentiment] is improving - we know of other entities who are looking at doing the same thing, so we're not alone and we think now is the right time," he said. The move comes at a time when some firms are postponing their plans for distressed property funds due to negative investor sentiment, particularly in the UAE, where some property prices have fallen by more than 50 per cent since their peak in the middle of 2008.

Dubai's Deyaar Developments, for example, delayed plans for a Dh500m fund late last year after losing commitments from two major international investors following the announcement by Dubai World in November that it was seeking a standstill with creditors on $26bn worth of debt. Matrix Property Middle East hopes to start making investments once its licence has been approved by the Qatar Financial Centre, which could take two to three months.